Yesterday evening I attended Rebecca Murtaugh’s artist talk where she was able to go more in depth about her work. What interested me the most were her ideas behind her organic sculptures and the ways in which she attained her desired final outcome. Murtaugh’s strangest way of sculpting is beating the clay with a paddle until the form changes, leaving it looking textured. Her reasoning behind this method was that as an artist, there are times when she would walk into the studio feeling angry and scared and her first reaction was to use her clay as somewhere to focus that energy and although there was no deep spiritual or political message, the message of her technique speaks of where she is as an artist and her everyday emotions, which is where her piece really becomes a direct translation of her as a human. Her work was beautiful, using old recycled whimsical colours which abstracted the organic forms in a truly eye catching way.
Murtaugh’s exhibition was a collective group of organic forms which workedll together, aided by her selection of geometric tables and shelves which worked well in order to contrast against the soft lines of her sculptures.
In the political climate right now, I’m excited for sculptures/statues like these going up. When I saw this come up earlier this week, I couldn’t help but make the connection to removing Confederate soldier statues. Not that this statue is a replacement for one those, it seems like it could be to me. It’s highlight a high point in American history, when blacks received the right to vote, by honoring Octavius Catto who fought for equality in the 1800s. This feels like a positive response to the political tensions we are living in right now. Rather than be destructive, we’re displaying a positive party of history not many people know about. Catto did so much for the nation and equal rights in the 19th century, but as it’s said in the article, “We know more about Rocky — who’s not even a real person — than we know about Octavius, which says a lot.” The statue was erected in Philadelphia, the same city with the Rocky statue. This statue is a good turn in art education and hopefully national healing.
After viewing Rebecca Murtaugh’s exhibition titled “Substance,” I was very inspired by her entire backstory and why and how she created the work in her exhibition.
To begin, Mrs. Murtaugh explained how she came from a family of “makers” and artists. Therefore, she was bound to appreciate art and have a sense for making it. However, once she got to college she studied chemistry, nutrition and sustainability and her passion for art slightly disappeared. She additionally shared that she tried to take as many art courses in college as possible but since she took a majority of science courses, it was extremely difficult to do so and fit art into her schedule. With all of this background in mind, as she graduated she decided to bring the chemistry lab into the food scenery and work with food in an artistic way. This I thought was specifically interesting because science and nutrition are not entirely correlated, yet she still managed to connect the two.
With this, she continued into her up and coming art career where she uses her methods from chemistry (using different elements, putting them together, burning etc.) in order to make sculpture. In her exhibition she showed a variety of colorful pieces that have a juxtaposing composition to them. As stated, her goal was to combine different materials with contemporary ones such as ones from her own living room and make something with a destructive political statement attached to them. Personally, I think that this is genius because at first look of her sculptures it is hard to understand the subject matter as well as what the actual object is. Nevertheless, when exposed to how she created her sculptures such as hitting it with a baseball ball or creating a entire vagina collection (in relation to Feminist art), I understand the background purpose of it and enjoyed her work truly.
My favorite piece from Mrs. Murtaugh was titled “Three Leaners” using three trees from her backyard as well as three primary colors. I like the fact that it was leaning on the wall and the alchemy she used to produce it. Overall, I thought Mrs. Murtaugh’s work was genius and there was a sense of symbolism and conceptual art feel yet being contemporary.
This week, Art21 featured a video on Julie Mehretu’s Politicized Landscapes. Mehretu’s work consists of huge, wall murals, expanding multiple stories in height that depict abstract ‘landscapes.’ She describes her interest in landscapes through their historical significance, and therefore their politicized nature. She says, “the actual landscape is politicized through the events that take place on it.” The american landscape is one riddled with colonial historic and violence, crafting a narrative still relevant today. Mehretu takes photos of contemporary race riots that are, in her words, “embedded with DNA,” and superimposes historic landscape paintings on to them with her abstract interpretation. Mehretu’s work is highly politicized and provocative, it draws on the connection between spacial location and cultural weight, place and heritage, and the idealized version versus the real version of America in reference to racial justice.
