Feminist Critique of Art History

Hande’s Questions!

Why it is difficult to trace to what extent feminism altered the art historical studies?

Why does feminist art historical methodologies differ according to one’s nationality?

Why did the first generation attempt to minimize the importance of gender difference, and how did the second generation respond to this approach?

What is the difference between women’s art and feminist art?

In what ways did Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party impact the art world?

How do the Fauves, Cubists, and German Expressionists treat the subject of the female nude in their paintings, and how is this approach related to social change?

In the 1970’s, many women artists began to get in touch with their bodies and sexuality; how did this affect their art?

Do you think “female sensibility” is socially constructed?

What determines a “great” artist according to the patriarchal norms, and how did the feminist thinkers responded to this concept?

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3 responses

  1. The minimization of difference and focus on core-imagery of First-Generation Feminist Art (primarily that of artists in the US) seems necessarily linked to the social and cultural position from which the artists were seeking to emerge. Though the artwork, writing, and criticism still failed to fully shake the constructs of “genius”/“mastery” produced by patriarchal methodology, certain power asymmetries became unhinged and the “character of art” Lippard to which referred to was altered (although not changed).

    The comparison of Chicago and Kelly really illuminated my understanding of this difference in approach, especially with regard to how the movements took on the issue of gender-construction. The Second-Generation rejected an essentialist view of “woman” for an unfixed view of the feminine which embraced differentiation in search of a “‘free femininity beneath the layers of patriarchal oppression.’” (347) Viewing First-Generation Feminist Artists as biologically determinist, they disassociated from the signs of femininity in which, Cherry charged Chicago, “woman” became a “frozen category.”

  2. The first generation of women artists mentioned in this article wanted to embrace their femininity, and what being female uniquely brings to their art that male artists cannot contribute. So there was emphasis on the experience of women and feminine sensibility. The second generations abandoned this and wanted to deconstruct the social and cultural assignments of gender rather than see feminine qualities as natural or innate One of the criticisms of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party is that it was so focused on fixed symbols of femininity, whereas the more most modern approach is to break down the institutions that assign them in the first place. I agree that largely female sensibility is socially constructed. It’s a contrast from what we normally believe, that those doing art are on the societal margins, thus could never be used as a mean to oppress. For example in the avant-garde art movements in the early 20th century treated the female nudes at just available flesh or deconstructed the forms so they appear almost alien, so demonstrate male dominance in a time when there was a struggle for women’s rights and gender dominance appeared to be more in flux.

  3. So many flourishing ideas were getting archived in the 70s–so many diverse publications addressed issues such as “female sensibility,” (which is socially constructed), male gaze and obsession with nude female body, and its manipulation, fine art versus craft…
    Different feminist art historical methodologies developed by nationality because groups across the pond did embrace other ideologies as the basis for their art. For example, the British feminists incorporated Marxism and political activism in their work… It demonstrates that variety of experiences and viewpoints that marks feminism, especially in the second wave, not the “universal” WASP experience…

    I was particularly interested in what distinguished fine arts and craft–only gender and inherent purpose? Similarly to the chauvinistic view of a woman in relation to her body, the cult of “true’ womanhood, “fine” arts get diminished and reduced to objects to be placed on a shelf. A work of art loses its delicacy and value in its use, depreciating in value like a new car?! In comparison to the Aronson article, both readings embrace the subversive potential of “craft” pieces being recast into fine arts objects, as well as the matrilinear connections. There is power in legacy.

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