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The Feminist art movement

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The Feminist art movement emerged in the late 1960s and flourished throughout the 1970s. During this period in history women were making huge strides in social issues such as protesting wars, supporting civil rights, and gay/lesbian movements. Women played a huge role in these movements, as they wanted equality for every individual regardless of sexual orientation and ethnicity. Women themselves wanted to gain the same rights as their men counterparts. In order to bring more visibility to the inequalities they faced, women demonstrated it through the concentration of art. Throughout history men were established in the art world, however women were tired of being ignored and mocked. They wanted to change this homogeneous society and make a name for themselves. Two important individuals and their art innovations paved the way for this new movement; this helped created and manifested the Feminist art movement.

The Feminist art movement was the idea of women artists shifting away from the Modernism art movement. In the Modernist movement, any art made by a woman was ultimately put into another class as men, seen as incomparable. Women were never challenged or seen on the same status as men. For centuries women were portrayed in artworks as a sexual icon, they were created for the male viewers. Women were usually constructed nude; their eyes were averted as they touch themselves sensually. They were oblivious that someone was painting or sculpting them. The acts presented in such paintings were usually seen as submissive as the male was the dominate icon. These historic characteristics in art continued to be the theme up until the 1940s-1950s. Even as late as the Pop art movement where women were seen in the form of perfect curls and dresses as they happily work in the kitchen, submissive for the dominate husband. With the Feminist art movement there was a shift away from perfection and submission. Nudity was embraced now as care-free action and the previous averted eyes were turned into a powerful gaze, challenging the viewer. Lastly, women were not seen as the viewer’s sensual object but rather as their own independent characters.

Feminism changed the art world, but it wasn’t an easy transition. Individuals of this art movement challenged galleries for not exhibiting woman’s art work. However, that didn’t stop them for becoming inventive and creating their own museums and galleries. Artist Judy Chicago was one of the most predominate activist for this movement, she established the Feminist art program at Cal State Fresno and she eventually helped create the Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Judy Chicago’s installation called The Dinner Party is one of the most well-known pieces in Feminist art movement history. The installation, The Dinner Party is comprised of a ceremonial banquet table. These tables are arranged in a triangular shape with thirty-nine place settings. Each place setting is used to represent the commemoration of important women from history. The settings consist of embroiled table runners, fine porcelain plates, and gold utensils. Below the tables is gold tiles, on those tiles are the names of 999 women that are also being honored, creating a total of 1038 women. The symbolic meaning behind this piece is to rediscover women as role models that have been previously lost in the past because the male voice has overpowered them.

History can help flourish the creation of artwork, the driving force is about engaging the attention of the public. In 1977, the city of Los Angeles was facing a mass murder, the Hillside Strangler. The serial killer strangled up to ten women and dumped their bodies on the side of roads. Fear aroused around the female population, leaving them to feel helpless. The media at this time was desensitized to the victims’ lives and rather focused on the randomness of the violent acts and the characteristics of the suspected murderer. Local artists Suzanne Lacy, Leslie Labowitz, and Bia Lowe took the opportunity to show these tragic events through the eyes of the Feminist art movement. The community joined together along with the families of the deceased victims to create the project In Mourning and In Rage. Sixty women all met at city hall where they knew that news media reporters waited. The women climbed the steps of city hall, on the bottom of the first step ten tall women dressed in red and black robes announced the different forms of violence against women that people often overlook. Together the women came together and shouted, “In memory of our sisters, we fight back!” The performed was covered by the press and changed the way women victims were portrayed in the media.

Overall the art installation and project mentioned above both contribute to the Feminist art movement. Any form of art can change peoples’ ideas and beliefs around the issues accumulating in society. History has always had an objectified sexual view towards woman in the art world and there was a lack of support for women artists. The Feminist art movement and all the individuals apart of it, has paved the way for equality and representation. This movement can still be seen today in 2018 with the culturally emerging hashtag #metoo.

The zeitgeist is the spirit or feeling that captures the essence of a people during a certain period. Every century has a zeitgeist, it can be found by looking back in history. However, there is always an internal clash with the negative and positive zeitgeists, such as war, poverty, and inequality. With that in mind the 20th century has proved to be a unique time period unlike the ones that preceded it. The west, America, is good at sensing the winds of change and adapting to them. Throughout the 20th century, America, and its history, politics, art and literature has served as a cultural zeitgeist, or the invisible force reflecting the social concerns, customs, struggles and triumphs over that time period.

