Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The F word

Today I'd like to discuss my feelings about the F word. No, not that F word…
FEMINISM.

It was brought to my attention last week, (thanks Melanie) that on October 30th I was featured on a blog called feministing.com - coincidentally you may notice it is listed in my blog roll and one I happen to enjoy reading quite often. When I first heard I was featured, my initial reaction was excitement… 'Really?! Awesome!' Followed by a growing pit in my stomach as I was informed of the blogs, shall we say, less than flattering critique of my work.

There are many blogs out there that talk about my jewelry. Googling my name brings up a vast assortment in fact. I tend to ignore most of the ones that randomly feature my work for shock value as they rarely warrant a response or reaction from my end. This time was different however, this time it was personal. I knew I needed to respond. I felt upset and confused; like a school girl suddenly rejected by her friends for no reason. A cause I had felt so aligned with my entire life - FEMINISM - was condemning me!?

I spent the next five days revisiting my feelings about what it means to be a feminist, to me personally as well as in reference to my work. I wanted to respond without the sort of reactionary, "knee jerk," angry motivation with which the blogger regarded my work. I enjoy mulling things over, looking at things from different angles, it's my way. Yet even after so much consideration, I still feel like I can't possibly cover all I would want to in regards to this topic.

It's good to have an initial reaction to an artist's work, that's what we as artists' strive for after all, right? SOME reaction! To generate a feeling from the viewer. To connect visually. It's also good to dig a little deeper sometimes, and explore why a certain piece makes you feel ______ [insert emotion here] particularly when it is a strong reaction, as it so obviously was for Samhita, the blogger who wrote the post. I consider myself to be a very open-minded person and I appreciate a solid debate. I don't want to say Samhita isn't entitled to her opinions, just that I don't feel she spent enough time truly thinking about my work to warrant a review on feministing. Of course not everyone has to like my art jewelry, but doesn't it at least deserve a shred of examination prior to condemning it as simply 'Another Example of the Objectification of Women?' People are all too often quick to point the finger without proper research into intention.

My sense is that perhaps Samhita has very little experience with the process of evaluating art and what it is to critique. Her brief, bashing commentary was little more than one-dimensional, short sighted, uninformed criticism and frankly an example of poor journalism coming from an otherwise reputable blog. Thankfully some kind reader promptly posted my name and artist statement in the comments following Samhita's review - which did not even bother to mention my name. Again, responsible, respectful journalism?

Particularly insulting however, was the likening of my work to the men's urinals that have been featured many times on feministing. (WARNING: before you click that link, the image actually IS offensive and certainly not what I consider art.)

In spending some time with the idea of "dismembered" bodies in Art, I've found it's not a concept I'm personally appalled by, in fact I'm rather attracted by it (as evidenced in: this post, this, this, this and this …all favorites of mine) Admittedly, the reason behind the draw for me is something that warrants more exploration on my part. Commenter "Djiril" put it this way:
"The thing about dismembered women being common pop-culture and serious art is interesting, and I think it merits more exploration. I also think we should try to find out more about the different reasons why all these artists, feminists and non-feminists alike, choose to portray dismembered women in their art, before giving a blanket condemnation of this trend."
The many, MANY, thoughtful, intelligent comments in response to the blogger's post redeemed a sense of 'feminist community' for me personally. Comments from total strangers who actually took the time to look at my work with a little insight. It was also good to know there were people who "got it" and were capable of seeing my intentions. It wasn't 'feminism' rejecting me after all, it was just the opinion of one individual with the power to shed an unflattering light on seven years of my work through an enormously popular blog.

Comments from the post that I particularly appreciated came from: Tina, lizadilly, and vicSin. Melanie, the woman who originally brought the post to my attention, wrote her own reaction on her blog which is also really great. You can check it out here.

There are many varying degrees of feminism, and not everyone will agree about everything. I enjoy these subtleties. The feminism I personally subscribe to is one that honors shades of gray. Not everything can be black and white. Not art, not life, not feminism.

8 comments:

Jessica said...

Margaux, this is Jessica from Feministing. Just wanted to say thanks for your thoughtful post and let you know that I sent it on to Samhita.

Stef said...

I think your work is provocative, beautiful, and disturbing. Bravo!

Stef said...

Oops...probably should have said "Brava" - sorry. ;-)

Margaux said...

Thanks for reading Jessica, I enjoyed your spotlight on WAMC's 51% by the way, and I look forward to reading your book.

Bronwen said...

LOL look at all the attention your site is getting!
I have to admit these things don't bother me. Most of the dismembered bits i can find the equivalent in male. I find them amusing, juvenile maybe but hey.

BlondeSense Liz said...

First time commenter here who loves to dismember or dismantle things for art's sake. How fun is that?

Margaux, I have been a fan of your work from afar (even though I live on the same island as you do) and absolutely love the wonderful things you have done with fashion dolls, the fine attention to detail, your sense of whimsy and interesting sense of humor. The quality of your work is excellent as well.

I'm an artist myself and majored in it in college, so I can talk.

Even though someone found your work very disturbing without bothering to find out more about your intentions before writing about it, (which is something you'lll have to get used to once you are out there) you have to admit that those who either love your work or hate it, are your best audience because it shows that you moved them. That's what it's all about. Say anything you like... just spell my name and URL correctly.

As far as feminism goes, we are all feminists in one way or another. There is no rule book. What artist goes by the rules and is famous?

Anna R. said...

I saw the post on feministing the other day and got so angry i closed the browser. As an artist, feminist, woman, and someone with a degree in woman's studies, I think your jewelry is wonderful.
If we (feminists, women, whomever) want to be taken seriously we have to be willing to do our homework and assess things from more than our own viewpoint, and for more than two seconds. We also need to maintain our sense or irony, humor, and passion for free expression. Props to you for being a woman with her own artistic vision.

Corey said...

Hi Margaux,

I'm late in getting to this thread, but I have to comment.

What your work does is something that I feel my work with toothbrushes and disposable razors does, and in your case, I think it absolutely does serve the cause of Barbie-hating (or at least Barbie-suspicious) people.

Your work isolates the decorative and jewel-like qualities of Barbie dolls and in so doing, makes the viewer aware of how strange and unrealistic the perfection is. If anything, your work makes Barbie more suspect as a icon of female perfection.

If a feminist (or anyone) wants to say that your work simply depicts the dismemberment of women, then they clearly have not made the mental leap to understanding that Barbie does not now, nor has she ever accurately represented the female race!