My Sewing: Feminist Art And "female" Hobbies

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My Sewing: Feminist Art And "female" Hobbies
My Sewing: Feminist Art And "female" Hobbies

Video: My Sewing: Feminist Art And "female" Hobbies

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FEMINIST ART, AS AND DIRECTIONS OF FEMINISM, heterogeneous and diverse. It is believed that it appeared in the 1960s: unlike "female art" (in general, everything that was created by women and concerns conventionally "female" topics, for example, motherhood and corporality), feminists were aware of their special female experience, had an idea of ​​the patriarchal system and tried to convey this in their works.

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↑ Anna Anker, The Fisherman's Wife Sewing, 1890

No matter how much we love the Russian avant-garde women of the early 20th century, Vera Mukhina and the artists who worked in the "male" genres of abstract expressionism or monumental sculpture, their art cannot be considered feminist. Building their careers according to the "male" scheme and entering into competition in the art market, these artists, in fact, accepted the existing rules of the game. Our contemporaries put themselves in the same conditions, denying their "femininity" and declaring that discrimination in the art world and beyond it does not exist - it is they who often treat feminitives painfully and demand that they be called artists, not artists, that is even in the language they did not make a "correction for gender."

It is all the more interesting to study the methods that feminist artists were the first to use: their art has had a huge impact on the entire modern culture, and techniques that once seemed revolutionary have entered the usual arsenal of artists and political activists. In the 60s, the first feminist artists realized that new forms were needed for the subjects they wanted to talk about, and put away brushes, paints and clay until better times. In all forms of "high" art, one way or another, there was a male gaze - which means that they were clearly not suitable for artists who were trying with all their might to get rid of the shackles of the dominant culture.

Some of the artists took a revolutionary path, choosing the newest and most provocative forms for their ideas: actions, performances, video art. Vali Export shocked the audience by inviting passers-by to touch her breasts during the performance "Tactile Movie" or walking through the aisles of the cinema with naked genitals, Yoko Ono allowed the audience to cut all of her clothes into pieces, and Hannah Wilke pasted over her body with chewing gum chewed by the visitors of the exhibition. These women acted as if they were the first artists in history. They expressed their bold statements about sexuality and social problems in extraordinary forms that did not fit into the system of "high" and "low" genres that had existed since the Enlightenment. Artists deliberately destroyed all existing ideas about art.

Over the centuries, women had their own subcultural art, which the patriarchal system pushed into the background

But among feminist artists there were also those who believed that special female art is not born here and now, but has existed for a long time - just like other achievements of women, they simply did not pay attention to it. Researchers of "women's history" found out that over the centuries women had their own subcultural art, which the patriarchal system pushed into the background - traditional handicrafts. We are talking about forms of self-expression excluded by "high art": weaving, embroidery, knitting, sewing, decor and other types of needlework, as well as keeping diaries and albums. These typically female (as opposed to craft) occupations are still treated with condescension: the word “handicraft” is associated with cats, ruffles and homemade crafts, and the names of most thematic sites and publics (for example, “Cozy decor and needlework” or “Casket ideas for the home”) clearly allude to the patriarchal ideas about the woman-coastal, caring for the hearth.

It is all the more striking that the artists of the 1960s and 1970s saw and developed feminist potential in traditional women's hobbies. Sensitive to all oppressed groups, contemporaries of the sexual revolution decided to unleash the energy of their anonymous predecessors and show what powerful messages can carry "low" forms of creativity.

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↑ Jackie Winsor, Furniture Plywood, 1973

The foundation for the rehabilitation of handicrafts had already been partially built - in this was the participation of supporters and supporters of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which arose in Victorian England as a reaction to industrialization and the replacement of "living" manual labor with machines. The value of needlework has been repeatedly confirmed in crisis situations: the ability to create objects necessary for life and sew clothes with your own hands was very useful during the economic decline of the 1930s, during the war and post-war times. However, artists from the 1960s and 1970s showed that patchwork or knitting can not only help replenish a wardrobe in times of scarcity, but also express the strong emotions and personality of women.

The work of the minimalist Jackie Winsor clearly differed from the works of the minimalist men in technique and materials: Winsor worked by hand with wood, woolen threads and scraps of fabric, wrapping geometric skeletons in them. The work invested in them gives additional meaning to these works: looking at the "Nail Piece" - a board into which several thousand nails are driven, the viewer gradually realizes that the artist devoted many hours to creating this object.

The deliberate laboriousness of works of feminist art is an allusion to the vain manual labor of modern women and their predecessors, which is devalued by the patriarchal system. This emphasized monotony is also present in the works of "pattern draftsmen" - a female direction in abstract art, whose representatives created delicate ornaments with many details. These include the American Harmony Hammond, who made four series of abstract objects in the early 1970s using fabrics, upholstery and carpet weaving techniques. She later organized the first exhibition of lesbian and LGBT artists in the United States.