I found Julie Mehretu’s work to be both visually appealing in its large size (which I am sure would be so much better in person) and abstract fluidity. But upon hearing her discuss her process, I was even more drawn into the psychological happening behind the scenes, so to say, of her work. I love the idea of combining historic paintings of the hudson river school and early American work (ex Thomas Cole) with modern day photos of the raw injustice that is present today. I like it because it urges the viewer to think about the way we often bury important realities so that we can focus on an idealized view of what is around us.
Link to video: https://art21.org/watch/extended-play/julie-mehretu-politicized-landscapes-short/
Artist bio: https://art21.org/artist/julie-mehretu/
This documentary enhanced the influence of feminism throughout the contemporary art era. With this, I specifically thought that the idea of women having to be categorised as “bad girls” or “good girls” was extremely interesting.
Initially throughout the documentary there was a negative connotation with women having to be “bad.” This was set out for a man’s pleasure and because of that women wanted to display that they did not have to be that. Therefore, they were misrepresented in art and felt the need to standout as independent, strong women. This is when they began creating art out of completely feminine items in exaggerated terms. For instance, the vaginal blood prints on canvas and the woman who put ink in her hair and dragged it across the canvas. Thereby, they were ultimately showing that long hair is a feminine feature as well as the vagina. As the movie progressed and reached its end, there was a huge emphasis on erotic dancing. This exact type of dancing brings forth the contemporary idea that women do not have to use their “usual” aspects of femininity in order to feel powerful. Instead, they were able to portray that through body movement and them themselves feeling good instead of making a man feel good.
Overall, this documentary opened my eyes to the different ways and ideas women try to display their strength through art.
The feminist art movement in the twentieth century opened doors, not only for female artists, but for women across the world. The fight for liberation, equality and freedom is clear from both the Broude and Garrad reading as well as the documentary, Reclaiming the Female Body: Feminist Art in America, which allowed female artists to combat the stigma of what was considered ‘fine art’, and the belief that only men could be great artists and deserved the most praise and recognition. The documentary shed light on the beginnings of the feminist art movement, a movement that I, surprisingly, don’t know that much about, considering growing up after the movement began and being very aware of feminism in general.
The documentary showed the utter pride and determination the artists behind the movement had, and their passion to continue fighting for what they believed in was inspiring as a female artist. What I find the most interesting about the feminist art movement in America, is the shock factor used in many of their works, which adds to the depth of their argument. For example, one artist shown in the documentary used her own used tampons to create beautiful, vibrant prints, while brash in its concept, forces the viewer to be confronted with the reality of what men see as a weakness, bleeding, yet also represents the strength in women and the sheer beauty of something men consider so ‘wrong’.
Not only did the documentary inspire me to push the feminism in my own work but it also left me with a sense of pride in being a woman. I also thought that the idea of maintaining the fight for equality and feminist art, brought on by many of the artists in the documentary, and the need to continue shedding light on feminist art as generations come and go, is incredibly important if not necessary.
The movie Reclaiming the Female Body: Feminist Art In America captured the excitement and innovation of the Feminist Art movement in a way that slides and texts books could never do. I have always had an interest in the Feminist Art movement (and really Feminism in general) and a lot of my personal work draws on the feminist agenda, so I found this movie both interesting and inspiring.
I think that Reclaiming the Female Body: Feminist Art In America showed an interesting element of the feminist perspective regarding the power, the privilege, of voice. By this I mean the women of the Feminist art movement were not only reclaiming the female body, but they were claiming for the first time their own power of opinion. Maybe their opinions were alternative, unwelcome, unconventional, and difficult for a sexist society to receive, but they were voiced opinions none the less. One artist said, “If we don’t hold ourselves up and give us that sort of grandeur and frame ourselves like that, nobody else is going to do it for us.” It seems to me that the Feminist art movement was a time where women began to collectively realize that though their voices may not have been as loud as those of men, but they still had voices. It seems that all of this is about women recognizing and accepting their own value and breaking out of the system where men came first, and finally sayings I matter, my perspective matters, my voice matters. Featured french artist of the feminist movement in the movie said, “I’m going to be interested in myself as little as I am.” This phrase perfectly captures the realization of the movement that despite their lack of societally instilled power, a voice and opinion no matter how ‘small’ is valuable and needs to be heard.
