Look at me! Self-Portrait Photography after Cindy Sherman

Mia will be our guide on this article. Just a few questions to begin the discussion.

1. What are some of the underlying assumptions of this article? For example, the nature of identity is constructed, etc.
2. Who is Nikki S. Lee’s audience? Why does she choose photography as her medium?
3. In discussing the work of Goicoleas, the author states: “Vanity is the backbone of all art;….look at my view of the world….it is more accurate, more beautiful, than yours.” Discuss.
4. What if Raphael chose to focus on self-obsession and sexuality? In other words why is Goicolea’s work so “time sensitive?” Could he have been a High Renaissance artist?
5. Why are Goicolea’s works so poignant? Do you agree with the author’s following gender characterization that “the adolescent sexuality of females has been much more accessible territory than that of males?” (50)
6. A conceptual self-suck—-yikes! Discuss this twist of art historical analysis with regard to Goicolea’s work.
7. David Henry Brown, Jr. employs a different art making strategy than Nikki Lee. Contrast their approaches to mainstream culture.
8. Do you detect a certain underlying arrogance in Brown’s work? Is classism the last “ism” to be practiced in polite company?
9. What do these artists owe Cindy Sherman and her self-portraits?


Cindy Sherman in the guise of the Fornarina and Bacchus!

Jessica will be our guide on this article. Just a few musings…..

1. What is Cindy Sherman’s attitude toward art history as a “genre” (as it were)?
2. Do you believe this as gospel truth?
3. What are the subversive elements of Sherman’s reinterpretation of Raphael’s portrait of the courtesan/La Fornarina?
4. The gaze: discuss!
5. Arthur Danto regards this work as a complex transaction between the “original and her tableaux vivant comment on it.” Unpack this critique.
6. Why was Bacchus often a guise for artistic self-portraits?
7. Where else has Melancholia reared its head in this course?
8. Discuss the subversive qualities in Sherman’s appropriation of this portrait, if any exist. Do you agree with the author’s reasons for the literal character of this portrait?
9. Do you feel that copies of “masterpieces” have power over their prototypes?

Cindy Sherman and the Anti-Self

Hande will be our guide for this very interesting article on Cindy Sherman’s work. One of my very favorite quotes about Greece is that it is like a mirror, for first one suffers and then one learns. This article reminded me of that bit of wisdom.

1. Though Cindy Sherman titles and exhibits her works as a series of independently numbered photographs, the author imposes a cohesive narrative upon this corpus of images. Is this just another cheeky art historian at work or do you agree with his interpretation of her “story?”
2. Why does her work constitute an anti-mirror and what does it reflect?
3. Do you feel that the author over-interprets Untitled Film Still #25?
4. What role has satire played in the work of Cindy Sherman?
5. What is the element in Sherman’s work that surpasses a mere parody of female stereotypical roles, etc.?
6. “You can still sense the quotation marks around them as Sherman essays to foreground contemporary types of femininity.” Discuss this observation.
7. In exposing the anti-self’s passivity in these images, Sherman realizes her own agency as an artist for she has unlocked the door to her unconscious. This is what Keats called “negative capability.” Do you agree that this is what occurs in Sherman’s portrayal of powerless women?
8. In the darkest photographs that Sherman produces, with women truly on the edge, looking like recent patients in a psychiatric ward, the artist becomes the nightmare. How does Johnson characterize these works?
9. What in the final analysis is the role of art?

Seduction and Mass Consumption in Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergere!

Selling Seduction in Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère

Morgan will be our guide on this article, which I found very interesting in light of our previous readings on the gaze and women in frames and the commodity culture of the 15th-century. Just a few queries:

1. In what various media does the author trace the appearance of the discourse of mass consumption?
2. Were you surprised to read about the Salon in the second half of the 19th-century as characterized by the author?
3. What elements of Manet’s painting may be compared to contemporary department stores, expositions, and the novels of Emile Zola?
4. I loved Iskin’s characterization of Manet’s painting as an “urban still-life.” Discuss!
5. In what ways are the marchande in the painting and the artist analogous?
6. What is the role of female spectatorship in this article?
7. What is the role of the crowd in Manet’s painting? The viewer?
8. Benjamin’s characterization of modern spectatorship particularly resonates with Manet’s painting in my opinion. Do you agree?
9. Despite the agency afforded women as spectators/consumers, what role can they not avoid?
10. Why is Manet’s painting an ode to the discourse of mass consumption, seduction, and modernity?

