Tuesday, March 20, 2007

East and West

On my way to work, it becomes apparent that the cultural divide between east and west grows daily even though the world is becoming smaller. Over the past few months I have been exposed to perspectives from many women from many different social backgrounds. If I had not been shown through art that there are kindred spirits even in cultures so extreme from mine, then the divisions between women of color or women of a different god or women of a
            different political party could have been frighteningly
erected through my whole internal system. The great divide, separating me from like-minded women, could have been fully operational even without me being aware of it at first. Just because of cultural differences, which we associate with an enemy.
That said, I have been moved by two women with such unique styles and visual voices yet
            both brought up with strong Islamic influence.
They both address our complex modern issues and taboos as women who are a product of
            the west as well as the east.
Shirin Neshat arrests your heart with her photo series "Women of Allah" where exposed
            skin is covered in Farsi. Text by other Iranian female
            writers, who cover the topic of female sexuality, is what is
            written on the body of each woman in her arresting
            photographs.
Just a needle and thread is all Ghada Amer needs to shock and titillate, free you from
            your troubles, and pull you into her world where you
            cannot help but be aroused. Aroused no different than a
            man can be with a female erotic object. Do you walk away
            empowered by an expression of sexual feminism or do you
            walk away having to come to terms with the picture of
            women as erotic sexual objects as desirable? Herein lies the
            massive difference between cheap thrill girly mags and art
            with sex as subject. You cannot escape the effectiveness
            that "toying with control" has, which some of these
            women artists are addressing, as they tackle the
            multifaceted subject of female sexuality. In the case of
            Ghada Amer the viewer is agreeing to take part in viewing
            women as erotic objects because her technique screams "a
            modern chick can still knit" as you the viewer drinks in
            these poses of pornographic women, poses that you will
            find on a man's sex for sale wish list.
There are installations that come and go without me calling up friends and telling them.
"This is something you have to see." But I was curious on how some of my friends would
            react as more women's art on this topic arrives for the
            opening next week.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Arguing with people is a waste of precious time. Fine you can be right if that's what you need to be. I'm off. Usually I go to this private gallery where I work right now. Surrounded by art all day takes me to places that I have never seen. All works of art start as potential. Similarly, all relationships start as potential. When I meet a person I try and see not their mask, with it's
             defences, but what's underneath. I get accused of refusing
             to acknowledge who a person is choosing to be right now.
             When that person is arrogant or rude or selfish then my
             friends say, "Clyde!!!!!! THIS is what this LOSER is
             about." But I say, hold on people..... this is only what this
             person THINKS they are about. Some of my friends, I
             know this for a fact, see this quality as a weakness.... a
             na├»ve approach to life. But you see I don't think it is sound
             judgement to close the window for change to anybody. So
             this so called Loser person is confused. But if no one sees
             their potential then they may not ever see it themselves and
             that would be tragic.

I can get lost in a picture and found again. After a painting has revealed its secrets to me, I am a
             woman changed forever.
The coveted job of working on the project "Women Artists: Late 20th and Early 21st Century" has kept me busy over the last many months. Featuring Minimal Art, Op Art, Performance Art, Media Art and Interactive Installations, and Artisan Handicraft to name but a few.
Although I have had the opportunity to work on women's installations in the past, the exposure I have had to the vision of these women has shaken me from slumber.
Paper strips coated with wax transparently hang.... covering a huge space and stops me in my
             tracks. The drawings of
trains, a chain link fence, a cityscape rendered with precision. The order of Toba Khedoori calms
             me.
The merging of cultures in the paintings by Mona Marsouk brings together the future and the past the east and the west that proves there can be a synthesis of the global dilemma that we have to wake up to and face daily.

The love I have for art was bred in me by my grandmother, affectionately known as Gran. Her
             father had taught her how to
look at art being an art critic himself and encouraged her study in painting. He of all people understood the plight of women painters. He would always take her to watch painters create and encourage her to take out her sketchpad that she carried everywhere. By the end of a workday he would come back and pick her up after she had been the mascot of that particular artist's studio for the day. This is how she really developed her stunning technique, by allowing the masters to tell her their secrets. Because this was before the second world war, Paris was teeming with painters and sculptors.... most of whom my grandfather got on with famously.
So the story goes, his uncle had been teaching at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture
             until the wave of the impressionists divided the art world in
             France in the nineteenth century.
Apparently his allegiance to the new movement of Impressionism alienated him from many of his colleagues. Uncle Claude, as Gran would call him, secured a position eventually at the Salon des Independents which was established in 1884. He lived to embrace PostImpressionism
             and Symbolism. Lots of isms...
Since that time someone in the family has been involved in the growth of independent galleries
             throughout France.
A cousin of mine outside of Paris has most of Gran's work saved for the generations to come. A thought of Gran and her other female contemporaries enters my mind when I am surrounded by modern women artists. The struggles that these women endured remind me of how far the woman's art movement has come and how far it still has to go. When I think of Lizzie Sidel in her struggle to be recognized as an artist in the mid to late 19th Century, it reminds me of the inequalities that women painters and sculptors have had to endure. The wealth now of art from women has not solely been shaped by the desires of men but from a back catalogue of women artists of the past. Women expressing and reacting to different emotions being liberated even indirectly by WW II were artists the likes of Leonora Carrington, Meret
             Oppenheim, Ithell Colquhoun, Toyen [Marie Cerminova],
             Tamara de Lempicka to name but a few.
These women among others gave the world a new way of defining female sexuality.
I can see the inspiration that these artists have had on some of even the most controversial female artists that are in the present exhibition that is about ready to open. Soon now, very soon
             now. Every breath of mine is devoted to this opening.
The museum has had all kinds of threats from different religious groups, (too many to name) from just pure ignorance. One of my best friends dropped by and security called me down. As I let
             her in past the protesters she exclaimed in disbelief,
             "Clyde, Dahling, can you imagine me, ME wanting an
             invite to the museum, But HONEY, this is the bomb."
             Nonononononononononono just rushed out of my mouth
             louder than I intended, but security backed off as I pulled
             my friend away whispering, "Just don't say the word
             bomb."