Today feminism is a strongly misconstrued word. The meaning has been completely hijacked into something not aesthetic to a large amount of the world. I chose this topic as I’m very passionate about current issues and a member of some mainstream feminist campaigns such as women’s aid and women’s march.
This essay explores feminism and asks the following questions; why is feminist art still relevant in the art world today? And how has feminist art impacted mainstream art? I will respond to these questions by looking at the work of different artists such as; the guerrilla girls as a collective group, followed by Mona hatoum as her work creates a challenging view of our world. Finishing with looking at the artist Zoe Buckman as her work is created to make the viewer uncomfortable and fits to explore this topic as the messages throughout feminist work is extremely powerful and used throughout women campaigns and an analysis of the correlation between female artists past and present. Included is a discussion centred around the historical importance of female artist representation and how that impacted feminist artworks.
The evolution of feminism has shifted an immense amount throughout the past decade, women are finally being heard. Well so I thought. Throughout the world recent laws/bills suggests were going backwards in relation to women having equal rights, 100% control of their own bodies, domestic abuse and victim blaming. Looking back all the way to the 60s/70s where feminism first came to be in the art world compared to now you think to yourself how are these issues still relevant today?
Feminism first became prominent in the art world in the late 1960s even though women rights activists were present from the mid-19th century advocating for the right to vote which came to be in the 1920s.Women were attached to men economically in the 70s not just because they earned much less but because majority of the time women needed a signature from a male whether that being a partner or father in order to gain credit or buy certain items.
Coming off the second world war the second flood of women’s activits were centred around the working environment, sexuality and family A significant number of the women supporters of the previously mentioned campaigns felt their voices were not being heard and felt that with the end goal to address sex balance concerns.
It is difficult to pinpoint when awareness and questions came into the Feminist Art Movement but In 1969, the group Women Artists in Revolution split off from the Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC) because the AWC was male-dominated and would not protest on behalf of women artists. In 1971, female artists picketed the Corcoran Biennial in Washington D.C. for excluding women artists, and New York Women in the Arts organized a protest gallery owner for not exhibiting women’s art, in 1972, Judy Chicago created Woman house with Miriam schapiroat at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts), which also had a Feminist Art program, which is a collaborative art installation and exploration. It was made up of students working together on exhibits and performance art. It attracted crowds and national publicity for the Feminist Art Movement.
An artist collective called the guerrilla girls famously began in reaction to “MoMA’s An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture 1984 exhibition”. This exhibition was supposed to represent the top artists in the world, out of the 169 artists shown only 13 were women and what makes thigs worse is that the curator, Kynaston McShine, stated that “any artist who wasn’t in the show should rethink ‘his’ career.”
it has been over 30 years since the guerrilla girls who are a collective of activists committed to highlighting inequality in the art world formed, during which time a lot has changed, and a lot hasn’t. A group of artists protested outside on the opening night. However, they noticed the onlookers weren’t interested in their message, so a year later Guerrilla Girls formed with the aim of finding new ways to protest using street art. The Guerrilla Girls are responsible for introducing political art in a humorous way which helps present issues in unexpected, intrusive ways.” We believe that some discrimination is conscious, and some is unconscious and that we can embarrass some of the perpetrators into changing their ways. This has proved true in the art world: things are better now than they ever have been for women and artists of colour, and we have helped effect that change. There is still a long way to go, however, and we are still condemning the art world for its lack of ethics, tokenism, economic discrimination and other bad behaviour.”
As the guerrilla girls point out in their latest campaign, galleries that once showed only 10% women artists now show up to 20% and also museums that, in 1985, gave no women artists a solo exhibition including the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan and the Whitney each gave a single woman a solo show last year, so does this count as progress or is there still a substantial amount of work to be done? “The Whitney museum says, ‘Isn’t it wonderful – we have 30% women in the new collection!’” says the activist known as Frida Kahlo. “And we’re saying, why is that something to be happy about – 30%? Where is the other 20?”
Has anything changed in the 30 years since the group started calling out the art world? the results in Europe show that only 14 of the museums that responded have more than 20 artists from outside Europe or the U.S. in their collections. A pitiful total of two museums have more than 40 percent women artists in their collections. Meanwhile, nine museums, including the Guggenheim Bilbao, do not represent any gender non-conforming artists in their programs. Spain is particularly poor when it comes to supporting women artists, with seven Spanish institutions of 21 admitting to less than 20 percent women artists in their collection. Which shows more work needs to be done?
