Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Red Shoes

I thought I'd finished this painting, The Red Shoes as well as the Ugly Ducking a few weeks ago, until I met with my advisers this past week and a visiting artist, Carol Wainio. My meeting with them brought to the surface issues, I'd rather not elaborate on that I have been struggling with. Frankly, I was hoping perhaps it would go unnoticed and I could go merrily along my way in denial. I can be very good at that!

After having my ego bruised as my false pride quickly kicked in, I now have to proceed to kick my tuchus and get a move on with the tasks at hand.

                                      "Pride is the mask of one's own faults".

                                                                          Jewish Proverb

These are the revised versions. They aren't that different but I'm pretty happy with them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Artemisia Gentileschi

I think like many women who first find out about Artemisia Gentileschi  find it to be a very exciting discovery to learn of such a gifted, talented and ground breaking woman, who is like a beacon of light in a dark world of male dominated artists in the Renaissance. It is empowering to know of such women who are still very relevant to contemporary artists today. Wouldn't be wonderful if one could go back in time briefly to meet artists such as Artemisia. The courage and strength necessary for her to survive and thrive as an artist is hard to imagine.

In both my Art History classes we were to watch the Merlet film entitled, "Artemisia" and then discuss it in class. Merlet refers to herself as a feminist. Unfortunately this movie did nothing to celebrate who Artemisia was, her art, her accomplishments as an artist, and did nothing to forward the cause of feminism in my estimation. On the contrary the movie falsified and distorted her life and history, focused on fallacious truths, loosely based on her life and upheld those who victimized and abused her. Her rapist and painter and teacher Agostino Tassi, never confessed to his crime, nor was Artemisia in love with him and never recounted her rape accusation toward him, as portrayed in the film. This kind of untruth and distortion re-victimizes and perpetuates a stereo type  and discrimination against women artists as well does great injustice toward both genders within the context of art history and outside of the art world. 

When Artemisia was first released it was purported as being a true story and later this claim was recounted. Regardless, the good news was finding out the truth and learning the real story found in other films produced without the fan fare of the big budget Hollywood blockbuster movie produced to appease the masses for nothing more than commercial  purposes.

Nonetheless, all these centuries later, Artemisia's voice is far from being silenced, nor her life lived in vain, knowing that contemporary artists are rallying to educate and learn about Artemisia and many of the woman artists like her. It is a heartening story and history indeed, that needs to be told..

The site and movie produced by Ellen Weissbrod, A Woman Like That, champions Artemisia and the issues surrounding her and the relevancy to contemporary woman artists..

When I contemplate on Artemisia's life and work and other female artists  I can't help but reflect on Judy Chicago's incredible installation, "The Dinner Party" found in a permanent home at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. It makes me very grateful and indebted to such ground breaking feminist artists like her, who pave the way and share their knowledge with others, so we can understand the under-recognized past history of women artists, their significance and profound  role.
Perhaps one day in the near future there will be another women, who will produce another film, telling the accurate story about Artemisia Gentleschi, the most important artist after Caravaggio. Unfortunately the   Merlet missed the opportunity to do so. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Michelangelo Buonarroti

Today while doing research for my Advanced Art History class about Michelangelo I found this very and fascinating PBS program about him based on the research done by well known Art Historian and Restoration expert Antonio Forcellino. It was riveting and informative changing my outlook regarding Michelangelo's involvement with the Catholic Church. I had always assumed he had been a devout adherent to the tenants of the Catholic Church.There has been so much written about " The Divine Artist ", but difficult to decipher fact from fiction. This I believe to be the most compelling information I have found that makes one admire the man even more.

Comparing Irving Stone's, classic Hollywood epic, The Agony and The Ecstasy  to Michelangelo Buonarroti's actual life is rather like comparing apples and oranges. One is about the production of a movie based on some historical fact however generally it was very much a fiction, depicting some historic romantic realism, starring American and  English Hollywood actors. Although Irving Stone went to great lengths to produce a film that he perhaps hoped would be as factual as possible. Unfortunately this was superseded by the  glamor and glitz of Hollywood. The film touched on various truths about the life of Michelangelo such as some of the details of his early life and work but failed to examine he's spiritual beliefs that were formed by his family's unsophisticated Catholicism. In later years his work was Christ centered increasingly focused on having a relationship with God rather than the institutional church.
In my opinion Michelangelo's spirituality is the most significant and relevant characteristic that reveals whom he was and this is poignantly reflected in his art. The Agony and The Ecstasy fails to bring this to the surface, settling for the Hollywood version that portrays the artist as a rather self-absorbed, tormented, iconographic figure that appeared almost super human. I do believe Michelangelo was complex individual, that struggled within the restriction and dogma of the Roman Catholic church and an authoritarian papacy. The fact that he and his family attended the Franciscan church at Santa Croce, I believe was a great influence spiritually, if he followed the tenants accordingly to Saint Francis who always preached faith through Christ was the way of salvation, not anyone or anything else. Michelangelo's apparent and intimate relationship with poet Vittoria Colonna as well Michelangelo's involvement with the Spirituali, which existed between 1510-1560s, the publication and circulation of the book, " Benficio di Cristo", "The Benefit of Christ's Death" all contributed to his being caught between the powers and capriciousness of the Medici family and the Papacy.

