Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Category: Women’s ART History Month

Catcall and response

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

Have you ever been walking down a city street, especially past a construction site, and heard somebody yell, “Hey, baby! Gimme a smile!” or similar stuff? If you’ve ever been a woman–particularly a young woman–you have. Guaranteed. Probably daily. (If you’re a man, then probably not, and you may not see what’s wrong with it).

This image is a photo of artwork by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, in this case a self-portrait, with the message "Stop telling women to smile." in this photo the artist's words have been added near the top, saying "It's a matter of control over women's bodies. And it's a serious issue to address."
Tatyana FazlalizadehStop Telling Women to Smile

While the occasional inexperienced country girl may mistake these catcalls for harmless flattery on first exposure, it soon becomes clear that the objectifying intent is neither harmless nor benign. Day after day, the merciless barrage can drag you down

This photograph shows a poster glued to a section of a wall with wood-grain like a piece of plywood. The poster shows a young woman's head and upper torso, and at the bottom it says, "My name is not Baby, Shorty, Sexy, Sweetie, Honey, Pretty, Boo, Sweetheart, Ma." The artwork is by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.
Tatyana FazlalizadehMy Name is not Baby 

t’s recognized more properly as street harassment–and NO, women don’t like it. But what can be done, right? Most of us just duck our heads and keep walking

This photo shows a large-scale poster on a brick wall, featuring the faces and upper torsos of three women, with the words underneath: "Harassing women does not prove your masculinity." The artwork is by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.
Tatyana FazlalizadehHarassing women does not prove your masculinity

Enter Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and her “Stop Telling Women to Smile” public art campaign. All those things you so wish you could say to harassers? She says them. With large public art displays, right out there in the harassers’ space on the streets.

This photo shows one of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's posters on the side of a mailbox, overlaying several graffitti-scrawled messages. The drawing shows a young woman's head and upper torso, above the message: "Critiques on my body are not welcome."
Tatyana FazlalizadehCritiques on my Body are not Welcome

Fazlalizadeh has illustrated her messages with the faces of women she knows, women whose lives are impinged upon daily by these assaults. Her images empower all of us, not only her friends.

This photo shows a poster by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, with a drawing of a young woman's head and shoulders over the message, "Women are not outside for your entertainment."
Tatyana FazlalizadehWomen are not Outside for your Entertainment

She speaks what all of us wish we could, in a way that few can mistake

Which speak best for you? Please make comments below!

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Huffington Post, for the image at the top. Deepest gratitude to Katherine Brooks’s  2017 Huffington Post article, “Public Art Project Addresses Gender-Based Street Harassment in a Big Way,” for My name is not Baby, Critiques on my Body are not Welcome, and Women are not Outside for your Entertainment; and honor and props to  Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and her “Stop Telling Women to Smile” page, for Harassing women does not prove your masculinity. I plan to feature more of these posters in future Images of Interest.

Entering the space that art creates

The Artdog Quote of the Week

For artists, our art is our voice. That may seem fundamental, but people forget it often.

today's Quote-image pictures the artist Unni Askeland from Oslo, Norway, and her words. She said, "To me, as a woman, peace is birth, love, education, tolerance, and communication. As a female artist, I consider art a space in which I can enter, and the speed of life itself slows down. Through my art I can visually express my emotions. Art is peace." The image was created for the organization Women in Art for Peace.

Women in Art for Peace published this about today’s quotable person: “Unni Askeland is a Norwegian artist. She studied at The National Academy of Fine Arts, Bergen, and The National Academy of Fine Arts, Oslo. Her art has transitioned from Munch-inspired painting to American-style photography-based serigraphy, Askeland creates work that intends to shock and challenge conceptions of the contemporary art world.”

IMAGE: Many thanks to the Google+ page of Women in Art for Peace, for this quote-image, and the information about Unni Askeland.

How quotes about women in the arts . . . mostly weren’t.

The Artdog Quote(s) of the Week

In recognition of Women’s History Month, I thought I’d focus on quotes about women in the arts as this month’s theme. 

Yeah, try Googling that phrase under “images.” The quote that seemed to come back with just incredible frequency was this one:

On a brown, kind of parchment-looking background, black letters spell out this quote: "A Bachelor of Arts is one who makes love to a lot of women, and yet has the art to remain a bachelor." It was said by Helen Rowland, who is listed as an American journalist, who lived from 1875-1950.

Um, EXCUSE ME, but what does that have to do with Women in the Arts?