Rachel Lachowitz’s sculpture titled Sarah, a highlighted piece in this film, connects to our previous studies as it is a mockery of Richard Serra’s House of Cards. Lachowitz imitated Serra’s sculpture but instead of using slabs of steel, she used slabs of lipstick. Like Serra’s work, the slabs were all meticulously and precariously balanced together. Elements that are interesting to note include the nature of the medium. Lipstick is fragile in comparison to steel, highlighting the stereotypical differences between men and women in society at the time. Lachowitz commented on her work saying, “if it fell over it would more damage itself than anyone else,” and though this comment was meant in the literal sense, it also reflects the fragility, not of women as a group, but of women’s reputations: how high the standards are for a woman to be perfect and how easily damaged that is, only by oneself.
Overall, I found this movie to be inspiring, especially in our current political state where it can feel like we are taking steps backwards at times. The excitement of all the women artists gathered around the meeting table definitely evoked a sense of pride within me.
The feminist art movement is not really one I’ve ever studied. In 102, you hear about Judy Chicago, her Dinner Party table settings, and the Woman House. It’s never been much more than those two works and a single artist for me. Just reading over the Broude and Garrard introduction, I’m finding out about a lot more of female artists I haven’t heard about before. Going into this, I also expected all the women mentioned to be huge advocates for feminist art. Many seemed very hesitating about the movement actually. In the 1950s through the 60s, it seemed like many of the women just wanted to be accepted as artists more than anything else. Before then, they had simply been known as wives, helpers, or inspiration for male artists.
Because they were women, gender became a huge topic of discussion about their art. Questions that had never been asked before were aimed at these women because, or it seems to me, they were women. Eva Hesse is a great example the introduction gives, when she was asked if her works were gender based at any point. That wasn’t a question to men before. I find it curious of how women were treated differently even in the art world.
In her show Earth Potential, Katja Novitskova pairs together the micros and macros of science. They aren’t quite photographs. The images she used were taken from scientific articles, since she wouldn’t be able to get a good picture of Earth from orbit. These images are between six to eight feet in diameter, blowing up the micro-organisms and shrinking the celestial bodies. By doing this, Novitskova brought these images to a level where we can understand them more, since we can’t see many of these with our naked eyes.
These images work together to show how life can be viewed. Seeing a hydra, a regenerative creature thought to be the key of immortality, placed on top of Venus, the fiery planet lacking life, shows how the idea of life has changed and how we could one day be living on different planets. Earth Potential goes beyond what we know as life here on Earth, taking it to different planets and different ways of creating life, like genetic engineering as mentioned in the article.
“The process is a performance, a back and forth between creation and destruction”
As an artist, I have never considered paper, the medium on which I usually paint on, as the ‘art’. However Hong Hong’s process of intricately layering fibers, of various textures and colours and hand weaving the material into paper, is a stunning representation of art. Her work explores more than just a fixed landscape but instead, an understanding of change in colours and light as well as of the feelings and mood behind a certain setting. She also takes inspiration from “things that might shape a person’s experiences of the land” Hong combines Tibetan and Japanese traditional forms of paper making, however she does so in a contemporary style, in terms of process and scale. Her ‘mobile paper studio’ gives her the freedom to travel and create, taking inspiration from different places, landscapes and cultures. I find her creation vs. destruction process fascinating because I mainly think of art as something created, rarely something that has been destructed. Hong also strays from the traditional use of paper in paper making and incorporates organic materials like leaves and branches (Void, 2016) and even plastic in her next project of yearlong site specific installations, Everlasting Ephemera.