Feminism & Art [9 Views]

Artforum International, October 2003 | Go to article overview

Feminism & Art [9 Views]


HOW MIGHT WE ASSESS FEMINISM'S INITIAL IMPACTS ON ART, ITS SUBSEQUENT HISTORICIZATION, AND ITS CONTINUING INFLUENCE? ARTFORUM ASKED LINDA NOCHLIN, ANDREA FRASER, AMELIA JONES, DAN CAMERON, COLLIER SCHORR, JAN AVGIKOS, CATHERINE DE ZEGHER, ADRIAN PIPER, AND PEGGY PHELAN TO CONSIDER THIS QUESTION IN AN ONLINE ROUNDTABLE ASSEMBLED IN AUGUST. THEIR RESPONSES--REFINED BY THE PARTICIPANTS AND PRESENTED IN THE FOLLOWING PAGES--SUGGEST THAT FEMINISM AND FEMINIST DISCOURSES AS THEY HAVE FOUND EXPRESSION IN CONTEMPORARY ART ARE AMBIVALENT ("IN THE FULLEST SENSE OF THAT TERM," AS PHELAN PUTS IT), MULTIFACETED, AND EVER EVOLVING.

LINDA NOCHLIN

Contemporary art and art criticism are unimaginable without feminism.

As a participant in the women's art movement of the late '60s and early '70s, I have decidedly mixed feelings about the historicization of feminism. It is difficult to see lived experience transformed into historical text. Things that seemed open and dynamic are now pinned down and displayed like butterflies in a case. Of course, there is also the tendency to idealize the past, to see the women's art movement as totally united. This was not the case: Although all of us were for justice, equity, and a fair shake for women artists, critics, and academics, our views we extremely varied, and we were often at odds with one another. I, for instance, disagreed with the perhaps unconscious essentialism of those who propagated Central Imagery as a compositional characteristic of women's art, or believed in Great Goddesses, or saw women as victims.

Today, it seems to me that the fundamental differences within feminism exist between those artists and critics who think of "woman" as a fixed category and those who think of it as something more fluid, constructed, and variable. There is also a difference between those who think of feminist art and art history as critical practices and those who think that pure, "positive" images of woman are possible--that there is some essence of femininity out there to be captured. Perhaps '70s feminism, powerful and necessary though it was, is now outmoded; feminism has transformed and is itself transformed in contemporary practice. Feminist politics today is far more multivalent and self-aware; the battle lines are less clearly drawn. The binaries--oppressor/victim, good woman/bad man, pure/impure, beautiful/ugly, active/passive--are not the point of feminist art anymore. Ambiguity, androgyny, and self-consciousness, both formal and psychic, are de rigueur in challenging thought and practice. But there is no point in asking how relevant feminism is to art practice, history, and criticism today, since feminist consciousness is pervasive even when unacknowledged or demeaned. Feminism is not only overtly present but has over the past thirty years irrevocably changed the way we think about art, the body, the relationship between the viewer and the artwork, and the standing, the various media.

Despite its import, there remains a general lack of interest in feminism in American museums, which is unfortunate, to say the least--but which is only part of more general refusal by museums to deal with anything controversial. (The Brooklyn Museum, which is opening an important center for feminist art with a regular exhibition program, is a rare exception.) It is hard to imagine an American museum putting on a show like Louvre curator Regis Michel's "Possess and Destroy: Sexual Strategies in Western Art" (2000), which demonstrated that much of the great drawing of the past is based on cruelty toward the female body. The show included Renaissance artists, continued through the nineteenth century with Ingres and Degas and ended with Picasso. Of course, most of their pieces, drawn from the Louvre collection, were beautiful. Michel's show and catalogue essay made you think about this strange, contradictory relationship--between morality, as it were, and aesthetics--which has long marked the high and low culture of our civilization.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Feminism & Art [9 Views]
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.