Thinking through the Body!

It’s deja vu all over again as Gala will be out guide next week on this article, which I found very stimulating! Here are a few questions to begin the dialogue.
1. What does the author mean when she uses the term “incarnational” thinking?

2. We have discussed the “schizophrenia” induced by the counterpoint of Eve and Mary. However, the Virgin Mary is also rich in contradictory messages. How did the Medieval thinkers deal with the Virgin’s dual nature? The Catholic thinkers? The Protestants?

3. How did Feminists of the 1970s interpret Mary’s dual persona? And does this change in the 1980s and later?

4. I was so excited to see Bernard of Clairvaux in this article! What ingredient does he add to the Virgin? And how does Christian theology get around it?

5. ”In Catholic imagination, women’s roles exist along a continuum suggested by Mary….and Mary Magdalene.” Discuss.

6. The positive reading of the female body had numerous fans in early Feminism from Woman House to goddess cults. What happens in the next decade to alter this?

7. Is the debate between the “essentialists” and “deconstructionists” over?

8. Consider the works by the artists discussed in this article (Hannah Wilke, Barbara Kruger, (briefly), Renee Cox, Kiki Smith, Janine Antoni, Petah Coyne, and Lisa Yuskavage). Is there a “Catholic” sensibility that unifies these artists? Whose work resonates the most with you? Does Catholicism provide the “visual language for reimagining oppressive roles and assumptions?”

The Eternal Return…..

Gala will be our guide for this article and I will let her post the discussion questions next week. I loved this article and have so many questions that I would like to discuss. One issue that I would like your feedback on is whether or not you think these ideas pertain to photography only. I have published an article utilizing the notion of punctum and the reception of the Well of Moses; in other words, I find the concept of representation’s ability to both preserve and kill an image simultaneously, to serve as a screen, a fetish, a source of punctum and studium, and site of performativity —viable in painting and sculpture as well as in photography. (I am not speaking here of the subtle refinements that Jones contributes to the definition of self-portraiture—which are amazing!). What do you think about the weighty role given to the viewer? The notion of embodiment —discuss! In footnote 22 Jones invokes O’Dell’s theory re: the photographic document of the performance as a link between the body of the performer and the body of the viewer. In my work on the Entombment sculptures, I write about them as embodiments of the suffering of the community witnessing the death of Christ. They perform this moment in time, so that the worshiper may project him or herself into the narrative, engendering a type of catharsis. Does that sound plausible? On page 971, how do the self-portraits of Sherman, Wilke, Ashton Harris, and Aguilar differ in their invocation of death from Renaissance memento mori? Doesn’t Jones’ statement on page 972 re: art’s capacity to embrace the other and the radical benefits thereof make you want to sing an aria to the whole discipline?

Happy Mothers and Other New Ideas brought to you from the Enlightenment!

Ah, the Happy Mother!

Mia will be our guide on this reading about the Enlightenment (sic) and tale of the good mother embroidered in both art and literature of the period! Here are a few questions to ponder:

1. Before the Enlightenment, how was the family portrayed in art? Was this rendering faithful to the social reality of marriage?
2. Did the association of marriage with sexual satisfaction in 18th-century imagery seem surprising to you? How did the presence of children diminish the erotic nature of these representations?
3. Before the paradigm shift that Duncan charts, what were the roles assigned to husband and wife in marriage?
4. Discuss the representations of adultery and why that alternative was so widespread.
5. Before Rousseau, how were children perceived and how did Enlightenment thinkers change peoples’ views on parenting?
6. How did the paintings of Greuze and Aubrey reflect the ideas espoused in Rousseau’s Julie, Nouvelle Heloise, and Emile?
7. How did these new views of conjugal love affect portraiture? How did they affect contemporary families?
8. The very heart of the Enlightenment family was the wife-mother as eulogized by Diderot. In wanting to do what they were required to do, some women failed to measure up. What women did not match these criteria?
9. What were the origins of this cult of motherhood? What, if any, were the historical repercussions of the formula that “motherhood = happiness?”

