Sunday, March 15, 2009

Responses for March 20

Whitney Chadwick, “Modernist Representation: The Female Body,” Chapter 10, Women, Art, and Society, 4th ed. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2007), pp. 279-315.

Simone de Beauvoir, Introduction, “Woman as Other,” and Conclusion, The Second Sex (1949).

Peter Brooks, “Gauguin’s Tahitian Body,” in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992), pp. 330-345.

Mary Ann Caws, “Ladies Shot and Painted: Female Embodiment in Surrealist Art,” in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992), pp. 380-395.

Janice Helland, “Culture, Politics, and Identity in the Paintings of Frida Kahlo,” in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992), pp. 396-407.


  1. Here we go again...upon reading the first couple of paragraph's of "Gauguin's Tahitian Body", there is the understanding that "history has turned women into men's property". The reading talks of not being able to perfect the nature of women during this time period because of "woman's natural wants and needs" of man.

    The reading also talks of "trading" and this idea of the size of a "nail". It isn't clear to me what nail they speak of..."conscious of the value of beauty, and the size of the nail that was demanded for the enjoyment of the lady"...huh? Is the "nail" used as sensory to penis? I'm sorry but I guess I'm just a slow bunny today, but I didn't understand why the use of the word "nail" is there--just felt out of context. I don't know...I just don't quite understand why nails. The reading goes on to talk about the nails of the Dolphin and about nails and spikes of the ship and that "the nails of the Dolphin give a version of sexual commerce"...I don't know if it's just me but the whole nail business is kind of weird to me that they'd exchange nails of all things...nails? I understand that it talks about that nails were the only natural resource they had but nails?

    Interesting enough though it was interesting that the reading spoke about women's sexual vices being the only thing that could save them at times were their lives were at stake. Natives would give of themselves to the Colonists because that was all they had when knowing that their "stones are no match for their cannons and musket balls", they had no choice but to consider making love and not war. How sad is it that in order to try and defend what, by nature is your's (the land and the body), that you must your body in orde rto keep the land. WOw!

  2. The reading then concludes by saying that the female's body is "signified as the ultimate, irreducible signifier. I recall during the first class we spoke of the word "signifier" I believe in African American Art History. A signifier as defined signifies something else, it's a linguistic symbol representing another word. I just find it interesting that that word is used in this context in this reading, while also talking about it during the African American Art class.

    The reading summed up Gauguin's journey and how his "performance sets a challenging standard for all later artists who would attempt to rethink the tradition of the nude. Gauguin used the nude in ways that artists before him had perhaps didn't. The painting "Manao Tupapau", was by far the painting that caught my attention when looking through the images in this reading. The painting is of a darker-skinned woman on her back. It was interesting reading of the commentary about this painting in comparison to Manet's Olympia. I found it very interesting ont he description of the woman's reclining pose and how it was viewed as problematic because to "attempt to penetrate an impassive exterior reaches an impasse that can be resolved only in physical penetration. It was also interesting how the reading spoke of how the "impenetrability of the pose" and how her pose was viewed as "a greater animality", because she's on her stomach.

    The painting can be apllied to last week's lecture about "filling in the holes" and the use of penetrating the canvas. I say this because the female's naked form seems very rigid and not relaxed. The figure is "slipping forward toward the frontal plane of the canvas, dislodges the viewer from his traditional space of visual dominance". So this idea of the "signifier" and the "signified" is summed up with the comparison of a tattoo. The concluding paragraph completes the argument that "Gauguin's effort is kind of tattoo: not so much a writing on the body", like he had observed in the Tahitian's rituals of tattooing their bodies, but of making the body "a transcendent signified as the ultimate, irreducible signifier".

  3. Hey everyone,

    I just read Rhonda's response and I thought I might weigh in with an explanation.

    In the reading about Gauguin when the author talks about trading nails for the sexual favors of native Tahitian women, he literally means nails--the type you would pound into a wall. The ships that sailed to Tahiti (including the Dolphin and others) were held together using iron nails. The Tahitians had no iron ore on the island and had never used iron before. When the sailors began showing the Tahitians nails and what you could do with them (make fishing hooks. turn them into rings, etc) the Tahitians began to trade their own goods for the nails--iron became a precious commodity on Tahiti. Since the European sailors wanted sex more than anything else, the Tahitians traded sex for nails (iron).

    It's an amazing story, if not a very savory one.


  4. It's interesting that the two major manifestos we've read were written by French women. In Simone de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex" she explains this constant oppression of women like its this machine of perpetual motion. Man is cherishes his supposed superiority and oppresses women for fear of this impending desire by women to destroy this superiority. It is the insecurities of man that creates the ridiculous oppressive notions of penis envy and women's desire to castrate men thus leveling the playing field and robbing the man of his "transcendence."

    There's a part in this Essay that talks about leveling the playing field. Imagining a world where men and women are equal. (Comparing this notion to when it was attempted in the Soviet Union) The challengers of this idea seem to base their contention on male desire. "casting off their femininity they will not succeed in changing themselves into men and they will become monsters." - Once again, men equating female success as becoming male like and bastardizing their femininity.

  5. Simone de Beauvoir's writing really brings up a lot of timeless controversies and philosophical concepts of humans in general. It does make me think that human beings are incapable of not labelling certain individuals as "above", "beneath", or "like" them. Maybe it's just harder to understand anything not relating to ourselves because we are physically nothing else. Although seeing each other as human beings and relating to that label alone could help.

