Thursday, March 25, 2010

From Cindy Munsterman: The Portrayal of Beauty

#1During the 20th century when the beauty of a woman was reintroduced to art it angered many and made them hostile towards to the art. One reason for this was the feminist movement. Part of the civil rights movement was women’s right and the growth of feminists. “Feminists considered beauty a tool to keep women subservient

to men and competitive toward each other.” Feminists were fighting to be seen as equals. They saw the way women were being used in art to portray beauty as a cruel injustice to women relaying the message as men over women. Women were merely an object to look at. A British feminist named Angela Carter “dramatized the contradiction between female beauty and agency in her novel Shadow Dance.” In the novel she tells a story of men burning women’s faces with acid because they are too beautiful and has too much power. Steiner goes on to explain. “It was impossible to reinstate the female subject as a symbol of beauty while the misogyny of avant-garde aesthetics was in place. Although postmodernism had opened for decoration, the status of women’s rights did not allow the women to be a symbol of beauty.” Laura Mulvey pointed out in an article that “not only is the viewing of pornography an act of male supremacy, but a so is spectatorship at any film.” Women in movies and advertisements were not the image of real women. They were object for men to possess. A divide grew between real women and “beauty” of women. The portrayal of women was not showing what women really were and are, although, not all women saw the same problem with finding beauty in woman the same way. During civil rights different races were fighting to be treated equal as well. Even if the message behind “beauty” of woman was not correct it should be applied to all women. The picture of an ideal woman of beauty was always white, blonde hair, and blue eyes. Advertisements and films portrayed the message that to be beautiful was to be valued. Black feminist were not fighting society because of the stress of female beauty but instead the beauty does not have to be white. They wanted to be recognized for there beauty and value.

#2Women artist now change the way a women is portrayed in art. They now “occupy the role of artists in their own right. Often they set out to undo the damaging aesthetic history that preceded them.” They used themselves to portray a meaning, becoming a part of there artwork. One artist who particularly stood out to me is Cindy Sherman. She used herself in photographs depicting old film stills. Although the movie would be evident that she was portraying she would over exaggerate features showing the ugliness of the objectifying women. She also started using mannequins or fake body parts to lure people to her art; it was as if she was playing a prank on the viewers. The viewers excited by the thought of seeing artwork with nudity and then realized they were looking at plastic artificial limbs. Cindy Sherman was not portraying the body or nudity as beauty, she “denounces the image of beauty she inherited and the grotesquerie of fetishized woman.” Women artists began to use their art to show the pressure and hypocrisy of “beauty” of women. Marina Abramovic went as far as using herself to portray the “masochism of the feminine masquerade.” She preformed repeating the lines “Art Must Be Beautiful; Artists Must Be Beautiful” while she groomed herself with a steel brush and comb. This was painful for her and to watch but drove the meaning in very effectively. She became part of the work putting all of her into it. Steiner describes this as “A woman who makes art also makes herself in the process, for woman is still an archetypal symbol of beauty in art.”

#3 This next example explains how Steiner sees the idea that beauty is a type of communication rather then a property of objects. Political or other meanings can be communicated through the beauty of an image. Danto says, “That every beautiful work can be viewed as an allegory of political well-being and disharmonic work as an allegory of social pathology.” Art work that is beautiful is also saying something. Danto uses Robert Motherwell’s work as an example. He portrays his work as “they were incontestable beautiful and also had an undeniably political content.” He communicates by using his artwork to portray a message. The beauty of the artwork does not surpass the meaning but instead they coexist. Steiner explains it by saying, “Beauty is either harmonious or symbolic of social peace and stability, or it is a mitigation of death and loss.” No matter what the artwork is portraying it is communicating something to the audience.

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