One image that came up near the top of the search results is a poster visible on the Tate website (but not available for reposting) about the very tongue-in-cheek “advantages” of being a woman artist in 1988“Advantage” #1, “Working without the pressure of success,” gives a taste of how the list is oriented. 

Then compare a couple of other quotes that came up several times:

This image is a black background with white lettering on it, giving a quote by Hedy Lamarr, who is listed as an "Austrian Actress." She said, "It is easier for women to succeed in business, the arts, and politics in America than in Europe."

Okay, that’s fairly hopeful, if dated. But then there’s this:

This is a photo of a night sky over mountains, which creates a backdrop for the Thomas Beecham quote: "All the arts in America are a gigantic racket run by unscrupulous men for unhealthy women."

Well, as they used to say, ain’t that a kick in the head? I don’t think either gender comes off looking too good, in Beecham’s estimation. In the age of Harvey Weinstein, however, it’s hard to say he was inaccurate about the existence of “unscrupulous men.”

Number one that came up was from an article about conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, and it’s not exactly a paean of optimism, either:

This is a photo of a sign that says, "YOU ARE A VICTIM OF THE RULES YOU LIVE BY."

I . . . sorry. After spending a stimulating month of February reading engrossing fiction by women such as Becky ChambersDiana Wynne JonesMartha WellsJennifer Foehner Wells, and Nnedi Okorafor, and having recently delighted in the artwork of Simini BlockerKaren Ann Hollingsworth, and Jody A. Lee, not to mention amazing new artwork being produced (but not yet posted online) by Lucy A. SynkI actually felt pretty good about women in the arts

I genuinely thought I’d find a more optimistic range of quotes. Frankly, sisters, we owe ourselves a better set of quotes. What’s on offer is pathetic.

Are things perfect? No. Humans aren’t, so human things won’t be. But things don’t have to be uniformly bleak. Women in ALL of the arts are doing amazing things. If no one else is talking about it, then we ought to begin. 

IMAGES: The Helen Rowland quote about bachelors is from Quote HD. So is the Hedy Lamarr quote. The Thomas Beecham quote is courtesy of Quotefancy. The “Rules you live by” quote-image comes from a thoughtful essay by Lauren C. Byrd on her “Make Art History” blog.

The elusive Ivorybill

The Artdog Image of Interest, Image 1 of a planned series of 4 by John James Audubon

John James Audubon, Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Campephilus principalis (1827-1838), hand-colored engraving. Male on the left, female on the right.

I’ll never forget the day my mother thought we’d seen an Ivory-billed Woodpecker at our backyard bird feeder. I was a little kid: I’d never heard of one, before. And it was the biggest bird we’d ever seen at the feeder.

It wasn’t an Ivorybill, of course. This was sometime in the 1960s, and the last confirmed sighting had been in 1944.

Pileated woodpeckers (top) compared with Ivory-billed woodpeckers.

Eventually, Mom reluctantly decided it probably had been a Pileated woodpeckerwhich was marked similarly, but somewhat smaller in body length (Ivorybills have been reported up to 20 inches [51 cm] in body length; Pileated top out around 19 inches [49 cm] long), without as much white on their backs, and with a darker bill.

It may only have been one afternoon’s excitement at the time, but I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for the species ever since. I was very interested when possible sightings were reported in Arkansas in 2004-5, and in Florida in 2006.

But it’s hard to get sightings confirmed. If they do still exist, Ivorybills live WAY back in the most remote swamps you can imagine (habitat loss was the main reason for their decimation). The way there is literally “fur [far] an’ snakey,” as my grandparents used to say. A great many of the experts in the field remain unconvinced that there are still any Ivorybills out there somewhere. I sincerely hope that eventually it is found they do still exist. But I’m not holding my breath till it happens.

And let’s PLEASE not follow the example of Mason Spencer, who in 1932 proved there were still Ivorybills along the Tensas River in Madison Parish Louisiana by shooting onethen bringing it back to the state wildlife office in Baton Rouge! Even more awful is the story from 1924, when Cornell University ornithologist Arthur A. Allen discovered what he feared might be the last nesting pair in Florida. Once word got out, a couple of taxidermists promptly went out and shot them (presumably to sell their stuffed bodies). Yes, we’re demonstrably a gun-loving nation, but can we please think first?

Granted, it would be hard to haul the photographic equipment of the 1920s and 30s back up into the woody swamps to prove they still existed, but Cornell’s intrepid Dr. Allen, accompanied by several colleagues, managed it in 1935, when he photographed and recorded the sounds made by a nesting pair in and area of old-growth forest known as the Singer Tract in Louisiana (Mason Spencer’s neck of the woods, actually).

