A MODERN Depiction of Women

Throughout the Post Modern movement of art, many things are beginning to change. We begin to take steps away from the more conventional art styles seen in previous decades to art styles like deconstruction, environmental art, and street art. It begins to open the doors to a more expressive, non-traditional approach to art, and we begin to see a much wider, and boundary pushing variety of artists and  themes being presented during this movement. This change is easily seen through the way the art within the Post Modern movement depicts women. Women begin to become a central and active focus behind the art of the 20th century, as the rise of Feminism and Feminist art begins to take full stride, the artistic value put on women and all they have to offer becomes more apparent and more popular. Through Post Modern art, women become a symbol of beauty,  sexuality, elegance, strength, power, and creation, all characteristics which begin to not only be seen through the art of this movement, but begin to move through the everyday women living in the 20th century, who eventually evolve into the empowered women we see today.

The Feminine Power of Judy Chicago  SONY DSC

Born July 20th 1939 – Chicago IL to Present

Judy was born Judith Cohen, but after her father and husband died she changed her name to Judy Chicago in hopes to stray away from the convention of male dominating name choices. In 1970, Judy rested the term “Feminist Art” and established the first feminist art program in the U.S. Cohen attended UCLA, where she met her first husband Jerry Gerowitz, and left school to live with him in New York City., returning to Chicago a year later to finish school. After graduating BFA in 1962, her husband died in a car crash, and Judy fell into a major identity crisis. She decided to go back to grad school, where she began developing her own idea of sexuality, and how it influenced her work, beginning to create early works of male and female sexual organs. Between 1963-1969 Cohen created her beginning influential works, Bigamy and Pasadena Lifesavers.  After receiving her graduate degree she started teaching at  Fresno State College, and later moved to yeah at California Institute for the Arts, where she leaded the Feminist Art program. Between 1975 and the early 1990s she wrote her book Womanhouse and create her pieces, The Dinner Party, The Birth Project & PowerPlay, and the Holocaust Project. She married the photographer Donald Woodman, and is currently living in New Mexico. She continues to work on her art, and has broadened her themes and topics, but still focuses on her devotion to Feminist artwork.

Judy Chicago’s Artwork SONY DSC

Birth Garment 2 (1984)

By: Judy Chicago – in collaboration with, Helen Courvoisier,Penny Davidson, and Sally Babson

 Collection of the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, Albuquerque

Connection to the Theme

In Judy Chicago’s piece, Birth Garment 2, we get a real sense of womanhood. Just by looking at the piece the viewer is able to see all the elements that attempt to make up the naked womanly form, we are given the bare breasts, with this almost fire looking image coming underneath and between them, and the curved form of a female figure. Birth Garment 2, strips down the female image and depicts a woman in her most natural form , attempting to show what is burning underneath and the beauty and naturalness of it all.

Aesthetic Appreciation 

Personally, I think Birth Garment 2, is an absolutely intriguing piece. There is something so natural about it, with the bareness of the body, and the organic way Chicago depicts the breasts and overall female form. There is also this compelling underlying image of the fire like illustration coming up from within the body that establishes this whole other layer to the piece. Chicago does an immaculate job of really emulating the beauty of women and how, even in their natural state, there is an intense power and elegance to them that can be seen through this work.

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Birth Tear/TearBT ST1Birth Project (1984)

By: Judy Chicago – In collaboration with Pat Rudy-Baese(Macramé)

Collection of the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, Albuquerque, NM

Connection to the Theme 

In Judy’s piece, Birth Tear we can immediately see the connection this piece has to women and how strongly it depicts them. Right off of the bat, we see the image of a women giving birth to three children and how interconnected they are. There is this sense of motherhood with the image of the umbilical cord standing out in a bright red color, and connecting to the light pink image of the children, over this shadowy purple glow of the mother. It’s as if they are clasping to her for life, and she is giving them her own. It creates this beautiful sense of strength, dedication, and motherly love.

Aesthetic Appreciation

When looking at Birth Tear, it is really hard for me to actually come up with the right words to describe how it really makes me feel. It completely captivates me when I look at it, and all I can do is keep looking. The contrast of the purple mother, the pink children, and the red umbilical cord simply takes my breath aways. There is this eerie, sad, yet triumphed, and happy feeling that arouses from this combination. Also, the fact that it is set over a black background makes the image even more powerful. It really pushes the message in your face, which kinda leaves you breathless. I really feel that this piece fully captures the strength, love, triumph, and selflessness of not only a mother, but a woman.