Artemisia’s Hand!

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Hand: Manual telegraphy, really?

Hande will be our guide for this article by Mary Garrard. Just a few words, a few questions to begin the dialogue…..Art history began as a discipline largely governed by connoisseurship and leading that charge was Morelli! He believed that an artist could change his or her style a great deal however, that artist would not alter his or her earlobes, or the way hands were drawn. This Morellian method engendered a great deal of scrutiny of paintings for earlobe consistency and hands that did not break the mold, as it were. Many art historians still rely on connoisseurship but have added other methodologies to temper this approach to an artist’s style. I am eager to hear your thoughts about this article, not only because of the feminist underpinnings of her thesis, but also because of the visual tactics she employs.

1. What was the exception to the beautiful woman = beautiful hands formula in paintings by male artists?
2. How does the author explain the eroticized nature of the Lute Player newly attributed to Artemisia?
3. Do you see any possible dangers to a strict adherence to the Morellian method for artistic attributions?
4. What is Artemisia’s approach to rendering hands in her paintings of women according to the author?
5. Do you agree with Garrard’s interpretation of the LeMans Allegory of Painting?
6. Do you feel that the “homey realism” of Artemisia’s Cleopatra subverts the eroticism of the work?
7. What did hands connote during the Renaissance?
8. How did the contemporary reception of Artemisia and Sirani differ? Has history treated Sirani differently?
9. Do you believe that we can speak confidently about the feminist sensibilities that underlie Artemisia’s work?

The Face of Fortitude in Sirani’s Portrayal of Antique Heroines!

The Antique Heroines of Sirani: the face of Fortitude!

Hande will be our guru for this article, which focuses on the art scene in Bologna for women painters during the Renaissance. Some questions to begin the dialogue:

1. What was the significance of Caterina Vigri for women artists in Bologna?
2. How have the paintings of Lavinia Fontana and Elisabetta Sirani traditionally been evaluated? How does the author attempt to change this perspective?
3. How much influence did the patron exert upon the tenor of a painting of a religious subject? Was there greater freedom in the depiction of secular subjects?
4. What genre of painting were women more biologically suited to paint? How does Sirani upset this paradigm?
5. To what do you attribute Sirani’s success as a painter—-her oeuvre of 200+ works, celebrity status, etc.?
6. What virtues did Timoclea embody? Which of these violated the “feminine code”?
7. Do you think that Sirani’s Judith works? How would you compare her to Artemesia Gentileschi’s portrayal of the Jewish heroine?
8. “Without Beauty Eloquence is silent, Since Beauty is mute Eloquence, And Eloquence is loquacious Beauty.” Discuss in light of this article.
9. The coexistence of femininity and fortitude in Sirani’s portrayal of the figure of Portia seems singular. Do any ideas like this still persist?
10. The author refers to the “popularity of female self-destruction in Western art.” Were you aware of this predisposition—-and what women reflect this “trend”?

A Hue and a Cry—-indeed!

Jessica will be our guide through this article, which I hope you found as illuminating as I did. Here are a few queries to begin the discussion:

1. How is rape generally treated by art historians? What is the “other” rape tradition?
2. What was the take-away lesson of the Levite’s wife for a medieval audience?
3. How was rape visually represented in medieval art?
4. Le plus ca change…..why is rape notoriously difficult to prove? Besides a hue and a cry, what other signs would a woman have to manifest?
5. When did woman as rape victim change into woman as seductress? How was this metamorphosis represented in art?
6. Did the moral outrage at contemporary cases of rape engender severe punishment of rapists? Why or why not?
7. On p. 51 the author states that the clergy in the 13th and 14th centuries were guilty of an extremely high percentage of rapes (especially in England). Discuss!
8. How does the image of women “regress” in the Renaissance depictions of Justice?
9. How did the Biblical figure of Jael epitomize this metamorphosis?
10. How can art history rectify this jaundiced view of heroic rape imagery?