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Feminist Art = Stephen Harper Nude

The painting above, for which Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper never posed, was motivated by the political frustration of Kingston, Ontario artist Margaret Sutherland.

The painting depicts Canada’s prime minister reclining on a chaise lounge, in nothing more than his birthday suit.


Sutherland says she was motivated to make the painting because of her frustrations with the Canadians government and it is meant to show that people need to look at issues for themselves without always believing the party line. Or so she says.

Sometimes what the artist says and the actual effect/meaning of the painting is very different. In this case I would argue its actually a statement about the history of men in politics.

In Canada there has only ever been 1 female Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, was only in power for 4 months and 10 days. She wasn't elected either, she was appointed to the position by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney when he was on his way out in an effort to distance his unpopularity with the party in an effort to win the 1993 general election.

But that bid failed so badly that the Liberals were handed a landslide victory.

However Kim Campbell aside lets go back to the core concept. The Canadian leadership has been dominated by men, and in this case Stephen Harper is economically inept man who has followed a laissez-faire approach (do nothing and hope the problem goes away). He is a status quo prime minister who just wants to maintain the current standards, has no vision for the future, and kowtows to the Alberta oil industry.

Plus its basically a remake of Edouard Manet’s 1863 painting, Olympia, which depicted a prostitute in the pose of a Greek goddess. Manet's painting was a slap in the face of the art community of the time which was ultra conservative.

Conclusions? Making a remake of Olympia, itself a feminist piece, of Canada's inept prime minister draws attention to several factors:

#1. Stephen Harper thinks too highly of himself and this painting mocks his arrogance.

#2. Canada needs a more competent leader.

#3. Canada needs more women in politics (not necessarily the prime minister, but at least in parliament).

Tehranian Feminist Art

FEMINIST ART - On the right is Shirin Fakhim's mixed media work "Tehran Prostitutes" from 2008. It is a life size sculpture.

Shirin Fakhim’s "Tehran Prostitutes" uses absurd and sympathetic humour to address issues surrounding the Persian working-girl circuit.

In 2002 it was estimated that there were 100,000 prostitutes working in Tehran, despite Iran’s international reputation as a moralistic country with especially high standards placed on women. Many of these women are driven to prostitution because of abusive domestic situations and the poverty incurred from the massive loss of men during the Iran-Iraq war; in response to Iran’s strict religious laws, some even consider the profession as an act of civil protest.

Fakhim’s sculptures play on the duplicitous perceptions of streetwalkers, highlighting the hypocrisy surrounding the sex industry. Made from found materials, her assemblages are grotesque configurations, exaggerating rough-trade stereotypes of wig-wearing, melon-chested slappers contortedly stuffed into ill-fitting lingerie (in reality Tehran vice-girls wear hijabs and are identifiable through more covert and subtle signals). Fakhim farcically combines westernized hooker fashion with the codes of Islamic demur, torsos and heads made from cooking implements, adorned with make-shift veils and chastity belts.

Using ordinary objects and items of clothing, Fakhim exaggerates the less than flattering associations of floozy hygiene, her ready made materials driving home the punch lines of rude jokes. Blond wigs shoved down pants make for Sasquatch bikini lines, wayward bits of rope reveal pre-op transsexuals, and a carefully placed abacus reads more like a send up than evidence of financial acumen. Fakhim ironically stages this menagerie as a source of ridicule, provocatively placing items such as alms baskets and air fresheners to illustrate public scorn and social stigma.

Fakhim’s ladies of the night approach the naked body as a source of taboo. The discomfort of looking at them is displaced through a purile, intolerant, and scapegoat humour, revealing more about public attitudes and ignorance than about prostitutes themselves. Issues such as female genital mutilation, transgender orientation, homosexuality and cross dressing are all awkwardly broached through her vulgar approximations of stitched up crotches and mis-matched private bits, confusing the brutal, illicit, forbidden and desirous.

Fakhim’s life sized sculptures, Tehran Prostitutes, are strangely totemic, connoting a certain black-market power and ritual in their reference to the early 20th century fashion of ‘primitivism’. With hour-glass figures formed from portable stoves and adorned with cheap market-stall wares, Fakhim’s assemblages point to a commodification of necessity, their make-shift charm belied by associations to poverty, domestic violence, economic migration and human trafficking.

Approaching sculpture as an intrinsically tactile activity, Fakhim chooses her materials with a playful sensitivity. Crafted from the female stuff of fabric, clothing, and kitchen apparatus, her sculptures temper benign domesticity with a bawdy coarseness, creating a vaudevillian humour from over-stretched stockings, sickly green terrine masks, and exaggeratedly padded brassieres. Hardy practical tools such as stoves and pots create a physical contrast to the fussy adornments of lace and garters, creating an image of sexual prowess that’s conspicuously ill-fitting, painful, and tragic.

