Artist, Designer, Traveler, Writer, Photographer

WORKS ON PAPER: A FEMINIST ASPECT

The importance of events in the world of art in the 1970’s and ’80’s is now the subject of courses in Women’s Studies and have been put into the perspective of time and distance.  Linda Nochlin’s  famous article and question “Why have there been no great women artists?” rallied many artists to answer that question by making works which challenged the strictures of subject, material, and process as well as the existing attitudes of the art establishment’s galleries, museums, and media.

Some of my work reflected the issues of feminism prevailing at the time. Along with expanding definitions of our methods and processes of creating art, whether sculpture, painting, or drawing, came the parallel of new content. We dared to take on subject matter that certainly was considered “challenging” in that time. As did many other women artists, I used imagery that was female and sexual, with political overtones.

This work on paper used a page from a feminist article written in 1975 on the place of women in art history, with quotes and references from male critics and feminist writers. The image of the woman was taken from a Playboy magazine. The method I used, creating a stencil or template of the cut-out image, was one that proved to be very useful  in years to follow.

I will not go into the content here, since the subject of feminism and art in the 1970’s and ’80’ has been much discussed and written about in the intervening years. As part of the review of  my work since that period, this piece serves to illustrate yet another method of drawing that could also be considered in the category of works on paper discussed in the previous post.  The parameters and defining elements of what we referred to as drawing until then became, at this time, an absolute mine of potential for new ideas and possibilities. We were not thinking in terms of categories as we were making of course; that is the privilege offered by hindsight, but it was clear that what we were doing was breaking up a lot of old rules and ways of thinking about what constituted not only drawing but the concepts and beliefs about what art was on every level.

THE MALE AUDIENCE   1980    Color pencil, collage on Xerox text  8.5 x 11 inches

It was also clear that our experiments with making imges on paper which we referred to as drawing for the time being, were resulting in works that could stand alone as finished, complete works of art. These might be studies or ideas for other works perhaps, but not necessarily adjunct works even then. The idea that drawing was only or mainly a skill to serve other forms of work such as painting was beginning to be rethought. The idea that the old hierarchical system of value placing a drawing as study, sketch, or thumbnail would soon be challenged.

While drawing the figure was a passion of mine at the time and one at which I spent countless hours, the collaged figure of the woman  far better serves to express the ideas of the text than if I had chosen to draw the figure myself.

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2 responses

  1. June Underwood

    Hi Nance,

    Although I was working with literature, not visual art, at the time, I used the Nochlin essay a lot in my classes and lectures. She captured an essence of a cultural attribute. The female gaze became a phrase that resonated with me as I worked with female narrators in Victorian novels. And, of course, in contemporary women authors that I taught.

    I’m sorry to be slow to be catching up with your work, but here I am. I’ll write a private note soon.

    April 28, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    • June,
      Thanks for your attentive reading of the blog. As you know, we are products of our time and place and both art and literature are the great reflectors of these. Context is so important in understanding and appreciating an artist’s work. And it is really wonderful to be able to get a bigger overview with the opportunity that some distance gives. I’ll be continuing with the review and hope it continues to resonate with readers.

      April 29, 2010 at 12:19 pm

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