During the turn of the century, there was a rise in industrial factories, early automobile use, electricity, and the expansion of city life. World War I wartime lead to an increase in democratic defense and nationalism. As an armistice was reached by warring nations, a new age was ushered in. With this cultural revolution change the roaring 20s were featured as a dramatic break from past traditions. The stock market was booming, and there were great strides in women’s suffrage; women gained the right to vote. However, the stock market crashed, and the great depression hit the west hard. This set up a decade of unprecedented unemployment, economic decline, and social/political instability. World War II became a big event in the first half of the decade, allies from the west conquered Germany and ended the war. Shortly after World War II ended, the Cold War began between the west and the Soviet Union used nuclear power and had a Space Race.

At the beginning of the century strong discrimination based on race and sexual orientation was evident through society. However, with the slave trade ending in the previous century, the fight for equality for non-white individuals started. Politics were also evolving as segregation finally ended in this century with the civil rights movement. People became more open-minded and didn’t listen to predetermined ideologies from the past. The taboo of sexism also fell when women were allowed the right to vote, and in the later part of the century attitudes toward homosexuality began to change to a more positive view.

The west as a culture was becoming homogenous through developments of technology and communication. The technology and scientific advances out beat all the other centuries combined. Scientists made strides in the medial field causing more fertility rates and curing simple diseases that previously killed people, thus creating a bigger, longer living population. With more people immigrating to the west, the population increased and so did the awareness of environmental degradation. Important resources dwindled along with the exploitation of fossil fuels to helped make transportation and machinery possible. However, concern about air pollution arose and people question the long-term impact to our ozone layer. The exploitation of land and resources resulted in ecological extinction, many of the world’s species declined in population or completely disappeared.

The art and literature of this century was unlike the ones before it. The art world experienced the development of new styles and explorations. Classical art was being challenged as in the beginning of the 20th century nationalism and imperialism spread. The artist wanted to express themselves through different means than the historic classical movement. The first 50 years of the century had many different art movements that, like trends didn’t last very long. These included Fauvism, Cubism, Dada, Surrealism, and Propaganda. The Fauvism movement was a shorter name for the Expressionist movement. The artists of this movement wanted to use bright vivid colors and emotional images and subjects to ultimately explore emotion in a way never used before. The Cubism movement wanted to create objects and items from different angles to break up and analyze things for what they truly were. The Dada movement was produced after WWI, the artist was angry and use this anger to manifest the abstract ‘anti-art’ that mocked classical and conventional artwork. The anger eventually faded and led into the Surrealism movement. This movement examined the human psyche, they often had ‘dream-like’ qualities. Once again, the west was involved in another war so with WWII the Propaganda movement came about. These were artworks with the subject matter than would motivate the country into supporting the war time efforts.

The last 50 years of the century had equally short but important art movements; these included Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Neo-Expressionism, and Performance Art. Abstract Expressionism is considered the birth of ‘modern art’, artists of this movement wanted the viewers to get their own unique meaning out of each work of art. A complete break away from Abstract Expressionism was the Pop art movement. Artists of this movement wanted to use their art to communicate with the viewer more effectively, such as an ad for a product. Neo-Expressionism wanted to bring back the strong emotions from the Dada movement. However rather than the anger the artist wanted to harvest that raw emotion and use it in the artworks so that the viewer would think deeply rather than be enraged. Lastly, at the tail end of the century the Performance art movement flourished. Art was used with technology such as through video games and moves.

Literature plays a huge role in showing the spirit of the century, what people were writing about is equally as important as what they were viewing in real life. The literature of the 20th century is broken down into two parts, Modernist and Postmodern. During the modernist literature movement many works centered around the protest of the nationalists that was believed to be the cause of the wars. However, some authors usually wrote patriotic works to support the moral of war. The postwar period is where the Postmodern literature movement evolved. The authors were now writing works on the self, or the identification of the human subject. People were constantly filled with fear, anger, or worry about the well fair of America. However, now that the wars are over people need to analyze their own personal feelings and emotions.

These important events in history show a trend of constant innovation and determination, the 20th century was one of the fastest evolving centuries with the most changes than the other centuries combined. The history, politics, art and literature combined show that there is not one zeitgeist, but rather one for each decade to make up the whole century. The zeitgeist is constantly changing as the emotions and spirt of the people were go through events. In the beginning of the century people felt a patriotic essence regardless of the wars they battled, the lives lost, and economy crash. They still supported their government. However, as decades progressed the spirit of the people changed. Not every person was treated equally, people wanted changed so they spoke out and were active in politics. The people of the previous centuries never fought against the social norms or what the government says is acceptable. Not only does the history and trends represent that but so does the art and literature. The people of this century were more open-minded, more environmentally and culturally aware. Spirit of the people were led by the curiosity to answer the questions that have never been answered before

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