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Throughout this project my main goal is to pin point what I consider to be a fair representation of what modern Feminism actually is. And, after many coffees and several moments of procrastination later I am still at a point where I am moderately clueless. It has become highly apparent that feminism has branched out into many different paths that are fuelled by contradictions, and it goes without saying that there are millions of sides you could take on it (unless, unlike me, you are infact very sure. In which case, lucky you.) I have never categorised myself as a Feminist, I do however believe in total gender equality, and equality in other social areas such as race and sexuality. Surely then, this is the belief of a Feminist. And so doesn’t that make me a Feminist too?
I wanted to explore how modern contemporary Feminist Artists convey their belief in Feminism and how they produce their work. I was particularly interested in Australian Artist Casey Jenkins, who in her work entitled ‘Casting off my Womb’ focuses in on the fear of female genitalia and aims to challenge the negative view of specific anatomical parts such as the vulva. Her work is a performance piece lasting 28 days, the average amount of time a woman takes to complete her menstrual cycle. Every day she inserts a ball of specially wound wool into her vagina pulling the end of the wool out to enable her to knit from it. The artist completes a section of a long ‘scarf’ each day even valiantly continuing through menstruation giving a section of her work a dark maroon shade. In an article in the Daily Mail Jenkins explains how ‘I think the expectation when you’re showing the vulva is that people are going to feel fear and revulsion. So by linking the vulva to something that people find warm and fuzzy and benign and even boring, such as knitting for a long period of time, I hope that people question their fears and the negative association with it.’
What Jenkins highlights to me in her work is an extreme view of Feminism; it is clear she takes a strong position on her views, evident in her challenging performance piece. I’m not sure I would agree with her opinion that there is a fear of the female genitalia, as personally I see as much a fear of male genitalia as of female. In fact in adult pornography the female genitalia is glorified! I think the real issue is the generalised fear and repulsion of the menstrual cycle which Jenkins also touches on in her work. I totally agree that there is a stigma about the biology of women and I think that many want to avoid the matter, particularly men. I recently read an article on Modern Women Digest Online reporting on the current trend in young women called ‘Free Bleeding’. The disturbing trend is where women choose not to wear sanitary products during their monthly bleed subsequently allowing blood to run freely down their legs and soak into their clothing. Even for the most strong minded of Feminists this is certainly not for the feint hearted. And if you are a little concerned, like me, as to the public’s response to this, be reassured that one reader said what we are all thinking : ‘What the hell? Who in their right mind would want period blood running down their legs. Seriously?! I could imagine the conversation with the person behind them in the grocery store. “Excuse me ma’am, you have a little blood..”“Oh I know. I love it too, it is empowering and I think it is awesome even though it is nasty as shit and stinks but the odour makes it even better.” (Ok maybe not that menstrual blood is nasty, I happen to think that my period is a delightful flush out of my little eggs and in no way is it something I am disgusted at – but you get the general message.) This basically highlights a misinterpretation of Feminism where young women are treating the belief as a trend or fashion statement where they are constantly striving to exceed expectations and evoke more controversy.
I think this is the prime issue when faced with Modern Feminism. Rachel Cunliff puts it perfectly in her article posted on Huffington Post Online; ‘There probably are some women who think that all men should be castrated, but you know what? There are men who think all women should be raped, white people who think black people should be deported, and Republicans who think those on benefits should starve. We don’t use them as representations for the whole of their group, so don’t take the most extreme feminists out there and force the rest of us to account for them.’ I think it crucial that young women understand the real values of being a Feminist; you don’t have to create statements combining art and menstrual blood and you certainly do not have to go even a day of bleeding without the almighty comfort and support of a sanitary towel. You simply have to understand that women are equals and deserve to be treated as such. Although this sounds like an ending to a debate, I still feel I need to look further into the subject and also explore other Artists to develop my own work. This is to be continued…
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This piece heavily reflects my opinion that Feminism has become somewhat of a fashion statement. It took its shape from the embroidery hoop that I was using to sew, however I found that actually the designs suited the spherical shape and reflected sew on badges that are used on brownie uniforms!
I found the colour of the cotton to be very successful and suiting of the illustrations as the colour draws attention to the feminine messages on the badges and also suggests a connection with fertility and menstruation.
Whilst making these pieces I didn’t really think about how I might present them as at the time I was producing them as samples. However I am now considering that these pieces would be great to present as they portray one of my early opinions that Feminism has become fashionable. I have been looking at the work of Australian Artist Casey Jenkins, and in a news article about her in the Daily Mail I also came across some work by an unnamed Chilean Artist who collected her menstrual blood on cloth and embroidered messages onto them. She hung her work in from the ceiling, still left in the embroidery hoops, along with apples, a sign of fertility and femininity. Although I’m not about to collect any of my menstrual blood any time soon, I do think that her presentation of her work was incredibly striking and captivating. The sheer quantity of work is a spectacle, with the vast amount of dark maroon stains striking a stark contrast to the ‘pure’ and clean white environment in which they are placed.
This is also something I must consider as I carry on my work and develop the materials on which I intend to sew, for example sanitary towels. The burgundy cotton is particularly relevant here as it disrupts the clean and crisp appearance of the material alluding to the dirty connotations of menstruating.
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I suppose living in the busy modern world we do, we don’t always get a chance to consider the events that occurred before our births. I can go through an entire week before I even start to consider anything other than my own current situation. And then, whilst reading Jill Tweedie’s ‘Feminists and the Right to be Ugly’, I finally broke my chain of thoughts.