Rama and Sita

By Suzanne MacNevin - February 15th 2012.

Its really early in the morning the night after Valentines... and I am reading poetry.

Not because I am lonely (although I am), but because THIS is a really kewl poem. And although this poem is about relationships, it has a strong feminist slant. Read and see why.

I added the artwork for fun since some of you will be expecting artwork...

Rama and Sita

So sayeth Valmiki...

In Ancient India, in times of old
In the land of Aydohya, lived Rama the Bold
Rama was the perfect son, living by the rules of Dharma
Ever dutiful and responsible, he was blessed with good Karma

Prince Rama was the oldest, but his stepmother was a schemer
She sought for her son Bharata, wanting him to be the next leader
Having saved the king from illness, she sought out the king for a favour
Anything sayeth the king, not knowing the price of her desire

"I wish for you to banish Rama, make Bharata your heir."
Nothing could have wounded the king more, for Rama was most fair
Bound by his word the King obeyed, disliking his wife's demand
Rama heard his father's edict, "I gladly obey father's command."

Rama was married to Sita, whose purity was like a lotus blossom
Sita begged to go with Rama, their two hearts beating like one drum
"As shadow to substance, so is wife to husband."
"Let me walk ahead of you, clear your passage through the land."

Rama agreed to his wife's request, taking her deep into the forest
His brother Lakshmana went too, making Rama's flight his quest
Bharata sought to deny the throne, forsaking his mother's grace
He placed Rama's sandals on the seat, acting as regent in Rama's place

Deep in the forests lived monks, but they were plagued by Rakshasa monsters
Rama's arrows were true, his aim was unsurpassed amongst archers
Wherever Rama went the demons died in hordes
His bow string hummed like a sitar with its chords

To the south on the island of Lanka was the demon king Ravana
An incredible wise man Ravana's ten heads was a match for Rama
He spied Sita and seized her while Rama was chasing a deer
Taking her back to Lanka Ravana had no worries or fear

Across the sea Ravana fled, Sita over his shoulder
Sita wept for Rama but was wiser than her kidnapper
From her arms and neck she dropped her bracelets and jewelry
Sayeth Sita: "Take me back to Rama, stop this foolery!"

Sayeth Ravana: "Sita, I will make you my wife."
"You will come to me willingly and I shall spare your life."
Sayeth Sita: "I love only Rama. I cannot love another."
"I belong to Rama like the ground belongs to the earth mother."

Sayeth Ravana: "Nonsense, what does Rama have that I do not?"
"I will have you for my wife Sita as surely as the sun is hot!"
Sayeth Sita: "Rama is powerful, you would be foolish not to run!"
"I belong to Rama like the rays belongs to the sun!"

In the forest Rama met the monkey king Hanuman
Together they searched for Sita and came up with a plan
Hanuman found Sita's jewelry on the shores of the sea
Across the water lay the island of Lanka and he knew where Sita must be

Hanuman went to Lanka and saw Sita in the garden
She had gracefully refused to enter Ravana's home or den
Ravana did not force her, he left her alone to her prayers
Hanuman went to her and tried to soothe her tears

Sayeth Hanuman: "Never fear dear Sita, Hanuman is here."
"Come with me back to Rama and we shall disappear!"
Sayeth Sita: "Ravana's demons are many, even now they come."
"You must run Hanuman, don't you hear their drum?!"

The Rakshasa demons seized Hanuman and set fire to his tail
But Hanuman leapt away, jumping on the palace wall and leaving a fiery trail
The Rakshasa demons chased him but Hanuman left only ruins in his wake
Ravana's palace was burned down and he swore at his demons for their mistake

Hanuman returned to Rama and told him where Sita was held
He told Rama everything he saw, touched and smelled
Rama called upon Hanuman to raise the monkey warriors
Hanuman did as he was bid, by the tens of scores

Rama and his monkey army built a causeway to Lanka
They toiled day and night to reach the island and Sita
When they arrived the monkeys slew all the Rakshasa demons
Rama himself slew Ravana and all of his sons

Sita wept with love, proud that her husband was so bold
But when he came near her he began acting cold
Sita professed her love and thanking him for his actions
She knew in her heart she would bear Rama's sons

Sayeth Rama: "You have stayed in another man's house."
"I have done my duty to rescue you but I cannot be your spouse."
Sayeth Sita: "If I had known this would happen I would have killed myself."
"Build me a funeral pyre so you may see my purity yourself."

