Feminist Art

“Because we are denied knowledge of our history, we are deprived of standing upon each other’s shoulders and building upon each other’s hard earned accomplishments. Instead we are condemned to repeat what others have done before us and thus we continually reinvent the wheel.”-Judy Chicago

This quote was the first thing I read when looking at this website on Feminist art.  I read it over and over, letting it’s meaning sink in more.  The quote is saying that we need to  acknowledge the past as means for us to move onto the future.  With that acknowledgment, we are able to build upon the mistakes that have been made and repeat the successful events to continue to grow as a society of humans.

The way Chicago words  the ending, “and thus we continually reinvent the wheel” throws humor into such a serious statement.  One might laugh at the thought of continually reinventing the wheel.  It seems silly to applaud people for “inventing” the same idea over and over again.  In retrospect, it is no longer a new invention, just another wheel.  In the past, humans have fought for the equal rights for Jews, for African Americans, for African Brits, for women and for love without boundaries.  Yet we still experience groups of people being attacked over skin color and religion and sex.  Instead of learning from our past, and saving ourselves time and effort, we continue to repeat the same conversations without getting anywhere.  “The wheel” in this case, is equality.  We keep re-defining and re-shaping what equality is, and who is really included in it instead of knowing what it is and letting it be applied for all.

Theartstory.org is a website that focuses entirely on Feminist pieces of art.  This concept is beautiful because it provides an outlet for people to express themselves.  Although feminist art is not a new concept, it is not a very old one either, having started around the late 1960’s according to theartstory.org.  Art is timeless in the sense that we can always learn from it.  We can take away emotions and we can take away awareness of struggles we know little about.

For feminists, as for many artists, art is a way to tell a story.  Feminists have been fighting for equality amongst humans.   A large portion of the artwork on this website are very dark.  The colors do not seem to extend much past black, grey and white besides maybe a pop of color around a phrase or image.  Words also seem to  be very prominent in feminist art.  Lots of sarcasm is used and bold lettering.

One artist in particular stuck out to me.  She was the first on the list of artists, and to me, the easiest to connect with.  Her name is Marina Abramović.  Marina was a performance artist.  She did paint and use a canvas, but she also believed in minimizing the space between the artist and the audience so she would use herself as the art.  As a performer, this made me connect with the messages Marina shared because I too would send messages in a similar way. Being able to move your body in a way that shares a message or tells a story is empowering for an artist.   Marina said that when she used herself as art it became a spiritual situation.  Often she would get injured because of the danger and risks involved with her art. Incorporating the body into feminist art is so captivating because it makes the situations personal for the artist and the audience.  The artists is not putting on a show, he or she is making a statement and telling a story.  The feminist movement strives largely on the stories of women facing inequality and fighting for their rights in “a man’s world”.

I once read a book called The Scalpel and the Silver Bear by Lori Arviso Alvord and Elizabeth Cohen Van Pelt.  In this book, Lori Arviso writes about how in a traditional Navajo society, women are respected more highly than men.  When she entered “the white world”, she felt more prepared to succeed in “a mans world” than those raised outside of Navajo belief systems.  While looking at the different artists labeled as feminist artists, I thought of Lori Arviso.  She was a Navajo child who went to Dartmouth for University and became a women surgeon.  In my eyes, she too is a feminist artist.  Her canvas is the body of a patient and her paint brush is her hands.  She rose to the top, when people did not think she could, and made her mark on the world.  She left her art for all to see and a message about her strength as a women and as a surgeon.

Through all forms of art, messages are being spread about movements and ideas that need to be heard.  The feminist movement uses art in all different techniques to spread awareness of inequality and encourage equality.  I am proud to live in a world where people are able to share creativity and ideas (mostly) freely and look forward at diving deeper into feminism and the narratives of women encouraging equality.

 

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