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Feminist Art Books

Carrie Mae Weems


"My responsibility as an artist is to work, to sing for my supper, to make art, beautiful and powerful, that adds and reveals; to beautify the mess of a messy world, to heal the sick and feed the helpless; to shout bravely from the rooftops and storm barricaded doors and voice the specificity of our historical moment." --Carrie Mae Weems

In 1981 Weems was graduating from California Institute of the Arts and moving on to an MFA from the University of California-San Diego.

She was part of a political artist group that was pairing text with photographs. The above piece is a great example of that form.

Below is a sample from The Kitchen Table Series (1990):

When you look at these photos you might be reminded of the complex relationships among women; the different roles we play-mother, daughter, sister, friend. The emotions we inflict on our loved ones and even when we try to love sometimes it comes across as shame. We think about the desire to please those we care about. The bonds that don't break dispite immense tension.

The documentary style is raw and beautiful.

Carolee Schneemann

FEMINIST ART - Artist Carolee Schneemann gives new meaning to feminist art. She's more of a punk artist than anything else.

She is probably most known for her performance art piece entitled Interior Scroll (1975). From the accounts others have written it seems she would peel off her clothing, cover herself in mud (or paint?), and then extract a scroll from her vagina and read it. The image I have posted to the right is from the Tate website and apparently the writing on the side is from the vaginal scroll. How daring is that?! Love it or hate it.

She says of this piece: "I thought of the vagina in many ways-- physically, conceptually: as a sculptural form, an architectural referent, the sources of sacred knowledge, ecstasy, birth passage, transformation. I saw the vagina as a translucent chamber of which the serpent was an outward model: enlivened by it's passage from the visible to the invisible, a spiraled coil ringed with the shape of desire and generative mysteries, attributes of both female and male sexual power. This source of interior knowledge would be symbolized as the primary index unifying spirit and flesh in Goddess worship."

Among many in your face installations/performances/films (she was also a painter among other things) another one of note is Eye Body: 36 Transformative Actions (1963). Here Schneemann covers herself in her environment while Icelandic artist Erró photographs. She says:

"I wanted my actual body to be combined with the work as an integral material-- a further dimension of the construction... I am both image-maker and image. The body may remain erotic, sexual, desired, desiring, but it is as well votive: marked, written over in a text of stroke and gesture discovered by my creative female will."

Unfortunately she was "pigeon holed" and typecasted as an "erotic artist". She was unhappy with this because she wanted not to be this delicate female erotic image but hardcore, ugly, in your face, I don't fuck around sexuality: a quality that more die hard feminists appreciate

Carolee Schneemann's collaborative art includes the performance piece Meat Joy (1964). In her words:  

"Meat Joy has the character of an erotic rite: excessive, indulgent, a celebration of flesh as material: raw fish, chickens, sausages, wet paint, transparent plastic, rope brushes, paper scrap. It's propulsion is toward the ecstatic-- shifting and turning between tenderness, wilderness, precision, abandon: qualities which could at any moment be sensual, comic, joyous, repellent."

Womanhouse (1973)

Between the dates of January 3oth and February 28th an amazing installation was created by a group of women at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in the Feminist Art Program. Judy Chicago & Miriam Schapiro both co-founders of the program worked with their students and the community to create the unflinching and under appriatiated art experience called WOMANHOUSE.

Together they took over a building and each artist constructed a room that showed without apology there interpretation of the (middle class white) female experience. The bathroom was done by Judy Chicago and titled Menstruation Bathroom. A waste basket overflows with dirty bloody pads and feminine hygiene products scattered about.

Sandra Orgel created Linen Closet which shows a women trapped inside a linen closet with neatly folded towels and her head in what appears almost like a guillotine. One leg is outside as if she is free but not free from the female experience we are taught to embrace and feel stuck inside.

Sadly it is hard to come by images of all the rooms in the house. According to Wikipidia these were the rooms:

Beth Bachenheimer (Shoe Closet)
Sherry Brody (Lingerie Pillows)
Faith Wilding (Womb Room)
Kathy Huberland (Bridal Staircase)
Sandra Orgel (Linen Closet)
Camille Grey (Lipstick Bathroom)
Robin Weltsch and Vicki Hodgetts (Nurturant Kitchen)
Miriam Schapiro (Doll’s House)
Judy Chicago (Menstruation Bathroom).

Johanna Demetrakas filmed the performance pieces: Faith Wilding (Waiting), Sandra Orgel (Ironing), Judy Chicago (Cock and Cunt Play, performed by Faith Wilding and Janice Lester), Karen LeCocq (Leah's Room).

It is amazing that a group of women came together and formed a community and through art shared their female experience. It is visceral and yet sad. There was a film made about this installation that can be purchased for an expensive price ($250 for a DVD).

Info from the Women Make Movies site:
A film by Johanna Demetrakas
1974, 47 minutes, Color, VHS/DVD

There needs to be more collaborative work among women!

Feminism in American Comic Books

ENTERTAINMENT - Like She-Hulk and Wonder Woman?

Check out the following video montage, its basically a history of women in American comic books. True, it shows a lot of skin, but latex tights is par for the course for superheroes... Spider-Man's suit for example seems to be 'extra tight'.

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