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Welcome To The Ghetto For Girls!
Like special schools and classes for slow learners, there's now a special art museum for women, as part of The Brooklyn Museum. Catherine Morris writes in Time Out/NY of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, showcasing work by women artists from 1960 onward:

Reached by phone in her Brooklyn office, the center’s curator, Maura Reilly, described the opening as “an historical moment of feminism infiltrating the museum.”

This is a good thing? I believe Louise Nevelson managed to get into a museum or two without a special affirmative action wing. As did Helen Frankenthaler and a number of other women artists. To me, this is like government grants for art. If your art is good enough, you'll make money. If not, it's not an art career, it's a hobby, okay?

The article winds up with this from Carolee Schneemann:

...whose radical performances of the ’60s politicized the female body, finds relevance in the Sackler Center opening as the Bush administration drives the country deeper into war. “Feminism has always battled against hypermasculinity” she says. “This position couldn’t be more vital than it is in our current political moment.”

Oh, please. The woman does vagina paintings, with menstrual blood. Is this art? (Hint: When they use the word "discourse" to talk about your work, that's the bullshit alert.) Here's a bit from her website, from a performance where she's wearing a set of horns on her head, looking pretty ridiculous:

The Vulva speaks: "If the traditions of patriarchy split the feminine into debased/glamorized, sanitized/ bloody, madonna/whore... fractured body, how could Vulva enter the male realm except as "neutered" or neutral... "castrated"?

The Vulva speaks? Tell the vulva to make like the penis and shut the hell up. There's plenty of hilarious stuff at her website; unfortunately, no permalinks, so you'll have to look for the silliness yourself. Check out "Fresh Blood: A Dream Morphology," in which she shovels the shit (or, shall I say, used maxi pads) sans spell-check, punctuational correctness, and without making the slightest bit of sense:

"Fresh Blood- A Dream Morphology" posited female physical exposeure the feminine as normative. In examining our most taboo viscerality I was built an ethos in which male phobias were eliding. I would invert the projects of the unsanitary leakage, abject, I could posit all the wet bloody cyclic not only in it's physicality, but in a conceptual frame of positive range so that the phobic masuline would have to shrivel and cower... the functions of my body would not be symptomatic or all that is not male."

Hey, Lady...man or woman, if you've got diarrhea, your period, or an antsy bladder, kindly use the toilet and flush afterward. (Shut the door first.) No need to alert the media, not even if you're attempting to either channel or parody Foucault. P.S. Saying so isn't anti-woman; it's basic personal hygiene.

And again, the more Foucaultian bullshit-speak you use to describe your work, the less value it tells me your work actually has. Nevertheless, kudos to you for taking the P.T. Barnum route to earning a living! And doing it well, considering you've fooled your way into museums in the business of showing art, and have a loft in New York City.

Now, I'm not just strictly figurative in what I appreciate in art: I like abstract expressionism for challenging the representative status quo, and appreciate specific abstract expressionsists (especially Clifford Still, Barnett Newman, William Baziotes, Adolph Gottlieb for his red and black orb paintings, and Franz Klein, for his black fire-escapey looking paintings).

Additionally, I love Dada, and thought Ad Reinhardt was clever for doing one black painting. Good joke...move on, thanks. He didn't. And, after all the ab exers did their thing for a while, all the no-talent slobs and slob-ettes saw that they didn't have to learn how to paint or have any visible meaning in their work -- they could just stick some myth-dripped title on it and get a good art publicist and a Saatchi interested, and they were golden. Nice "work" if you can get it.

P.S. Some of my favorite modern art is Austrian/German expressionism, especially Egon Schiele. If you're a fan, too, when you're in New York, visit the museum called Neue Gallerie.

article link via ifeminist

Posted by aalkon at March 23, 2007 9:34 AM

Comments

I've never looked it up, but they say that if you add up all the people who go to museums and art shows every year, it dwarfs the attendance of football, baseball and basketball combined. People know that television and magazines are bullshit culture, and they want to get some real beauty in their lives.

