Feminist Works Highlight Gender Issues

By Shaw, Kurt | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

Feminist Works Highlight Gender Issues


Shaw, Kurt, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Feminist art may have sprung up in the 1960s and flourished as an art movement unto itself throughout the 1970s, but a new exhibit at the Mattress Factory proves that feminism still informs the art practices of many a female artist, even though notions of what feminism is have changed.

Organized by Hilary Robinson, a professor of art theory and criticism at Carnegie Mellon University, the exhibit "Feminist and ..." features installation works by six female artists from around the world. Julia Cahill, Betsy Damon, Parastou Forouhar, Loraine Leeson, Ayanah Moor and Carrie Mae Weems each took a room in the museum and created works that are thought-provoking in their own way.

Robinson says she first got the idea for the exhibit about two years ago. It wasn't difficult to find artists working in the area of installation and able to work with a residency.

"In fact, I drew up a long list of artists, but the first six that I spoke to all said yes, and they are the six artists in the exhibition," Robinson says.

Cahill's piece, for example, may well be the most overtly feminist work. Dealing specifically with the subject of the objectification of woman's breasts, Cahill's "Breasts in the Press" features at its core a larger-than-life Venus de Milo with larger- than-life breasts. Onto this big-chested version of the Venus de Milo, Cahill projects a music video in which she performs a parody of "My Humps," a pop song by the Black Eyed Peas. For obvious reasons, Cahill's rewrite of the pop song cannot be printed here, but needless to say, Cahill's tongue-in-cheek version is both hilarious and sharply pointed at men in particular.

The remaining works are more subtle in their implications of feminist thought or theory.

For example, Weems' "Lincoln, Lonnie and Me -- A Story in 5 Parts" is an 18-minute installation in which a video is projected onto a mock stage set framed in bright-red theater curtains. In it, a multitude of characters and voices conjure the past and the present, and remind us that history, and gender roles, are still being written.

Leeson's six-point projection video "Active Energy: Pittsburgh" tackles love and loss through dementia, through interviews with several Pittsburgh-area seniors. …

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