<ul><li>The Birth Trinity 1983 </li></ul><ul><li>Prior to the ‘Birth Project’, few images existed in Western Art, a puzzling omission as birth is a central focus of many women’s lives and a universal experience of all humanity, as everyone is born. </li></ul><ul><li>Seeking to fill this void Judy Chicago created multiple images of birth to be realised through needlework, a visually rich medium which has been ignored or trivialised by the mainstream art community. </li></ul><ul><li>From 1980 – 1985, Judy Chicago travel extensively to meet and work with over 130 needleworkers from the United States, Canada and New Zealand who participated in this project. These women worked in their homes, sometimes alone and sometimes in groups. The principles Judy Chicago used in this collaborative process grew out of her philosophy that people can be en-powered by art – through making it and owning it. </li></ul>
<ul><li>“ My first ideas in developing imagery for the Birth Project involved using the birth process as a metaphor for creation. Long before I finished the Dinner Party, I became interested in creation myths. In 1975, while I was having an exhibition at the College of St. Catherine’s, in St. Paul, Minnesota, I met a radical nun who collaborated with me in writing a re-interpretation of the myth of Genesis from a female point of view. </li></ul><ul><li>As soon as I could, I began trying to build a visual analogue to this myth – one that would affirm the fact that it was a woman who created life. When I approached the subject matter again in preparation for the Birth Project, I went to the library to see what images of birth I could find. I was struck dumb when my research turned up almost none. It was obvious that birth was a universal human experience and one that is central to women’s lives. Why were there no images. Attracted to this void, I plunged into the subject”. </li></ul>
<ul><li>1960’s – made explicitly female versions of the dominant modernist styles eg. at then of the 60’s she was painting reductive, hard-edged abstractions of the female form: large X shapes with openings in their centre. </li></ul><ul><li>Chicago’s partner at CalArts – co-founded Feminist Art Program ‘the personal is political” – group consciousness raising sessions helped them to “build their art-making out of their experiences as women” </li></ul><ul><li>Historically, the arts that women are traditionally associated with e.g. weaving, sewing, quilt making are seen more as domestic chores than art forms of any worth. Artists such as Miriam Schapiro tried to provoke a re evaluation of this point of view by focusing on the female experience. Schapiro uses textiles such as quilts, stitching and buttons in an effort to highlight the significance of women in the history of art, calling the works ‘femmages’. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Barcelona Fan 1979 </li></ul><ul><li>One of a type of construction she called ‘femmage’ (from female and collage) – these works celebrate traditional women’s craft. </li></ul><ul><li>Combined acrylic paint and sheer, lush fabric collaged into a fan-shaped canvas – in both form (fabric) and content (fan) it reflects women’s domestic culture </li></ul>
<ul><li>Wonderland 1983 </li></ul><ul><li>Crocheted aprons, doilies, quilt blocks and handkerchiefs are anchored in and against a complex geometric space augmented with brushstrokes. </li></ul><ul><li>Feminist content = use of fabric, decorative patterning, collaboration with the anonymous needleworkers – also central embroidered image of a housewife who curtsies beneath the caption “Welcome to Our Home”. - a piece of vintage Australian needlework – Schapiro symbolically links her contemporary collage-paintings with the handiwork of other women by incorporating the piecework itself in her art. </li></ul><ul><li>Patterns suggest quilts, wallpapers, curtains and other decorative forms women make or use in the domestic spaces. </li></ul>
<ul><li>WomenHouse (1972) </li></ul><ul><li>A daring, avan’t-garde site installation in an actual house made by 21 students in the Feminist Art Program, under the direction of Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago. </li></ul><ul><li>Students converted a run-down mansion into a series of rooms built around women’s experiences – used the insights of consciousness raising </li></ul><ul><li>Also did performance art </li></ul><ul><li>Relationship between biology and social roles underlay the content of the rooms of WomenHouse </li></ul><ul><li>Eg. Menstruation Bathroom </li></ul><ul><li>Presented women’s blood as taboo, and by implication, puberty as the moment of shame when signs of womanhood appear and must be hidden behind a locked bathroom door </li></ul><ul><li>Pristine white, with feminine hygiene products double wrapped, the bathroom was shrouded in silence and became a metaphor for the unspeakable. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Judy Chicago said “Under a shelf full of all paraphernalia with which this culture ‘cleans up’ menstruation was a garbage can filled with the unmistakable marks of our animality. One could not walk into the room, but rather, one peered in through a thin veil of gauze, which made the room a sanctum. </li></ul><ul><li>1975 – Schapiro was at the forefront of the Pattern and Decoration movement which was developed by female and male artists, though drew much of it’s energy from the feminist movement. However because for the first time women were leading, not following a major art movement Pattern and Decoration was by and large dismissed as trivial and superficial by ‘the art establishment’. </li></ul><ul><li>P & D involved traditionally ‘feminine’ craft techniques and materials to obtain a rich, opulent decorative abstract style – rejection of cool, hard-edged reductionism of 1960’s Minimalism which Schapiro and other feminists considered typically male. