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Confession: Turns Out I’m a Sucker for Feminist Art

Wed, Apr 29, 2009

Confessions, Personal Post

sackler_center_neona piece at the Sackler Center

Our contributor Antonio Reis, a first year at Wesleyan, has a confession to make:

There are few things in this world that I find more welcoming than a giant, naked woman sprawled out across a chaise, looking deeply into the eyes of her beholder. And that’s just what will greet you if you make your way to the feminist art collection at the Brooklyn Museum.

At the entrance of The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art hangs a giant wooden plank with a naked African woman reclining on a cushion. Sequins and other shiny materials add to her splendor. She stares deep into your eyes. I felt like Actaeon, bursting in upon Artemis, waiting for her glorious self to change me into a stag as punishment.

Inside the Center, there are myriad art mediums that each tell a dramatic tale. From films that express an artist’s opinion on female/male dress to an inverted lower-half of the female body in neon-light (pictured above), this exhibit is sure to delight the senses of any visitor, female or male, feminist or not. I certainly found almost all the pieces infinitely more interesting than Cy Twombly’s toddler-scribble representation of the Illyad at The Philidelphia Museum of Art.

The piece de resistance of The Sackler Center is The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago: three 48-foot-long tables put together in a triangular shape with 39 place settings representing famous mythical and historical women. There is a timeline that outlines the triumphs of each woman to help viewers with the dates and facts of each of the dinner party’s “attendants.”

Looking at the settings — from Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowery plate to Hyppolyta’s fierce platter — I was reminded of the great lengths women have gone to over the course of human history to come out on top. Artemisia Gentileschi’s plate made me stop and think for a full minute (something we should all do more often) about what it must have been like to become the first female member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence in the early 17th century. And standing over Margaret Sanger’s setting, I really tried to imagine the blood, sweat, and tears this woman put into her contraceptives campaign in the early 1900s. Seeing all these women together, you see the ripple effect their accomplishments had, inspiring the next female leader to take the reigns and go for it.

If you happen to be in the New York area, definitely check out this wing of the Brooklyn Museum. Don’t pass it by because you think it’ll be full of menstrual blood portraits or studies in pink (which, come to think of it, would probably be pretty interesting). They may be missing from Art History 101, but girls are kick-ass artists too.

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3 Responses to “Confession: Turns Out I’m a Sucker for Feminist Art”

  1. ta Says:

    great piece! i loved the pics you took on your camera. and fortunately i had a ~feminist~ art history teacher so we did learn about artemisia gentileschi.
    also, falpy congratulates you on your rememberance of margaret sanger. and father von arx appreciates your stag reference.

  2. Aceo Art Says:

    Was looking for info like this for my own site last week – mind if I borrow a bit?

  3. artseenchicago Says:

    Amber Hawk Swanson’s Realdoll™ explores the interplay between repulsion, desire and surrender: http://bit.ly/17Z8vG


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