Art + Gender class
Last day of the Art and Gender summer class! After a two week extensive study of Archaic and Classical Greek Art with a focus on the portrayals of gender, we began an in-depth study of the early Feminist Art Movement. Students studied and compared the landmark pieces “Some Living American Women Artists / Last Supper” by Mary Beth Edelson and Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party.” They presented research on the work of Faith Ringgold, Audrey Flack, Ann McCoy, Louise Bourgeois, Miriam Schapiro, Marta Minujin, and Yoko Ono. Additional studies included the works of Kiki Smith, Lesley Dill, Alice Neel, Grace Hartigan, Yayoi Kusama, Kara Walker, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Shirin Neshat, Ana Mendieta, Frida Kahlo, and the Guerrilla Girls! A fantastic, interdisciplinary course with really engaged students!
Looking at the Work of Nancy Spero
“Is it possible to re-enchant the world? It is a question that has become more and more important to contemporary art and that has always been central to Spero’s art activity. Or has disenchantment taken over irreversibly in our spatial experience?
Spero’s art provides no answer. Nor is it supposed to. Rather it attempts to negotiate between the separated worlds of the mythic and the secular. The reanimation of a mythic dimension, a re-enchantment of space, a restoration of the feminine - all these goals are part of Spero’s life work. And if the work has to negotiate with ventilation shafts, hi-tech lighting and post-modernist architecture as well as hundreds - if not thousands - of years of history and secular patriarchy so be it.”
~ Rosetta Brooks, “If These Walls Could Talk,” Otherworlds: The Art of Nancy Spero and Kiki Smith, ed. Jon Bird
Teaching Art and Gender
How to introduce the context of the early feminist art movement to a group of iphone/text message generation teenage female students? I keep thinking in the days before the class, “remind them no websites, no internet, no wikipedia, no scanners or camera phones…” The enormous invisibility of these visionary women and the actions they took to see themselves represented in ways that matter, in ways that took back their sense of agency! Then, almost by accident, I discover on the new documentary shelf at Video Americain, the fantastic !Women Art Revolution by Lynn Hershman. It is the perfect visual tool for the start of this conversation.
Almost all of the artists we will be studying are present in this film. Judy Chicago, Nancy Spero, Faith Ringgold, Mary Beth Edelson, Miriam Schapiro, Ana Mendieta, Yoko Ono…. They come to life - their personalities, their bodies, voices, their arguments and achievements, their lives. Of course, as the film smartly acknowledges in the final sections, who is missing also stands out, as it always does when progressive discourse turns its attention towards those not present in the room, the work, the representation, the privilege…