A study was also done by The East London Fawcett (ELF) who recently gathered statistical data in the form of the “Great East London Art Audit”. This information was collected over the course of a year by volunteers, researchers and statisticians with the aim of providing an insight into the status of women artists. “The results were clear: of the 134 commercial galleries in London that were audited, which collectively represent 3163 artists, 31 per cent of the represented artists were women “Further to this, only 5 per cent of the galleries represented an equal number of male and female artists, with 78 per cent of the programmes representing more men than women.
The continued imbalance of gender representation within the arts is an issue all too often ignored and forgotten. During this period, statistical information gathered by activists in Los Angeles revealed that over a period of ten years, of 53 one-person shows mounted at the Los Angeles County Museum, only one had been by a woman. Strategies were set out to address female under-representation, within galleries, exhibitions and journals being established by women for women.an art historian Linda Nochlin published the influential essay ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ in 1971 which leads onto the opening of New York’s A.I.R Gallery in 1972 which provided exhibition space for women during a time when most commercial galleries showed only male works.
In a recent interview with der Spiegel a German artist Georg Baselitz stated that ‘women don’t paint very well. It’s a fact,’ and further to this stated that they ‘simply don’t pass the market test, the value test. As always, the market is right.’ Which is a completely ridiculous statement in the 21st century.
An artist named Zoe Buckman creates pieces of work which creates feeling of uncomforting. Buckman’s Every Curve is an installation of vintage lingerie which shows artist’s own fascination toward femininity. Once again, this piece of art reflects a specific contemporary theme: the female objectification in our modern society. The garments come from varying decades: corsets were shown how the body was restricted and repressed while fluid, free slips and robes underline a period when the female body was celebrated, and other lingerie used to appeal better to the eyes of men.
‘Let Her Rave’ was inspired by a line in a John Keats poem that suggests if a women is angered she should be imprisoned and left to rave. “I wanted to examine that line and also look at the ways in which the social constructs in our society aim to keep women controlled.” The result was white boxing gloves covered in lace, a physical interpretation of the feminist slogan pussy fights back before it was chanted in the streets in protest.
Women are now once again hard to find at big institution’s feminist shows or exhibitions of works addressing gender, sexuality, and other interrelated social inequities. The larger, staid institutions move slowly and demonstrate little interest in supporting more shows devoted to work by women of the past or to current feminist art.Women have been and continue to be vital to the institution of art, but despite being with the art world in every way, many women artists have found opposition in the traditional narrative of art history. They have faced challenges due to gender biases, from finding difficulty in training to selling their work and gaining recognition.
For centuries, women were excluded from the records of art history. This was due to a series of factors: art forms like textiles were often dismissed as craft and not “fine art”; many women were kept from gaining a general education, and the men who dominated the discipline both in practice and history often believed women to be inferior artists.
Other female artists used their art to speak to the issues that they face as women. In the 1970s for example , Margaret Harrison used playful and ironic drawings to point out the objectification women faced in their day-to-day lives. In the same decade, artist Linder drew on the spirit of punk and the anti-establishment politics of Dada to create photomontages that subverted traditional media images into unsettling statements. Filmmaker Barbara Hammer used footage of her own body to advocate for more open depictions of lesbian sexuality, while today artists like Cornelia Parker are encouraging us to think about how idealised images of the female body measure up against the figures of real, living women.
“Men have maintained a studio system which has excluded women from training as artists, a gallery system that has kept them from exhibiting and selling their work, as well as from being collected by museums — albeit somewhat less in recent years than before. “Awakened, in short, to activism, feminists soon began to speak up to oppressive institutions and to create worlds more inclusive of the lives of women.
“Artists were especially inspired by de Beauvoir’s analysis of “made” reality. If the lives of women were not the result of some intractable “natural law,” then they could be remade, revised, altered and improved”
From protest at the lack of inclusion of women artists in galleries and museums, to resuscitation of the degraded languages of decorative and craft-based arts, the first phase of feminist art making was activist, passionate, and especially concerned with altering art history. Early achievements included the establishment of the Feminist Art Program by Judy Chicago, first at Fresno, California, in 1970, and then, with the collaboration of Miriam Schapiro, at Cal Arts in Valencia, California, in 1971. The first program devoted to the making of art by and about women, the Feminist Art Program also produced a well-publicized exhibition entitled ‘Woman house in 1972’
Adrian piper is an artist in which chooses not to abide by certain art, she publicly made a statement about how she is a feminist however is not a feminist artist. Piper blurred the lines between art, performance and social commentary, making a lot of people question whether she was creating art in the first place.
In conclusion feminist art is still very relevant in today’s art world because there is still such a long way to go for women artists to get the recognition they deserve. Through different practices whether that be by an induvial artist or collective its so important to keep talking and bringing awareness to these issues.