  6. I just finished reading the Gaugauin's Tahitian Body and was amazed but at the same time now by the closed mindedness of the Europeans who settled on the island. Also how the Tahitians knew they couldn't beat the sailors with weapons so they just seduced them instead. Make Love Not War.

  7. i enjoyed reading about frida kahlo and how ancient Aztec art and culture influenced her works

    from "Ladies shot and painted," the idea of doubling used in surrealist photography "that creates within the moment a sense of fission" seemed key to me when thinking about the binary of men and women. both as one are human, the gender difference is a part of this doubling. both worlds of women and men are free to mingle and interchange, thoughts, feelings, innovations, etc. yet both sexes seem to consistently and repetitively form barriers around their respective gendered class, in which the opposite can be privy to certain thoughts or things but not all. i've tried to write this idea with a loose mindset, so i don't know if this has made any sense.

  8. Mary Ann Caws', "Ladies Shot and Painted", spoke a bit about limitations, caging, and things of that sort. I feel while all of her arguments are very well explained and logical, I find a small spark of fire to disagree with her explanation concerning the work of Rene Magritte's, "La Lumiere de coincidenced". When thinking of my own and any other work for that matter. I find it somewhat difficult to fully believe that Magritte's piece could not "feel fully caged". I guess in comparison to the other pieces describe this can be the case, but I feel placing a frame, bar, even a compositional element such as a stripe of paint becomes a boundary, a cage, especially when involving works that are not two dimensional.

  9. Seems like most people are starting with the Tahitian Body, and so did I! It was very interesting to see how the Europeans were the first to make contact with this society, and then promptly destroyed it. They apparently had no currency and believed in no exclusive property, but upon the arrival of the sailors, everything changed. The trading of women for iron nails was new and exciting to them and I don't think they realized exactly how demeaning it is to do that to their sisters and daughters. I'm not even sure if these women cared! Also, the fact that by the time Gaugauin made it to this place, only the Elders really remembered their history. The fact that he learned about the stars from his 13 year (wife, right?), that whispered it to him like a secret was sad to me. It's like they weren't even their own society anymore!

  10. In my opinion, the surrealist piece by Mary Ann Caws, "Ladies Shot and Painted" suffered from a strange sort of convoluted over-analysis: I felt that it was reading multiple obscure things into pieces that, when I looked at them, didn't convey half of the baggage that was being pegged to them. Or, perhaps, the baggage they had, I found to be of a slightly different variety, or at least a different flavor. I think the essay was sort of dancing around the issue of objectification, sadism and erotic mastery, which I always find sort of integral to Man Ray's work, in particular. For a female viewer, the photographs I think arouse simultaneously strange alienation and desire, latent masochism is possibly assumed in the making of such work, not specifically for a male gaze, in my opinion, the way that, for instance, Venus of Urbino and such bedroom paintings, or even modern pornography, is.

    For instance, in the "Monument to De Sade" piece, which wasn't reprinted in the book, we know the buttocks belong to a woman because woman is generally the subject of such representations, and that Man Ray mostly uses women in his photographs. But in the photograph, there is no indication of the feminine: men can have nice asses too. The Marquis, in his writings, objectified across the board: sodomy was the inversion, and that can be accomplished with men and women alike, and was. There's more ideologically sensitive material dealing with class and power/sexuality, than with gender roles. So, is the sort of "saucy subversion" taking place at the expense of the female subject? In this piece, at least, I think maybe it isn't, since she's barely represented, and possibly not the point of it. Disembodied non-gender-specific erogenous zones are just that, there's no woman in the piece to take posession of, with your gaze. I would argue that the piece is more about sex than the subjegation, if removed from authorial intent.

    On another note, I was seriously into the Beauvoir, I felt that the approach to writing such a treatise or explanation of gender/sex was approached from a very logical and un-sensationalized, considerate angle. I felt she was unflinching in pointing out things earlier feminist texts smooth out, like "Hey, walk down the street: there really IS a difference between men and women, to say that we're all just humans and the same is to deny a lot of what's visibly apparent, in society as it stands." Her discussion of Self and Other being essential to human thought pattern, too, I thought was dead on, and discussed in a really comprehensible way. Also interesting is her comparisons to other minority groups and their struggles, and the differences that she points out: "women" as a whole not having a single class, religion, ethnicity, or specific condition of subjugation with which to bind them more closely together in resistance.

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  12. i remember reading about Gaugauin in art appreciation a very long time ago, and it is amazing to me how much stuff is left out of a class like that. They really kind of made him out to be some kind of Bohemian hero or something. It's pretty interesting to learn how things really were around there.

  13. I enjoyed reading the blog's on Ladies Shot and Painted, it helped me grasps more of a meaning outside of females being caged and objectified. Surrealism has always intrigued me thus why this article stood out I guess but at the same time is just as confusing so I seem to have trouble sifting through the words to get to the deeper but not too deep meaning. I agree with Siphne as far as the boundaries created/interpreted, and John I think I need a little bit of your 'loose mindset', hope to hear more in reference to your blog in class….oh and apologies for this being late and not to interesting

  14. Hey all! This week has been crazy!!! After enjoying the readings such as the Gauguin's Tahitian Body article, I (like ronda) was fasinated by the way Tahitian women and their so called sexual liberty, and how they truely used their bodies and gained power over the male race.

    "there is no way of perfecting the nature of women in the present state of European society, since woman's natural wants and needs have been thoroughly adulterated by her enslavement to men". - Page 332

    In reading i was shocked by this quote in how these women had to come adapted to live in such a way that they didn't know( well as looked at in my view of our culture) that they didn't have to sell their bodies to be statisfied and protected.