Two photos made in April 1935 by Arthur A. Allen in the Singer Tract, Madison Parish, Louisiana. These are among the last and best photographic images of wild Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. A breeding pair is shown here with their nest-hole. That’s the male departing to hunt, upper L, and returning, lower R; his mate looks out from their nest.

For a trip back in time to 83-years-ago-this-Monday (the recording was made April 9, 1935), here’s the recording Dr. Allen made of the Ivorybill pair shown above and below.

I I think it’s worth a look at the comments section of the Macaulay Library’s webpage devoted to the recording, too, but I’m kind of a geek.

Two more photos by Arthur A. Allen taken in April 1935: at left, the male Ivorybill emerges from the nest hole after the female returns from hunting. At R, the female takes over nest-guarding duties while her mate takes his turn.

The Singer Sewing Machine Co. later sold the 81,000-acre Singer tract to the Chicago Mill and Lumber Company. Despite efforts to secure the irreplaceable virgin forest for a nature preserve, Chicago Mill and Lumber logged whole thing. It’s where the last known-for-sure Ivorybill, a female, was seen in 1944 by Don Eckelberry, an artist working for The Audubon Society.

If you’ve ever questioned why some folks think public land in nature preserves shouldn’t be opened for exploitation by private logging or mining concerns, just think about the Singer Tract, and the Chicago Mill and Lumber Company, who apparently thought their ephemeral profits were more important than some stupid bird.

If you’ve ever wondered why some people think it’s important to make it illegal to kill specimens of endangered species, just remember Mason Spencer and the Florida taxidermists. We may (probably) have lost the marvelous Ivory-bills, but there are many other endangered and critically endangered species now. Which ones will disappear on our watch? How many will we save?

IMAGES: Many thanks to Audubon Galleries for the photo of the Audubon Ivorybills; to Wikipedia for the field marks comparison of Pileated with Ivory-billed Woodpeckers and the four 1935 photos of the nesting pair by Arthur A. Allen; and to the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library website for the recording of nesting Ivorybills calling and rapping.

A vision for the future

The Artdog Image of Interest

I couldn’t think of a better image or a better note of hope on which to end this month’s Images of Interest series of feminist artworks. Today’s piece, Rainbow Shabbat, 1992, by Judy Chicago, is a large, stained glass installation.

It is the culminating image of Chicago’s “Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light,” created over a period of eight years, collaborating with her husband, photographer Donald Woodman.

As explained in Wiki Art, “To conclude the exhibition, Chicago wanted an image of hope, a vision for a future in which people are joined together across differences in age, gender, race, faith and culture to live in harmony with one another and the natural world.”

The work was inspired by a Shabbat dinner in the home of some friends in Israel, where she and Donald had gathered with a group of others. As she described it later:

“There were twelve people there: men and women from four different countries, of different ages, and mostly strangers. We all went around the table and told stories, and everyone listened for hours. For me the evening brought up not just feelings about my childhood but also the incredibly warm moments Donald and I had shared with Jews around the world. Being welcomed into Jewish homes during our travels gave us a profound sense of a global community and provided me with an idea for the last image of the project, an image of optimism and hope.”

On a personal note, I think it’s kind of fitting that this feature posts, as it usually does, on a Friday. Just before sundown tonight, it will be time to welcome another Shabbat. Gut Shabbos and Shabbat shalom to all!

IMAGE: Many thanks to Wiki Art for the Rainbow Shabbat image and much of the information used in this post. 

From tar beach to star-flying

The Artdog Image of Interest

Faith Ringgold, Tar Beach (Part I from the Woman on a Bridge series), 1988.

Faith Ringgold’s story quilt Tar Beach (Part 1 from the Woman on a Bridge series)1988, rewards some time spent looking at it closely. The quilt has enough going on in it to provide several of the illustrations for Ringgold’s 1991 children’s book, also titled Tar Beach

The book Tar Beach is a semi-autobiographical account of a little girl, Cassie Louise Lightfoot, in Harlem, New York in the 1930s (not coincidentally, Faith grew up there during the 1930s).

At night in the summer, Cassie sleeps on the “tar beach” of her apartment building’s rooftop, and dreams that she owns everything she can see. Her prized possession is the George Washington Bridge, and in the story the stars lift her up so she can fly over it. Here is a video from NPR, of Faith reading the book.