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The Crowning-  Needle point #4 (1984)

By: Judy Chicago- In collaboration with, Lynda Healy, and  Fran Lyon Yablonsky

Collection of the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, Albuquerque, NM

Connection to the Theme

Like the previous works of Judy Chicago, The Crowning, keeps up her fight for depicting empowered women. In this work we really get this sense of, “bring it on” or “I’m ready for whatever you can throw at me” its this lovely image that depicts the women completely in control, calm, and collected, yet in a situation that could easily be in control of her. This can be seen through the way Chicago places the woman, looking at herself and not only waiting to give birth but almost encouraging it. Also, the way Chicago chose to use pinks, purples, light blues, and light reds, creates a very uplifting mood. Judy Chicago really manages to show the strength and fearlessness of women, as well as, the hope and humor they have with this piece.

Aesthetic Appreciation 

For some odd reason, whenever I look at this piece of artwork it just makes me smile or laugh, a genuine smile/laugh of happiness. When I look at this picture I am just overwhelmed with warmth and happiness due to the warm colors Chicago uses, and the happy mood established with the placement of the woman and the use of flowing lines. Looking at this piece just grabs my attention and holds it. It makes me curious to see what would come next if the painting were to continue to tell it story, how would the woman react? would the colors change? it makes all these questions run through your head and you just keep staring at it to see if any of them will be answered. It’s a beautiful, thoughtful, passionate, and hopeful piece.

The Legacy of Cindy Sherman, and Her Portrayal of Women

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“The work is what it is and hopefully it’s seen as feminist work, or feminist-advised work, but I’m not going to go around espousing theoretical bullshit about feminist stuff.” -Cindy Sherman

January 19, 1954 – Present

Cindy Sherman was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and her family later moved to Hunting, Long Island. She grew up the youngest of 5 siblings. In the early 1970s, despite her parents dissatisfaction with the arts she enrolled at the State University of New York, at Buffalo, where she studied from 1972-1976. Sherman began studying as a painter, but she felt that there were many limitations to painting that irritated her, and she tried photography. The first photography class she took she failed, but shelter repeated the class and sort of found her knack for it.

In 1974, Sherman co-founded Hallwalls Center for Contemporary Art with artists Robert Longo and Charles Clough, which is still thriving today. After she graduated she moved to NYC to pursue her photography. There she began her 3 year-long project, Untitled Film Stills, where she took pictures of herself as different portrayals of women stereotypes. She later created her series, History Portraits and Sex Pictures (receiving the MacArthur Fellowship).In 1977 Sherman her cross to Film where she directed, Office Killer, and starred in Pecker. She recently shot more series of photographs of herself, exploring the “awkward make-up stage”, and had an exhibit in MoMA in 2012.

Cindy Sherman’s Artwork

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Untitled Film Still #3 (1977)

Located in Cindy Sherman’s Exhibit in MoMA

Connection to the Theme

Where to begin with this piece! Untitled Film Still #3 captures so many different fascist of what it is to be a woman. Sherman captures the stereotype of”Housewife” with the clothing and scenery she chooses to place herself in, but she puts a new spin on it. She gives this woman strength. You can see it with the way she positions her arm, how she shows off her muscle, and holds it strong. She uses this arm placement almost as a shield to herself, strong and powerful, yet she doesn’t look away. Her eyes pierce through whatever target she is looking at, almost daring them to approach her… yet it is not harsh it is strong and captivating! Sherman takes these female stereotypes, and turns them on their head portraying what women are really like underneath them.

Aesthetic Appreciation

First off, I absolutely love all of Cindy Sherman’s work. I think it is breathtaking and captivating, but I particularly love this piece. When I look at this piece I see a wall yet an open door. I see the hard stance of the woman trying to protect herself and push things away, yet when you look at her eyes she lures you in as if she wants to bare her soul to you. I just love how it shows both sides of a women, while in these stereotypical conventions. Untitled  Still #3 shows female power, longing, strength, and need all at once, which really blows my mind.

