Feminism like many other parts of life is constantly evolving. Feminism in its simplest form is the belief that all women deserve the same rights (social, economic, etc.) that men are given as ‘human rights.’ By dictionary definition, feminism is:
Through the course of this blog I plan on discussing feminism and it’s relationship to art history through a couple different steps. I first think that it is important to give an overview on feminism and the ideals that fall under that. I will then make multiple blog posts introducing different female artists, and give information of their lives through art. I will also review and analyze specific works of art from these artists, and compare and contrast these works of art to feminism.
Women have often been overlooked throughout art history due to the patriarchal system stacked against them. In the 1920’s, a series of surveys were taken showing that while women made up half of the United States practicing artists, in New York only 18% of galleries even show women artists. At the 1969 Whitney Annual, one of the more well known and credible art exhibitions only 8 out of the 151 artists were women. This brought attention to the gender inequalities of the art world and time period and feminists activists planned to protest the opening of the 1970 event. This protest brought together feminist artists in a more centered way and soon there were gallery co-ops specially designated for women. By 1971 CalArts had created the Feminist Art Program, which is strictly dedicated teaching female artists.
Judy Chicago, one of two founders of the Feminist Art Program was an artist as well as writer who’s work was focused around the rolls of women within history. Her work ranges in mediums, from needle work to multi-media 3D pieces such as the highly recognized sculpture, The Dinner Party. The Dinner Party depicts a triangular sculpture with thirty-nine place settings, each different. The place settings are designated to be for a variety of famous women, both mythical and historical, giving them a designated safe place to be head of the table, per se.
The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago, 1974-1979
As the feminist art movement grew more female artists began to broaden the expression in art, and to use their art to draw attention to the male-dominated society that we are a part of. The female form became more and more present in many artists work, which gave more attention and empowerment to the honest female body, depicted from observation and not the male gaze.
Art is a different way to communicate feminism than writing or speech, and many feminist ideals are present in the art such as sex-positivity and body-positivity, which furthers the empowerment of women in a different way and setting than what is conventional.
Women have had a an impact on art for a very long time. Whether female artists or concepts relating to women, art allows for a certain voice and form of free expression that is not often found. One of the first documented fertility figures was dated to 24,000 BCE. The statue, Venus of Willendorf depicts a simplified woman, defined by organic shapes and lines rather than outward detail.