The other story quilts in the Woman on a Bridge series (that I could find) are Double Dutch on the Golden Gate Bridge: Woman on a Bridge #2, 1988; Painting the Bay Bridge: Woman on a Bridge #3, 1988; and The Winner: Woman on a Bridge #4, 1988.

Tar Beach, the most famous of the series, is in the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Here’s a glimpse of the size of the quilt and more about its background.

Faith enrolled in the City College of New York in 1950, planning to study art–but women could only enroll in certain majors at the time, so she studied art education. She taught in public schools until 1973, when she turned to creating artwork full-time. Listening to her read, however, I’m not sure her inner teacher went away. More likely that’s the part of her who wrote and illustrated 17 children’s books.

I also thought it was fascinating (because I’m fascinated by cultural exchanges) that she picked up the idea to put a fabric border around her paintings from a Thangka exhibition she viewed in the Netherlands.

IMAGES: Many, many thanks to Gathering Books, for an image of Tar Beach that was big enough to allow us to some of the richly-worthwhile view smaller details in the quilt, and to NPR on YouTube, for the video of Faith reading her book.

Portrait of a girl

The Artdog Image of Interest 

Frida KahloPortrait of Lucha Maria, a Girl from Tehuacán1942

This isn’t the most famous Frida Kahlo painting, but I keep coming back to it. Here she brought together several themes that recur in her paintings.

Herself descended in part from indigenous roots, she frequently included references to indigenous Mexican cultures in her work. Tehuacán is the second-largest city in the Mexican state of Puebla, in southeastern Mexico known (among other things) for its vivid embroidery and weaving. The beautiful, exotic Mexican clothing with which Frida created her “signature look” came from there. She also references indigenous culture by portraying the Pyramids of the Moon and the Sun at Teotihuacan left-to-right respectively, under the moon and sun in the painting.

The “split sky” that is half night and half day can also be seen in later paintings, such as Tree of Hope, Keep Firm1946, and The love embrace of the universe the earth mexico myself diego and senor xolotl, 1949). Many interpretations for this have been offered.

She also often added touches of contemporary life in her work. the toy airplane in young Lucha Maria’s hands is thought to be a reference to World War II, which was raging at the time; my best guess is that it might be a model of a CANT Z.1007 Alcione in desert camouflage.

Frida herself was overshadowed in the art world for years, known mostly as Diego Rivera‘s wife. She lived a short but passionate life, plagued by illness, and died of cancer in 1954.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Frida, and the page devoted to this painting, for both the image and some of the information about it.


The Artdog Image of Interest 

Amy Sherald’s Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance) speaks to me on so many levels it’s hard to know where I should begin. From her vibrant red hat slipping down over her eyes, to the awkward mismatch of her two-sided dress, to Those Gloves and That Enormous Cupthis young woman is loaded down by expectations that others have piled onto her.

There have been times when I’ve been that young woman. I suspect there are times when most of us have been that young woman. Certainly this painting speaks to me of all the myriad expectations that confront women. We are supposed to be poised (even when we’re not), stylish (even when our style is not “in”), to steadily support that massive cupful of expectations, and make it look easy (even when we’re struggling).

I first met Miss Everything face-to-face when The Outwin came to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City recently. Once one has met her, she’s hard to forget.

PLEASE NOTE: Amy Sherald and Michelle Obama recently unveiled Sherald’s painting, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, the official presidential portrait of the former First Lady, at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, USA. I particularly enjoyed a New Yorker article about the work, written by Doreen St. Félix. Perhaps you’ll enjoy it, too.

ALSO: For those who live in the region I do, you may want to note that a solo show of her work will open at the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis on May 11, 2018. It is set to run through August 19.

IMAGE: Many thanks to the “Gallery Gurls” interview with Amy Sherald, by Imani Higginson, for the photo of Miss Everything. 


The Artdog Images of Interest

Mothers, 1919, by Käthe Kollwitz
Migrant Mother, 1936, by Dorothea Lange 
Syrian Refugee Mother and Child, 2015, by Tara Todras-Whitehall, for the IRC

IMAGES: Many thanks to Gerry in Art’s wonderful post on Kollwitz, for the 1919 image Mothers, to the indispensable Wikipedia, for Dorothea Lange’s 1936 masterpiece, and to the “Uprooted” blog of the International Rescue Committee on Medium. 