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Sheet Closet shows the restrictions of fulfilling domestic duties. The female role is seen as a caring and nurturing one and Womanhouse tries to expose the myth that it is a natural state, showing the amount of work or ‘labour’ necessary to succeed. Feminist artists thought that as women, they would be expected to produce images of themselves as a form of female narcissism. So by taking the female image and corrupting or twisting it they made an even bolder and more shocking statement. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Menstruation Bathroom was another room in the house. As Judy Chicago had done in previous work, the aim was to bring the female experience to light and consequently raise both awareness and appreciation amongst its audience, especially self appreciation amongst women. </li></ul><ul><li>However this lead to much criticism as such domestic, inherently feminine issues were not seen as sufficiently erudite to be the subjects of true art. In order to be successful a woman artist had to produce masculine art, especially during the sixties when minimalist styles prevailed. Here the artists were refuting this and were trying to break taboos, publicly displaying the unmentionable. </li></ul>
<ul><li>One of the rooms in the house was transformed into a woman’s bedroom; Leah’s Room. When exhibited, a performance artist sat at the dressing table repeatedly applying, removing and reapplying make up. It identified the female role as a sex object and explored the pressure put upon women to improve themselves, requiring the use of make up to hide signs of aging and imperfection. The Women’s Movement was instrumental in pushing new forms of expression and performance art suited the fulfilment of many of its creative and political ideas. It offered new scope for shock tactics and of course was not a commodity in the same way as art upon paper, thereby avoiding the perceived patriarchal market and male commercial art. The legacy however remains in photo documentation and the contribution to artistic progress. </li></ul>
<ul><li>The question is, how successful were these early initiators of the Women’s’ Movement? The very fact that women like Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro were only the start of an entire movement that went on throughout the 1970s shows that their work had some affect. </li></ul><ul><li>Whether through the provocation of controversy or simply sharing information at an attempt at education, their efforts were not in vain as they were adopted and evolved by others. </li></ul><ul><li>However the existence of feminist artist groups today, such as the Guerrilla Girls shows that some female artists still feel it necessary to protest. Judy Chicago herself recognises that more has to be achieved before sufficient equality is gained. </li></ul><ul><li>It is true that it is now far more acceptable for women artists to concentrate on essentially feminine subject matter, many taboos have been broken. However, despite an increase in the number of female artists at a grass roots level they are still a distinct minority in terms of museum showings and major exhibitions. These artists of the sixties showed that protest was worthwhile and to a certain extent effective but there is more that could still be done. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Barbara Kruger b. 1945 </li></ul><ul><li>Second generation of feminist artists – emerged in the 1980’s – believed that differenced between the sexes are not intrinsic but ‘socially constructed’ – by media images and other cultural forces, to suit the needs of those in power. </li></ul><ul><li>According to this view, young people, particularly women, learn how to behave from the role models they see in magazines, movies etc. A major task of feminism and feminist art should therefore be to resist the power of these forces. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Early 1970’s used fibre related craft techniques traditionally associated with “women work” in her art – also worked as a graphic designer and photo editor for women’s magazines. </li></ul><ul><li>Studied film – wrote film and T.V criticism for ARTFORUM magazine </li></ul><ul><li>Stopped making art entirely </li></ul><ul><li>Then resumed – working in the photographic medium – late 1970’s </li></ul><ul><li>Combined black and white photographs (found media imagery – from advertisements – which involved the male gaze and it’s hidden projections of personal power) with bold, easily readable, catchy text/messages. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Installation at Mary Boone Gallery, NY Barbara Kruger produced three large-scale gallery installations between 1989 and 1991. In these works, the artist transferred words and images directly to the surfaces of the gallery. Each installation featured a text written on the floor in white type on a red ground. This text read: "All that seemed beneath you is speaking to you now. All that seemed deaf hears you. All that seemed dumb knows what's on your mind. All that seemed blind sees through you. All that seemed silent is putting the words right into your mouth." </li></ul><ul><li>With a directness that is characteristic of Kruger's work, the text addresses the viewer's sense of certainty with the world. In Kruger's installation, the floor now has a voice, the walls can hear you, and the architecture is manipulating the way you speak. At Kruger's self-titled exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery, this omnipresent, all-knowing and all-seeing surveillance was heightened by the way in which text appeared not only the floor but also on the walls and ceiling - enveloping the viewer. To walk into the room was to be addressed from all sides, left and right. While one read a text, other messages would be transmitted subliminally as one caught hold of a phrase or word in the corner of one's eye. Disrupting the seeming naturalness of the white gallery space, Kruger's treatment of the walls, floor, and ceiling underscored the way in which architecture and social spaces have their own way of speaking and representing the world. </li></ul>
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