As a multidisciplinary artist, I draw on materials and processes that have a relationship with the domestic setting. I feel that mimicking fabric and genitalia with vitrified porcelain juxtaposes the negative and weak, aged stereotypes associated with being a woman. Porcelain imitating fabric aims to represent the domestic but also give ambiguity with the folds to create a less obvious vaginal shape.
The ideas I have explored and everything I have learnt has helped me progress on a personal level as well as in my art practice. This body of work has aided me in becoming more comfortable in my own body. It is something that I and many others struggled with due to the amount of negative influences online and in the media. The mimicking and manipulation of the materials could also be seen as addressing how easily we are led into changing our bodies to become the ideal woman and to please others.
She was interested in masquerade and liked to create clay masks that give out minimal information. Their is the façade of the surfaces and then the not knowing of who really is behind.
The clay is trying to emulate animal skin, this imitation of material adds to the façade of it being a mask.
She used domestic materials simply because of the affective power of domestic environments and objects. But she also liked the process of making, the repeating process which again relates to the day to day living within the domestic, but also the traditional everyday domestic.
They are easily recognisable materials which I feel have an emotional attachment to the domestic space, things of importance to you within the home, things you use daily.
The way she uses the domestic materials and emulates the clay with animal textures it stops them becoming just domestic objects, they put up this façade of the traditional feminine with a new front.
When I came across Schiff’s Nightmare Bathroom while researching Womanhouse (1971-72) it was the use of sand that intrigued me because of the vulnerability it has with the body. It can be easily moved showing the areas of body that you weren’t meant to see but there is still this possibility that it could be moved.
The vulnerability of the person hiding their body away and the discomfort in the face of the women is something that I find I can relate to easily, almost like your not comfortable looking at your own body, wanting to hide it away so nobody can see it.
To me it conveys the message of being forced to look at ones body, the fear of what’s below the sand. It reminds me of when I use to be forced to confront my own body.
“Turning the tables is not the road to equality, nor will male brothels.” Barbara Rose 1974
This quote from Barbara Rose’s Vaginal Iconology (1974) explains what I think was wrong with Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro’s Womanhouse and their all women’s art program.
I don’t believe singling out women is the way to create equality but also men can be feminists who want to improve the lives of women also. I don’t believe anybody should be singled out for their sex, either way.
Though a feminist, she didn’t see her work as feminist propaganda, she thought that if her work was condemned feminist it would limit the meaning of her work, that people would only see it as sensual or suggestive of the female sexuality. Though she did make room for the feminist voice.
I still see organic human forms in her work, especially the one above and also some of her close ups of flowers.
What really inspires me about her work is that they weren’t meant to be seen as vulva, they weren’t purposefully painted like that, they let you come to that conclusion on your own. You are not forced into seeing the piece from a narrow perspective.
Within the book Feminist art theory’s sub category Sexuality and the Sexual Body a piece of writing by Barbara Rose called Vaginal Iconology caught my eye.
In second wave feminist political art the vagina within their works was propaganda for women’s rights – women are just as good as men.
Within art history the penis of the man was visible where as the vagina was always covered, this would make the man a more superior being. The vagina then became a symbol of strength for women – this is why I chose to use the vagina as a central point in my work. The work is not about the female genitalia, it is about female strength – showing the vagina rids Freud’s theory of penis envy – we are not missing out by not having a penis.
I use the image of a vagina in my work to symbolise the strength that I have as a women, but also that I should not have to conform to what a stereotypical woman should be or the beauty standards expected from a woman.