Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Art and the Reduction of Women

This past weekend, Katherine and I visited the Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville. It's a fine, eclectic mix of various periods and origins in the visual arts. We especially enjoyed the fin-de-siecle collection of American painting and the special exhibit of historic American photography.

But one work annoyed me: Seated Figure (terra cotta, 1927) by John Bradley Storrs. Visiting various museums, I've noticed that there's almost always at least one headless, armless female nude by a Modern (by that I mean broadly post-Academic) artist. I find these works dehumanizing and degrading to women by eliminating the the female's ability to think and communicate (head) and her ability to work and be independent (arms). Although these figures are never presented in an erotic manner, they reduce the female to little more than a sexual object.

I'm having trouble remembering which other artists created such works, although I vividly recall one Botero work like this at the San Antonio Museum of Art. It is odd that although the post-Academic period liberated women politically, elements of it seemed to futher subjugate and objectify them.

6 comments:

Tom Jackson said...

Could the artist have intended to point out the reduction of women, rather than advocate it?

"I was just commenting on the evils of society by imitating the evils of society" seems to be the usual Art excuse; cf. Hollywood.

John said...

It's possible, but I don't see any evidence from the work of an attempt at satire. Storr was apparently imitating Egyptian monumental sculpture in this work (as seen by the pose), but that style is not noted for the intentional omission of body parts. Or nudes, for that matter.

Tom Jackson said...

Commentary does not have to be satirical. Golding's "Lord of the Flies" could hardly be called a satire; instead, it was a comment on a particular dystopian direction that he thought society might take. Ditto Kesey's "Cuckoo's Nest." Etc.

John said...

True, but what do we see in this work which attacks, rather than endorses the objectification of women? What evidence is there that the artist holds a dim view of this process?

DannyG said...

Think about the "Venus de Milo". Armless in that case....not by intent but by accident. I've always thought that the headless forms were a homage to the ancient statues which have lost heads, arms, etc. in the course of time. Kind of an artistic antiquing or distressing.

Tom Jackson said...

Commentary need not attack; sometimes it is enough to state plainly a fact that polite society prefers to ignore.