Making handmade works of art is also a kind of ritual that helps you free yourself and feel stronger

The meditative, long process of creating handmade works of art is also a kind of ritual that helps to free yourself and feel stronger. It is not for nothing that knitting is recommended as a relaxation technique, and needlework classes help both hyperactive children and adults struggling with mental illness or experiencing loss. It takes a lot of time to comprehend their experience and neutralize the influence of patriarchy, like any dark spell - and feminist artists went through this process, making stitch by stitch.

Louise Bourgeois worked with traditional "feminine" techniques to create her humanoid textile objects, and she often used sewing and handicraft imagery to depict her relationship with her mother, who was a professional weaver. The famous British conceptualist Tracey Emin used patchwork and embroidery to create her provocative works - she created patchwork diaries on which she addressed her former lovers and shared intimate thoughts about her body, relationships, sex, friendship and politics. The most famous work of Emin in this technique is “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995” - a tent, the entire inside of which is embroidered with the names of people with whom the artist slept (not only had sex, but also simply slept next to it - there is also a name her grandmother).

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↑ Tracy Emin, Everyone I Slept With From 1963 To 1995, 1995

Techniques rediscovered by artists of the 60s and 70s are being used by our contemporaries with might and main: for example, the Egyptian-born artist Gada Amer embroiders images of masturbating figures on huge canvases, glorifying female sexuality. And the Russian woman Dunya Zakharova creates abstract forms and anthropomorphic pink creatures from fabric, depicting her inner world.The famous Russian artists Gluklya and Tsaplya, united in the group "Factory of Found Clothes", embroider feminist slogans on dresses: from ironic allusions to the intellectual competence of women like "I get up at six in the morning and read Hegel" to direct political statements - "A thief should sit in prison ".

Working with handicrafts, feminists have revealed the real superpower of this genre: its humanity and ability to carefully approach acute social problems, helping the victims of an unjust world order to preserve their dignity. Along with bellicose calls to tackle gender inequality, feminist artists with an interest in handicraft have a sincere concern and respect for the feelings of others. This is evident in conceptual projects, such as in Hannah Strifkerk's work "To Take Care", which knitted covers for stones that freeze on the seashore, and in social projects. A strong example of this is the project "Adorn, Equip" by Freddie Robins, the author of many knitted objects in the spirit of Louise Bourgeois. The artist has designed and knitted life-affirming sweaters for people without limbs that lift the mood of their wearers and at the same time carry an important message.

Working with handicrafts, feminists have uncovered the true superpower of this genre: its humanity

In the 1980s, Judith Barry and other researchers criticized female artists for their subculture - they seemed to go into the "female world", avoiding confrontation with men in the field of traditional art and putting the personal above the political. Today, feminist needlewomen can hardly be blamed for this: such artists as the polka Olek, whose project "Pink House" we wrote about, speak out vividly about the most pressing social issues: the problems of refugees, LGBT people, poverty and racism, and embroidery and knitting have spread far beyond feminist art. Yarn bombing, or street knitting, has grown into a genre of street art for men and women alike: unabashed artists invade public spaces with hooks and needles at the ready, covering park benches, trees and sculptures with knitted patterns. A seemingly frivolous technique can help make important statements, such as opposing war and violence by “disarming” a tank with a sheath of bright pink wool, or raising awareness of environmental issues by creating a life-size crochet model of a coral reef.

Feminists were the first to realize that handicraft techniques are much more than painting or performance, suitable for showing solidarity. Artists work with friends, willingly share knowledge and learn from each other, support other women and provide jobs, inviting everyone to take part in collective projects. In the middle of the 2000s, the artist Betsy Greer formulated the main principles of craftivism - a creative direction in which needlework is combined with activism. Influenced by craftivism and the third wave of feminism, “girly” forms of creativity flourished on Tumblr and other social networks: collages, sequin appliques, embroidery of bold slogans with a cross, knitting, homemade posters, jewelry, cards and badges - with which girls and women express themselves and become more confident in their abilities.

For fifty years, women have forced the world of "high art" to admit that embroidery, knitting and beading are no less important art forms than painting and sculpture, and needlework is a fascinating and shameful occupation for a person of any age and social status. Perhaps the main charm of needlework art techniques is that they are available to everyone and everyone: you can even today take an embroidery canvas, wool, sequins or old magazines and scissors and create your own work of art.Maybe you don't want to hang it in the gallery, but a self-embroidered inspirational inscription or a funny collage will definitely cheer you up and help you feel a little stronger.

Photos: Wikipedia, Tracey Emin Studio, MoMA, Osnova Gallery, cover image - Dunya Zakharova - "Extinct Species"

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