Essential Artemesia

The Artdog Images of Interest

I’m celebrating “Women’s ART History Month” this March, with a new “Image of Interest” post each week that features a small collection of images and a few biographical snippets about some of my favorite women artists.

These women made their mark in what has been for centuries a world that belonged mostly to men. Some are better known than others, but I hope you’ll enjoy the work of all.

Where else could I start, but with Artemesia Gentileschi?

Artemesia Gentilesci’s Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, 1638-39.

Artemesia is widely acknowledged as “the most important woman painter” of her time, the only woman admitted to the Academia dell’Arte del Disgeno in Florence. Typically of the male chauvinists who dominated the art history field for centuries, Artemesia’s paintings were not even recognized as her own until late into the 20th Century.

It’s crazy to realize, but as far as we know, Artemesia’s first-ever solo show didn’t happen till 1991 (this is really pushing the idea of “better late than never” to previously-unimagined lengths). It was held at Casa Buonarroti in Florence, the same place where Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger commissioned her to paint Allegory of Inclination in 1615.

Artemesia Gentileschi’s Allegory of Inclination, 1615, painted for Michelangelo Buonarotti the Younger.

Taught to paint by her father Orazio Gentileschi (and unfortunately also by a lowlife slime named Agostino Tassi), Artemesia was influenced by both Orazio’s work, and that of his friend Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, as attested by her marvelous use of the chiaroscuro technique, and of tenebrism in her paintings.

Infamously, the story of how she was a rape victim always seems to get a lot of play in her biographies. Partly this may be because it is one of the best-documented aspects of her life. The horrifying transcripts of the months-long trial have survived. But mainly it’s the sensational nature of the story. Many other facts about her life have faded into obscurity in most bios.

Judith and her maidservant really put their backs into their work, in Judith Slaying Holofernes1614-20.

One thing that hasn’t faded, however is the vivid and poetically ageless revenge she took on men (especially in the person of Holofernes–could her model have been Tassi?) in her paintings. 

According to one biography, Judith Slaying Holofernes was painted for Cosimo II de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who hid the painting from view as he believed it was “too horrifying to behold.I’ve got to say that the expression on Judith’s face probably does have a tendency to make the cojones shrivel.

Artemesia included a glimpse of old Holofernes’s head and a rather badass-looking sword, when she accessorized Judith and her Maidservant1613-14.

Even before the sordid rape episode, her Susanna and the Elders (a masterwork produced when she was 17) makes it clear she already knew all too well what it felt like to be objectified.

Anyone who doesn’t cringe in empathy with poor Susanna in Artemesia’s Susanna and the Elders, 1610, has only ever been on the oglers’ side of the interaction.

A true survey of her artwork reveals, of course, that she panted a far greater range of subjects than the battle of the sexes. Most of her subjects, indeed, were dictated by her patrons, but they still mostly feature rather-more-bold-than-usual women. The art critic Roberto Longhi wrote, “There are about fifty-seven works by Artemisia Gentileschi and 94% (forty-nine works) feature women as protagonists or equal to men.” Here are a few more wonderful pieces, to give you a glimpse of her range.

Artemesia’s The Penitent Magdalene, 1617-20, looks to me as if she might be having second thoughts. The color of her dress, by the way, is sometimes called “Gentileschi Gold.” Artemesia signed the painting on the back of Mary’s chair; as she often did during this period, she chose to use her uncle’s surname, rather than that of her father or her husband.
Did Artemesia play the lute? Maybe. She appears to have a clue about fingering in this Self-Portrait as a Lute Player, 1615-17.
Let’s wrap with another later work, Clio, the Muse of History, 1632. As well she should, Clio appears undaunted by the weight of history (“muse of,” after all). So too, Artemesia’s work has stood up quite well to the test of time. 

IMAGES: Many thanks to Wikipedia and the Royal Collection (of the British Royal Family) for the self-portrait image of Artemisia at work, to Art History Archive, for the Allegory of Inclination image, to Wikipedia and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence for the image of Judith in her moment of gory triumph, and to Wikipedia and the Palazzo Pitti in Florence for the image of the wickedly-accessorized Judith-plus-one; also for the painting of Mary Magdalene in the golden gown. Many thanks to Wikipedia and the Web Gallery of Art for the image of Susanna and the dirty old men, as well as the same duo for the photo of the self-confident Clio (the painting is in the Cassa di Risparmio di Pisa, a savings bank in Pisa, Italy). Finally, many thanks to Wikipedia and The History Blog for Artemesia’s self portrait with the lute; the painting itself is currently in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT.

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