I suppose to me, feminism has always been something I have never been clear on. I associated it with the hatred of men, the Suffragettes and the fight for equality, the way in which us women present ourself in society or to the opposite sex. Lots of things crossed my mind and I realised I really didn’t know what it meant in the modern world. It is all too easy to say “I am a Feminist” nowadays; it’s become a fashion statement, a way of claiming back independence and power for those women who have been dumped and left on their rear ends, a reason to grow your leg hair and an excuse for not wearing make up.
I wanted to explore this in my new project and gain my own opinion of what being a Feminist is all about. I firstly thought about how I could use Feminist illustrations and slogans like in the Suffragette years to promote ideas and values. I have decided to embroider these onto fabric contradicting the traditional housewife image of sewing patterns and flowers onto garments. These slogans and images are meant to be explicit and shocking to play on this traditional past time.
I also want to change the material I work on and use sanitary towel products. I feel this will give me more room to play around with the messages these pieces promote.
I have carried out an experiment where I left half a slice of white bread (white processed bread contains plenty of moisture meaning it will decay faster) in an acetate pocket. I sealed the edges so moisture couldn’t escape (and spores of potentially harmful fungus couldn’t escape!) and left it. I checked on it each day; at first the process was slow however on the 4th day I noticed some green growth on the sides.
Once a little mould had started to grow it was only days before a large amount of the bread half was covered.
What I did not fully consider was the way in which I recorded this process. I feel I should of documented the changes taking place and on what day to fully get an understanding on how much time I would need if I was to do this again.
I have been looking at Sam Taylor Wood’s artwork to start exploring this idea of time in relation to decay; her film ‘Still Life’ is a remarkable ‘story’ of a decaying bowl of fruit. Light is an important feature in the film as as the fruits decay further the light gets very gradually darker implying the connection between life and death. She includes a pen that remains in the same position next to the bowl for the duration of the film. This highlights that although both the bowl of fruit and the pen can be seen in everyday life, one can and the other cannot be affected by the passing of time. This is relevant to my own work when I consider how although the bread decayed, the container remained a constant feature that was untouched by the effects of time.
Since looking at the shapes I made with the food colouring and glue I have started to look at these patterns in nature; I have been looking closely at cell arrangements and the growth of fungus to build up some context behind my work. The variety of shapes and patterns produced by fungus is a spectacular example of the beautiful processes that takes place in nature.
A while ago I was struck by the work of Gemma Schiebe, a student studying Fine Art who, on her amazing blog, documented the decay of different food products from tea bags to bread. She contained the food in transparent boxes to see how they developed. I was initially struck by the beautiful organic shapes that were created in the condensation against the boxes sides. However, what was particularly interesting to me was the way in which, although left to their own devices, the food products were contained and therefore restricted in growing beyond the walls of the box. Another thing about this work I found interesting was that we normally see decaying foods as repulsive, so we thrown them away. In this work the decay is being embraced and therefore allowing it to carry on beyond being discarded.
I have also been looking into more contemporary artists such as Richard Long. In his work ‘Cornish Slate Ellipse’ there is a dramatic contrast between the inner and outer features of the artwork: the orderly outer oval shape creates a contrast to the chaotically composed slate in the centre.This is like in Schiebe’s work where she is containing the ‘chaos’ to a specific area and shape and letting the inner content remain in a state of raw chaos and mess. However, there is an irony within his work as he takes the slate out of its natural environment and places it carefully in a gallery space. The slate has been specifically selected for size also adding to this irony. It is therefore not as chaotic as once thought and can be thought as, in relation to my own work, as orderly and composed.
I want to now build upon this idea of containment and focus on how I can create order in a chaotic environment. I want to also think about how much time food takes to decay and research what elements will speed it up.
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So initially for this project I had absolutely no idea where I was going to go with it. In previous studies in A-Level I had become too heavily focused on creating ‘meaningful work’ and avoided just painting or creating work for the fun of it. I wanted to incorporate this idea of ‘fun’ whilst relating to the title of my new project ‘Chaos and Order’.
A friend suggested to me how I can use different materials to create amazing effects on paper. The primary material talked about was PVA glue as it sealed in other materials used such as paints or inks. I didn’t have many inks at home so I purchased food colourings, assuming that they would create the same affect as they were of the same consistency to ink. I poured PVA over a sheet of card and spread it out which I then dragged the colourings through.
At first the page just looked like a mess, I got agitated and left to watch Alan Partridge, not bothering to stick around. When I went back the colourings had ran in the glue and created almost coral like shapes that had dispersed slowly in the thick glue. I added some more glue but this time added a little water to see if the consistency effected the shapes the colourings made. The colourings this time moved much faster, like oil based inks hitting water and moving into spherical shapes. The combination of the two methods created some wonderful shapes. It was as if I was the ‘Order’ component and the colourings were left to create havoc and ‘Chaos’ in the glue.
Although at the moment this idea is quiet loosely based around the subject matter, it has lead me to think about how other materials could be a representative of ‘Chaos and Order’.
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Said the lovely chap giving me a taster class in illustration at a University open day.
The task was to create an ‘illustration’ that related to three words that we picked randomly out of 3 hats. We had to choose a place, a profession and an action; I had ‘Venice’, ‘an estate agent’ and ‘order’. We were given a range of magazines and left to our own devices. I imagined something old and beautiful for Venice so I created a romantic and historical theme. For order I thought that it could be interpreted as ordering another person (Although I am partial to Katy Perry, this blokes face seemed to look great sitting on top of a woman’s body! plus everyone enjoys abit of eye candy…). And the poor old estate agent; I think of them as being a little sad, they get all dressed up, put on a smiley face and don’t always pull it off.
I loved the freedom of this task, I like to be able to get on with things sometimes and not have to wait around to get started. I loved this taster class, it made me think about what other areas of art I enjoy, so I can’t thank the lovely Bob enough!