It's not happening. Art in museums is dead, always... No matter how much it meant to you when it was alive. Remember that next time someone says it would be great for this-or-that bass player to be inducted in to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. See also, Cooperstown.

Anyway, the most instructive piece of beauty from the American art scene in my lifetime was Schnabel's acquisition of this woman as a trophy:

http://tinyurl.com/2wkdxy

And she's had some plastic surgery lately, too: Art is dead, I tell ya.

Posted by: Crid at March 23, 2007 6:58 AM

Appropriately, I believe she was a trade-up. Art mirroring...art?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 23, 2007 7:12 AM

hmmm...

so many things I could say. let's keep it simple.

I like art.
I like vaginas.
I don't like vaginas in my art.

Posted by: André-Tascha at March 23, 2007 7:21 AM

Women artists hardly invented "secretion art". vito acconci's "seed bed" from the 60's was a famous installation featuring the artist masturbating under a ramp. Not art I'd pay to see, certainly. But the whole theme of this exhibit is feminist art. You'd hardly expect to go to an exhibit of Mexican folk art and see a Picasso, either, or a Degas at an exhibit of early 20th century photography. Art exhibits with a narrow focus are nothing new.

Posted by: deja pseu at March 23, 2007 7:33 AM

Wow. I've seen spam headers that were more coherent than that "Fresh Blood" ramble.

Posted by: Rex Little at March 23, 2007 8:07 AM

"I don't like vaginas in my art."

Posted by: André-Tascha.

I think you probably do actually, A-T. But not in the way you think you think you don't.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at March 23, 2007 8:51 AM

Jody:??

perhaps it is the almost all-nighter I had to pull last night, but your comment is making my brain hurt.

Posted by: André-Tascha at March 23, 2007 8:55 AM

"...but your comment is making my brain hurt."

It's meant to A-T - but in a sweet, gossamer-touch sort of way!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at March 23, 2007 9:26 AM

chuckling...

can tell i am getting old...all night coding dulls the senses now...

Posted by: André-Tascha at March 23, 2007 9:43 AM

The only painter that I could see the public liking and actually attracting a boatload of peeps is Jack Vettriano. The fact that he's an utter hack is of no importance, he's got that je ne sais quoi that people with no critical skills like. That vagina shit wont attract no one but the fringe, if they want to start selling art again they gotta start pumping out more Vettrianos and make it seem like its a new art movement. If I had to advertise it to the public I'd make it seem like if you like Vettriano shit, then you're a classy art buff who longs for the days of yore. I can already see my perfect target, someone that reads Arianna Huffington. I might be on to something here...

Posted by: PurplePen at March 23, 2007 9:54 AM

Purp, I always like your comments. It's not that people don't have skills, though they probably don't. Painting has no meaning in world where people have HD television... The popular eye is too slutty to be impressed with old-time genius. Consider the average animated shaver commercial ("Nine blades on your smirking mug with each stroke... That's three per axis!"). It has more education, talent and refinement behind it than almost any visual project from a century earlier.

But if you can make fun of Arianna some more, please do so.

Posted by: Crid at March 23, 2007 10:29 AM

The popular eye is too slutty to be impressed with old-time genius.

Which might help explain the popularity of Thomas Kincaide.

Posted by: deja pseu at March 23, 2007 10:40 AM

Crid, I agree painting has no meaning today. However if you make the public think that going out to see art is classy and to be desired then they'll do it. You know, how buying a Louis Vuitton bag makes you classy. Going to yoga makes you classy. I'm sure going to see an art exhibit can be made into a status enhancing trend (at the very least among susceptible Californians). The key to that isnt talent, but a couple of meh artists that the public can tolerate and the media will embrace (John McCains of the art world). You're right about everything, that's why we need a couple of hacks that dont look hackey. The Vettrianos are perfection in my mind, unlike the Kincaids (who are too sugary and obvious to be embraced by the elite). Vettriano has the "noir edge". If I had the influence I would start by getting the writers of Salon to do articles. I wouldn’t just use one artist either, I would make a group selection and promote the hell outta them by getting other hacks in different fields to embrace them (that's why Arianna came to mind). It is not about talent, it’s about who can cram their chili filled fists down peoples throats whilst making them think it’s what they want (reasoning being: everyone needs to spice up their life). However, my immaculate Catholic heart is less inclined to evil than that and will prolly just stick to selling F-150s for the next 10 years.