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Untitled Film Still #36 (1979)

Located in Cindy Sherman’s exhibit in MoMA

Connection to the Theme

In Untitled Film Still #36, the woman is depicted in a very intriguing way. Although we don’t see her face or even most of her body in the light there is a strength within the way she holds her body, and the way the light hits her.  If you look at the way she is taking off her top, there is no embarrassment no hesitation, even though the light is shining directly on her, and even though her face is in shadow it seems as though she is smiling. It creates this contrast between what women should be seen as with the light allowing us to see her as a whole silhouette, yet the darkness covers all the intricate details. Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #36 does a beautiful job of portraying female elegance, class, modesty, and even a little seduction.

Aesthetic Appreciation 

Untitled Film Still #36,  is an absolutely beautiful portrayal of how important and unimportant the female body is. Sherman creates this beautiful contrast between what we see and what we don’t see with her light choices. Sherman really creates this image using the light that says, yes the light is on me and my body but the darkness hiding her suggests that it doesn’t have to define her. It’s this incredibly powerful idea and image if you really look at it with an open mind. This image is captivating, intriguing, mysterious, strong and powerful, and it’s just absolutely brilliant.

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Untitled Film Still #13 (1978)

Located in Cindy Sherman’s exhibit in MoMA

Connection to the Theme

Untitled Film Still #13, gives a very unique depiction of the power of women. The way Cindy Sherman portrays this women as both beautiful and intelligent is extremely elegant. The viewer gets to see to different sides of a woman blend together to make on. We see the intellectual side reaching for the book at the top of the shelf, but we also get this fascinating side that is extremely elegant and beautiful. It’s almost as if the stereotypical “beauty queen” is mixed with the “nerdy girl” creating this delicate yet powerful balance.  Sherman’s work pushes for both the intellectual woman and the beautiful woman to be one, which builds this air of power for the female individual.

Aesthetic Appreciation

I really, really love this piece. I think it evokes a lot of thought and emotion from the viewers. It allows them to piece together two seperat halves to make a whole. There is also a really beautiful dynamite the multiple books on the shelves and the individual person.It gives you this sort of feeling of clutter yet space due to the way Sherman is positioned toward the back of the photo. It’s also very beautiful how the girl is looking away from the book-case as she grabs the book from the top shelf, it makes for a very strong image,and the question if the book will fall or if she will hold on to it.  It’s an extremely detailed piece with specific body positioning that creates many different interpretations, making it engage its audience.

Overall, the Post Modern era was filled with many different artistic movements, that not only shaped the art world of the 20th century, but also gave women a voice. It pushed the rise of women in the art world, as both artist, like Judy Chicago and Cindy Sherman, and as the theme of the art itself.

Work Cited

“Body Pixel.” Body Pixel RSS. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <http://www.body-pixel.com/2010/07/26/judy-chicago-–-when-women-rule-the-world/>.

“Gender – Boundless Open Textbook.” Boundless. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <https://www.boundless.com/art-history/textbooks/boundless-art-history-textbook/global-art-since-1950-37/postmodernism-237/gender-842-7699/>.

“Cindy Sherman Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works.” The Art Story. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. <http://www.theartstory.org/artist-sherman-cindy.htm>.

“Cindy Sherman.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cindy_Sherman>.

“Judy Chicago.” Bio » About ». Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <http://www.judychicago.com/about/bio.php>.

“Judy Chicago.” Birth Project Gallery » Gallery ». Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <http://www.judychicago.com/gallery.php?name=Birth Project Gallery>.

“Judy Chicago: Through the Archives.” Judy Chicago: Through the Archives. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/schlesinger-library/exhibition/judy-chicago-through-the-archives>.

“Judy Chicago.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judy_Chicago>.

“MoMA | Cindy Sherman.” MoMA | Cindy Sherman. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. <http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/cindysherman/#/1/>

“Postmodernism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism>.

“The Influence of Feminism in Art.” Art History Unstuffed. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <http://www.arthistoryunstuffed.com/the-influence-of-feminism-in-art/>.

Web. 14 Apr. 2015. <https://art-mus-thr200.community.uaf.edu/2009/04/24/03-visual-art-4/>.

Web. 14 Apr. 2015.< https://art-mus-thr200.community.uaf.edu/post-modern-content/>.

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