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Arth 200 - Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

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Caitlyn Scoville

Professor Watson

ARTH-A200

13 March 2018

Response A: 1)

Linda Nochlin initially answers the question “Why have there been no great women artists?” sarcastically. She says “scientifically” speaking, people without penises, but have wombs, cannot create anything of significance in the art world. She then continued her argument with the idea that there is a different kind of greatness for women’s art because they all have a distinct feminine style compared to their male counterparts (Nochlin 3). She disproved this theory by comparing female and male artist during different periods of time, and the female artists were closer in style to the male artists of their time period than to other women artists (Nochlin 4).

In addition, Nochlin also brought up the idea that women artists are thought of as “more delicate and nuanced in their treatment of their medium” but countered it with the delicate work of male artists like Corot and Redon, and the polar opposite of delicate work is female artist, Rosa Bonheur’s Horse Fair (Nochlin 4). These arguements are far-fetched for why we do not have any great women artists when the answer likely lies in the institutions that denote the greatness of the artists. She simply states, “Who do not have good fortune to be born white, preferably middle class and, above all, male.” to emphasize the idea of the hierarchy of oppression (Nochlin 5).

        Graeme Pollock says, “Linda Nochlin called for a paradigm Shift” which in art history would be a lot more than just adding female artists to the list of great artists, but rather a whole new way of looking and studying art, and every many other institutions (Pollock 27-29). She points out the importance in confronting natural rules that the “authority of Marxism”. These rules have created a division in gender for the art world, but she also argues the importance of knowing how the revolution has changed the way we perceive the different in genders in art (Pollock 29).

        Amelia Jones asks a slightly different question than Nochlin, “Why are there no women artists among those he [Muller] features in the book?” which can still be answered by Nochlin’s idea of “the white Western male viewpoint, unconsciously accepted as the viewpoint of the art historian” (Jones 70). These types of questions are what catalyzed the movement to disrupt the ‘natural’ ways of life in all aspects of life. Jones also discusses Lucy Lippard’s take on the exclusion of women in the art world. Lippard’s “central focus” on feminist art was asserting female artists and art into practice to fix the problem of exclusion. In order to do this, the societal structures would have to change to be more inclusive. Lippard’s arguments were exemplified in Judy Chicago’s works. Chicago did just as Linda Nochlin suggested which was to recover historical art and re-critique it according to the new gaze (non-dominant male). Georgia O’Keeffe became the first great female artist with her ‘cunt’ imagery that expresses the female experience (Jones 71).

        The Dinner Party by Chicago was her way of expressing the female experience in a new light. She invited 39 female guests from history or mythology, one of which was O’Keeffe, and made an abstracted ceramic plate portrait for each. They each contained a stylized image of the female sex organ, the ‘cunt’, to fit each woman (Jones 73). While Chicago and O’Keeffe positively created works of the image and idea of the female, other artists like Martha Rosler exploited the stereotypical female. Her video, Semiotics of the Kitchen, expressed a violent, black and white demonstration of common kitchen equipment. It was a very awkward and unnatural video to watch which enhanced the idea that she was not going to “indulge in the idea of a natural female essence” (Jones 73).

Response B: 3)

Number 1A, 1948 by Jackson Pollock is the prime example of the abstract expressionist movement he helped start. His style of drip painting doesn’t hide the “flings, hurls, splatters, and drips, the puddles of coagulated paint”, instead the medium is his subject (Perchuk 38). His working style was described as acrobatic because of the viewer can see every swift fling and constant motions of the paint and hand prints all entangled into one large canvas by Allan Kaprow.  His physical presence is seen in every stream, splash, or hand print of paint, especially with the hand prints in Number 1, 1948 (Perchuk 37). When confronted about not painting from nature, he simply responded with “I am nature” (Perchuck 37).

         Pollock and his work are the masculine archetype for the postwar period. Perchuk describes Pollock as the “the rebel, the tortured soul, the alcoholic or heavy drinker, the man suffering from “momism” or overreliance on women, and the phallus worshiper” after explaining the time Pollock couldn’t get inspired to complete a mural until he wildly began working one day. It was all fine until he realized he didn’t design the mural for the installation and began drinking. He then got upset, leading to him undressing himself and urinating in the fireplace at the gallery party (Perchuk 1). Ironically this is not the only time he is associated with his urine; Pollock gets accused of drinking his painting and pissing on his canvas.

His paintings were very satisfying to the population at this time because they eased some of the tensions of the postwar period like the masculinity crisis. American masculinity felt threatened not only at home but also overseas because they feared that their power would suddenly disappear. In this time, men felt they had to ‘conform’ to societal pressures and were ‘inadequate’ (Perchuk 34). T.J. Clark explained this by pointing out how the “space, scale, action, trace, energy, ‘organic intensity’”, etc. are easily seen as masculine qualities in his work (Perchuk 32). His worked on very large, mural-size paintings, with very fast, intense, aggressive movements that make the male display very noticeable in his work.

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