Rama and Hanuman built a funeral pyre as they were commanded
Sita walked amongst the flames untouched, true to her marriage bed
Rama forgave her, his love and loyalty for her renewed
They flew back to Ayodhya in a Pushpaka with the end of their feud

Rama was crowned king, the happy couple began their reign
Everything was joyous again but Rama overheard one man complain
Sayeth the man to his wife: "Do you think I am like Rama?"
"You have slept with another man, I don't need your lies or drama."

Sayeth Sita: "Husband I have really great news."
"Our bed has been fruitful, someday your sons will fill your shoes."
Sayeth Rama: "I cannot keep you my dearest."
"My people don't respect me even though you passed the test."

Rama sent Sita away, craving the respect of his people
Sita went obediently, residing instead in a temple
She met there the poet Valmiki and told him her story
Her tale told of Rama in all his greatness and glory

Sita gave birth to two sons with eyes like Rama's
But Sita was still sad, remembering everything that once was
Valmiki helped to raise the two boys, teaching them songs of trust
"Rama is great, Rama is just, Rama does what Rama must."

One day Rama went for a stroll and heard the two boys singing
"My sons!" sayeth Rama. "You must come live in Ayodhya with your king."
But then Rama noticed Sita and realized she must come too
"Perhaps a trial by water, such a trick should not be too difficult for you."

Sayeth Sita: "I will prove my love to you dearest Rama."
"If I have always been true to you, from Lanka to Ayodhya."
"If I have always been the perfect bride to the perfect groom."
"Then may mother earth please take me back into her womb."



The poem itself was written by Toronto poet Charles Moffat, but I think the story gives a very strong feminist message. Sita gets sucked back into Mother Earth and Rama loses his perfect bride whom had been loyal to him all this time.

Just desserts in my opinion. He didn't deserve her. Rama was a jerk and only cared about his dharma (duty / honour).

The original story, the Ramayana, is a 26,000 couplet poem by the poet Valmiki. This version is much shorter and gives Sita more attention.

Mapping Rape: Cartography and Feminist Art

Cartography isn't a normal medium for feminist art, but when it comes to mapping rape reports it does.

In 1977, Los Angeles was called the USA rape capital. Nearly 2,400 rapes were reported to police that year alone. Less than 10% of the rapes were reported to police. In 2011 LA’s reported rape count stands at 683.

Suzanne Lacy's "Three Weeks in May" from May 1977 mapped rape reports in L.A. county. It was one of the most important examples of feminist art from California during the 1970s.

Below: In 2012 Suzanne Lacy created "Three Weeks in January", a redux of her original show from 1977. The map is on display outside of LAPD Headquarters in downtown LA until February 1st 2012.

La Lutxona

Blanca Amezkua, La Lutxona, 2007; embroidery on cotton fabric and crochet, 30 x 31,”.

Body Gesture

Body Gesture: A Group Exhibition of Feminist Art is at Elizabeth Leach Gallery. 10:30 am-5:30 pm Tuesday-Saturday. Closes January 28th 2012 (today, sorry for the late post).

The feminist art show features thoughtful and provocative artwork as it explores feminist themes such as body image, gender polarization and a woman’s right to choose. The artwork is by 17 artists who hail from the feminist art movement’s heyday in the 1960s and ’70s, but several younger artists rode in on feminism’s second and third waves.

Below: Nicole Eisenman's "Brillo".

Rachel Kneebone's The Descent

Rachel Kneebone's sculptural women are perched on pedestals, their torsos deformed and twisted, their arms intertwined with flowers and plants creating abstract shapes in a hellscape.

Kneebone's most ambitious work includes "The Descent," from 2008.

"The Descent" is a 11½-by-5-foot porcelain caldron filled with hundreds of tiny human forms being pulled into a hellish pit. Kneebone's figures become more abstract the deeper they fall into hell. She notes, to "the loss of the individual, of self" amid chaos.

Kneebone says her inspiration was Rodin's magnum opus, "The Gates of Hell" (1880-1917), a pair of monumental doors illustrating Dante's "Divine Comedy".

Catherine Morris, the curator of the Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, says there is a striking resemblance between the feminist art of Rachel Kneebone and Auguste Rodin.

Rodin was famous for affairs with his models, but instead it was often "personal, sensual, physical," she says. "Rachel takes that same notion and feminizes it."

Rachel Kneebone, 38, studied at the Royal College of Art in London where porcelain caught her interest early on. "Porcelain is a very definite material," she says. "It has boundaries within its possibilities and I work with or against them, depending on what I am asking in the work."

"Rachel Kneebone: Regarding Rodin" runs through August 12th 2012 at the Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.
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