Posted by: PurplePen at March 23, 2007 1:04 PM

Aw c'mon dude, the point is not to sell people things, the point is to show them beauty. Or teach them where to find it.

The popularity of Kincaide is mortifying because it's so mechanically transparent. It's like we were saying about comedians earlier in the week, some people are really, really lonely.

On the other hand, I read that Bill Gates was in line for a Kincaide original (not one of his "master-assisted series" or whatever they're called. Presumably he was looking at them as an investment....

Posted by: Crid at March 23, 2007 1:48 PM

I guess it comes down to whether its okay to exploit the public. One part of me thinks its horrible the way DeBeers marketed diamonds into the public conciousness. Yet.....that is the type of genius I can appreciate. People do not really want to see beauty, and if you do not have a talent for anything useful in life, selling shit people dont need for a fee is one way to make a buck. I would never do anything like the art thing I suggested only because I hate those snobs that write about culture for a living (they make the lining of my stomach disintegrate). However I'm working for Ford, so I'm not much better. It's like those photographers for the gossip mags, I really respect them. The subjects they cover are meaningless, trash, dookie, whatever you wanna call it. But they do their jobs 10 times better than any ''respected'' news photographer. When you talk to them, they're honest that what they are doing is shit. I really like that.

Posted by: PurplePen at March 23, 2007 3:20 PM

"...But they do their jobs 10 times better than any ''respected'' news photographer. When you talk to them, they're honest that what they are doing is shit. I really like that."

Aw, c'mon! That comment has just diminished my Purple Pen-is envy!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at March 23, 2007 3:46 PM

Now you're just being silly. deja pseu is right. This is an exhibit of a particular art movement; there's nothing very special about it. Like many other movements, it is situated in its social and political context. If it was the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Pop Art (or whatever, pick a more controversial one), and you happened to REALLY dislike pop art, would you be reacting this way? "I believe Andy Warhol managed to get into a museum or two without a special affirmative action wing." Come on.

Posted by: Lynley McAlpine at March 24, 2007 8:15 AM

I wonder how many men make it into that museum, and how much of that art is by artists who just can't make it in the real world.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 24, 2007 8:36 AM

> there's nothing very special
> about it.

You said it, sister!

> Like many other movements,
> it is situated in its
> social and political context.

ALL movements are set in a social and political context. Describing femininity as a "social or political context" is overreach. This is as obvious as can be, which is one reason the museum's enthusiasts do it. They imagine it to be transgressive and clever. Some of us think it's a failure to fully exit adolescence.

Jody's (aborted) challenge to Andre (above) was typical of this kind of baseless snark. 'Fellow, I think I know all sorts of things about your feelings feelings and responses that you can't perceive, because you're just a manly robot in the grip of Female Power, whereas I, a continent removed, am savvy and perceptive...'

It would be bad to mischaracterize. But I so hate that stuff....

If you're the sort of person who thinks distinctive social and political pressures cook up great art, and then claim as your conspiratorial cohort half the human race through all eternity, and do it while thumbing your nose besides, your work will be held to a very high standard. Nobody much cares how this museum chooses to sell admissions. The problem's shitty art. But I think we shouldn't blame ALL women.

Give us the other half of your example: What distinctive minority would lay claim to Warhol's imagination in an effort to sell tickets?

Posted by: Crid at March 24, 2007 9:58 AM

The point I was trying to make is that this exhibit is about the Feminist Art movement (capital-F, Capital-A), not about women's art, and its socio-political context was the feminist movement, not femininity. If men are absent it's probably because they did not create Feminist Art, not because they have penises. Museums frequently have exhibits/wings dedicated to one art movement or another, and a lot of that art is of questionable value, enveloped in vacuous rhetoric. If you don't like feminist art, fine - I myself think menstral blood painting sounds particularly unpleasant - but that doesn't mean that this particular movement should be excluded from art history or art galleries. It happened, it made an impact, and it is clearly still doing so.

