Feminismis defined as a set of women’s social movements, ideologies, andpolitical movements with a common goal: to give meaning to andadvance economic, individual,and social rights. Feminist campaigns,like the role of females in art, have worked to promote over theyears bodily autonomy and integrity. Succeeding a feminist movementin the late 20th century, womenfolk, was a well known topic of arthistory. Gender was better understood only as a structure of power,theorized as a phallocentric symbolic order. Thus, it was mandated byfeminist activist a historical recovery of the contributions made bywomen as artists.This paper thus looks at the impact the movement to mainstream modernism by analyzing ‘The Power of` which brings together critiques, art historians, andartists who participated in the 1970s events. Secondly, this paperinterrogates the vanguard precedents and Schneider analysis of boththe artistic and pop cultural portrayals of the explicit body in latecommodity capitalism. Lastly, the paper explores the work of GloriaOrenstein on the adoption of the idea of the Great Goddess and theacceptance of the Jungian conceptions.
NormaBroude and Mary Garrard
Theworks of Norma and Mary follows the evolution of the feministmovement as seen in the various feminist networks, organizations,publications, and exhibitionsgenerated and most importantly in theemergence of feminist art. In the 1970s the feminist art was viewedas a representative for a new beginning which was aimed atcomplementing the largely masculine antiquity. However, Lucy RLippard defined feminist art as neither a style nor a movement butrather a value system, a way of life, or a revolutionary strategylike the Surrealism and Dada movements which both dwindled down(especially the later). According to Lucy, what made feminist artrevolutionary was not in its forms but rather in its content, simplya way of making art. Feminism rejected the rigid form and style ofmodernism which had its theoreticalcommitment to values only sincefeminist art avowed that meaning and experience were as valuable asthe form only which was preferred by modernism. Thus this beliefpaved the way to postmodernism.
Inthe 1950s and 1960s, women suffered professional isolation, thusexcluding them from the art history. The result was that it was notcommon for a woman artist to fit in the modernism context because herposition was defined as that of a facilitator of male work and notthat of an inventor. This constituted the difference between thefifties and sixties women and the seventiesfeminist artsin thatthelatercelebrated a deliberate grounding of their art brought aboutby their acceptance into the art world as inventors of art differentfrom men but of equal importance.Some critics contended"essentialism" as they believed each discrete woman’sexperience was common, even though it wasn’t affirmed by theartist.
Beyondthe seventies, art took a turn and avoided the pains of theirseventies counterparts by proposing that although an essentialist‘feminine’ doesn’t exist, ‘femininity’ is not a stablereality as a social construct either.
RebeccaSchneider zeroed in on Carolee Scheneenmann’s Eye/Bodywherethe art she did involve her as not only the image but also theimage-maker. The society greeted her work with uproars claiming thatthe image she created was explicitly provoking and according to them,there were still some things that women may not do. This resulted toRebecca stating that nudity was not the problem and neither wassexual display but rather the agency of the displayed body andauthority that the agent had mattered most. This use of live nudeswas widely used among masculine movements such as Happenings both asan object and often, as an ‘active’ object.
GloriaOrenstein explored the women’s biblical commentary and criticismfrom Christine de Pisan and Hildegard of Bingen through MatildaJoslyn Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s TheWomen’s Bible andfound that female mystics often had revelations of a femininedivinity such as Sophia (the Goddess of Wisdom). In retrospect, asGerda Lerner noted, the divine female’s concept, Great Goddessencouraged women after her demise. Women obsessed and rationallywrote themselves into the story of redemption despite the genderindoctrination and the intense pressure towards submissiveness.
Priorto the understanding of procreation as a man’s responsibility wasrealized, the creative powerof the females were the attributesoftheGreat Goddess. The Great Goddess gave life, controlled death, andrebirth. The triple nature possessed by the Great Goddess is repeatedin the patterns of the maiden-mother-old woman and most importantly,heaven-earth-underworld.
TheJungian psychology orculture postulated that the Great Motherrepresents the feminine in the human essence. The hypothesis alsoprovided a theoretical framework within which one could interpret theGreat Goddess in her expression through art. In the seventies, mostwomen looked for forms and themes which depicted the female body asstrong and showed women in positions of power, this resulted in themass gravitational toward the Jungian hypothesis. In the nineties,the Jungian culture lost its popularity asthe claims it supportedwere non-empirical and not testable, this cumulated in the loss ofpopularity which rippled into a disregard of the hypothesis in thenineties.
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