There was little to no mention in Stone's film regarding the depth of Michelangelo's spirituality, why he was so conflicted and how spiritual symbolism was reflected or why it was so important in his work. As in the sculpture of Moses, there a various anomalies such as the law giver who is looking away from the celebrant,  who appears to be is searching for the light through direct contact with God, not the priesthood.

In Michelangelo's own tomb was to be portraying himself as Nicodemus which was representing those Catholics who were covertly sympathetic with the reformed theology that emphasized grace, which God sent through faith and sought the renewal of the Catholic church.

I do not believe that Michelangelo was "The Divine Artist", nor do I believe he would consider himself to be. I think he was a gifted and well trained artist who simply wanted to live his life as a simple follower of Christ in a tumultuous time in history that made it very difficult if not next to impossible because of the power between Church and State. I think much of his confliction and how Michelangelo saw himself can be summed up in the story of Nicodemus..

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Women, Art & Society

" We will need our wit and courage to make sure that women's voices are heard, their work seen and written about. That is our task for the future" - Linda Nochlin, 2006

While reading this I said to myself, yes I agree with this statement and then ask why? Upon reflection I realize the answer to this question has been an ongoing one for me and perhaps for many woman like myself, who grew up during the second wave of feminism and are now witnessing the third wave among the younger generation and this has been my experience as a mature fine art student at Mount Allison University.

I had my first  Art History class today for my last term entitled, Women, Art and Society. We watched a very informative film by Teresa MacInnes, The Other Side of the Picture, National Film Board, 1998. It was an eye opener to say the least. It's wonderful and exciting to have a historical overview of woman as artists. I was pleased to know that in my Advanced Art History Seminar class is with, Professor and artist, Hermeneglide Chaisson ,  and we will be viewing a number of films about artists, some woman artists, such a Artemisa Gentileschi, including female film directors.

After watching The Other Side of the Picture today, we discussed the film and it was a great introduction into the course, left me feeling inspired, uplifted and challenged, as a woman passionate about women's issues. I felt like I could have watched all day and it made me hungry to learn  more about woman artists. I am looking very forward to this course and believe it will be very rewarding.

This is the second Art History class I have been enrolled in regarding women artists.  The first being at NSCAD, which was the first of it's kind, in the 70s. Thirty years later, the Mount Allison  course, Women, Art and History, I'm certain will prove to be much more expansive, inclusive and informative regarding woman artists. I was schooled in Art History  with the two supposed " canons ", Gardiner's History Through The Ages and Janson's The History of Art, both, the Guerilla Girls refer to it in their Bedside Companion to the History of Art. It's such a breath of fresh air, to say the least, to know that most art historians are now women. 

I have never called myself a feminist as I am not a fan of labels that can be very restrictive and confining in definition, as it seems to have different meanings for everyone.

Anne D' Alleva's book, Look! Again, Art History and Critical Theory, refers to a
"collection of feminisms " and "feminist art histories" which reaffirms and clarifies for me my own ideas regarding the word  feminist and it's meaning.

Feminism and woman's issues are extremely important to me. I remember hearing an interview on CBC with Gloria Steinam and was struck by what she said, "There can be no democracy without feminism". I believe this to be a statement having profound meaning to our world. I am not certain exactly in what way, but  I believe it has to do with society's creating a living history. This is reflected in what is valued, be it, love, peace, power, control, life, death and war . History tells us where we have been and where we are going.

An independent study entitled, Feminism, Art and Modernism, I am enrolled in for my last term before graduation, will give me the opportunity to further explore in depth, the study of this topic, however Woman, Art and Society is a great beginning.

Learning about such significant text like, Mary Wollsonecraft's, " A Vindication of the Rights of Women ", dating back to 1792, along with Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex and Betty Friedan's, " The Feminine Mystique " are all an essential part of the foundation of feminist history.

It is absolutely essential to know and understand the beginnings of feminist art history for me as a woman artist.

Linda Nochlin's article written in 1971, " Why  Have There Been No Great Woman  Artists ?" Nochlin's statement, " genius is a historically  and culturally determined concept, and that art is not a free, autonomous activity of a super-endowed individual, but a process mediated and determined by a specific and definable social institutions", addresses the need to redefine our paradigms of our history and I would say relates directly to how and what we learn.

The making of art and craft, similarities and differences have long been a controversial discussion among artists, art students and art institutions. The inherent long held societal belief that men are the art makers and woman are the makers of craft , often subsumed into being " low art ". I presume this dates back to the industrial revolution and other significant events throughout history that have contributed to this belief. Fortunately this has changed over the years and slowly continues to evolve.

Change in art history and the way it is taught is crucial to feminism, to men and to women. Art historians, Norma Broude and Mary Garrard's groundbreaking volumes of essays, I have never read, but certainly intend to, because of their vast and ascending contribution to feminist art history. The idea of the particular and the individual is a powerful  consideration in the way in which art is created, under what circumstances, encompassing  race, culture, gender, agism, and related issues. " In Patricia Matthews Subjects of Art History ",1998,  broadened the objectives of art history critical to feminist art history perspectives.

Freida High W. Tesfagiorgis very poignantly  speaks about the " semi-visible " status of the African-American women artists.

After finishing this post I was very excited to find this site regarding a new film called Women Art Revolution by Lynn Hershman Leeson