Posted by: Lynley McAlpine at March 24, 2007 10:50 AM

> It happened, it made an impact,
> and it is clearly still doing
> so.

Maybe like those Women's Studies departments. All those people collide with each other at conferences, but have the good sense to leave the rest of us out of it. Before you mentioned it just now, I'd never known there was such a thing as (capital-F, Capital-A) feminist art. Do you have favorite pieces?

Just curious though, if it's about feminism and not femininity, why are men excluded? (per Amy: "showcasing work by women artists from 1960 onward")

I quoted this in a comment last summer, but it's still a really fun thing to say out loud:

"The unvarnished truth is this: You could eliminate every woman writer, painter and composer from the cave man era to the present moment and not significantly deform the course of Western culture. Of course you would lose individual artists of merit: I'd sorely miss Jane Austen and George Eliot, Sigrid Undset and Willa Cather. But you would eradicate few if any true giants, and hardly anyone who radically changed a form instead of simply executing it well."

- William A. Henry III circa '94


Posted by: Crid at March 24, 2007 11:14 AM

This "movement" is largely "look at my art because I'm an angry victim," not because I'm necessarily talented. It's angry victim identification and use of that identification as a form of affirmative action. What about all the men who feel their genius has been overlooked for one reason or another and don't get museums for pissed off white guys?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 24, 2007 11:15 AM

Crid is right.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 24, 2007 11:18 AM

Shorter Crid: "Bitchez ain't shit."

Posted by: deja pseu at March 24, 2007 12:03 PM

Well, I don't think that's what the movement is, but okay. And I like Judy Chicago's Dinner Party, though I haven't seen it in person. I have a feeling it won't be popular in these parts, since it involves a number of vulvae, but if one can make something that's naturally rather unattractive so interesting and beautiful, that's an acheivement right there, I think. Plus I'm a sucker for history.
The quotation Crid posted is probably right (though perhaps that has more to do with opportunity than ability). The good male writers (etc.) had to shine through a slough of mediocrity, so is there any harm in flooding the market with just as much mediocre female work, to give the exceptional women a chance? Just a thought; I don't know how far I'd be willing to push that one.
Anyway, the one exception I can think of to that "unvarnished truth" would be Sappho. Kind of sad that we have to reach that far back, but definitely a giant and radical - and influential all over the place, especially on later male writers. But he does admit "a few," so she must be one of those.
Anyway, this has been fun - reading your blog, Amy, always provokes a great deal of self-reflection and reconsideration of assumptions on my part.

Posted by: Lynley McAlpine at March 24, 2007 12:07 PM

What about all the men who feel their genius has been overlooked for one reason or another and don't get museums for pissed off white guys?

Look up "Salon des refuses".

Posted by: deja pseu at March 24, 2007 12:08 PM

I know about that. It's kind of a different story. Sort of. From the Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salon_des_Refusés

Most were poor quality, leading to ridicule in the press.

Also, it was a different time, and I believe the rejection had something to do with changes in how things were represented (ie, the dawn of impressionism):

In the 1860s, artists of the nascent realist and impressionist movements submitted works to the Salon de Paris, the official exhibition sponsored by the Académie des beaux-arts, selection committee only to be rejected.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 24, 2007 12:20 PM

> "Bitchez ain't shit."

Exactly! Once again, you've crystalized the thought perfectly, Deja. Bitchez ain't shit... Very good.

> Judy Chicago's Dinner Party

Amy dropped a good name. If you absolutely must hang a piece of Girl Art in your home, check out the rack on this one:

http://tinyurl.com/23aawb

> more to do with opportunity
> than ability

Y'know, people like to say that... Hell, Henry said that later in the paragraph sampled above. But I think whoever you are and whatever you do, if you try to change things or offer innovation in any context, there are people who will try to fuck you up. It ain't a masculine thang, it's a human thang. I think the reason men have dominated so many forms is that it's easier for them to turn away from families and concentrate, or that for men family is a less attractive distraction, or that the having of families offers more need to innovate rather than an excuse for going along with status quo. Opportunities are taken more than they're given, and this world is often more about spirit than ability.

> so is there any harm in
> flooding the market with
> just as much mediocre female
> work, to give the exceptional
> women a chance?

Depends on what you mean by flooding the market. It's not like anybody wants to support bullshit male artists, either.

Posted by: Crid at March 24, 2007 12:59 PM

Maude Lebowski: In a sense, yes. My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal, which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina.

Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski: Oh yeah?

Posted by: Crid at March 24, 2007 1:01 PM

Opportunities are taken more than they're given, and this world is often more about spirit than ability.

You make opportunity for yourself. When you're denied a job, you don't just slink away and cast blame -- you keep going and going and going. Why am I in so many papers? In part, because I believed I should be, and refused to give up. I'm still persisting in trying to get into the LAT -- after almost a decade of being banned from the place. I've likewise been trying to get into the Buffalo paper, ArtVoice, since it came out (maybe seven years ago?), and I never stopped bugging them. I got into ArtVoice last week.

Feminist art and feminist a lot of things are too often about investing in the idea that women are victims and demanding affirmative action. I loathe that kind of thinking -- I just take action.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 24, 2007 2:46 PM

I think the reason men have dominated so many forms is that it's easier for them to turn away from families and concentrate, or that for men family is a less attractive distraction

Now there's an understatement. Up until the last few decades and reliable birth control, the vast majority of women had little choice but to either spend their adult years cranking out baby after baby, or die in childbirth. "Distraction" is a euphemism at best. Add to that the general belief that education beyond basic reading and writing was mostly wasted on women and you don't have a recipe for cultural movers and shakers.

Posted by: deja pseu at March 24, 2007 3:06 PM

Imagine "The Penis Monologues" -- men going on stage and screaming, "My weenie, my weenie." Look at the male version of just about any feminist art or "art" and it's probably going to seem very silly.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 24, 2007 3:08 PM

Regarding the reasons why there isn't a lot of art or literature by women, I don't judge art or other work by how much hardship somebody has had but by whether it's good. There's reason there's been so little scholarship, art, or discoveries by women in past centuries. That doesn't mean we should elevate Jane Austen to the level of Tolstoy or Dostoevesky. That's what affirmative action moves like this one are really about.

Life isn't fair. Some people have it easier because they're men, or their daddies are rich Yalies. And some people are Oprah, Emilie du Chatelet, or the Happyness guy.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 24, 2007 3:18 PM

Well, I've never been one to believe that the essence of who we are can be reduced to our body parts, and the Vagina Monologues has never held very much resonance for me, but it apparently does for some women. Every movement goes through different extremes, and IMO this exhibit is about documenting a time and space, just like an exhibit of 1930's Communist art might have some merit in documenting a certain zeitgeistin that movement, even if we don't agree with the ideas being promoted. And Judy Chicago's "Dinner Party" never seemed to me about victimization, rather it was about highlighting and celebrating women who had achieved something. We studied that piece in an Art History class I took some 30 years ago, not as Feminist Art, but as an acclaimed and influential piece of 20th century art (in the same class that we learned about vito acconci's "seed bed" just to give you an equivalent example of "penis art").

Posted by: deja pseu at March 24, 2007 3:39 PM

Despite the advent of reliable birth control, I still haven't met any female surgeons or cardiologists.... I'm sure they're out there. I've had five commercial airline flights with lady pilots. Men lead at stuff because they obsess, and they don't have the option of regressing into some natural, my-body-is-calling-out-to-me-to-fulfill-a-hormonal-destiny reproductive throb.

> Shorter Crid:

Five fucking seven! I couldn't BE much shorter.

Posted by: Crid at March 24, 2007 5:59 PM

Johnson?...

Posted by: dude at March 30, 2007 11:44 AM

Posted by: Nbkvqos at May 23, 2007 6:55 AM

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