Cindy Sherman, untitled film still #34, photograph, 1979
In one of yesterday's posts I mentioned that I have noticed an overwhelming amount of female self portrait photography over the amount of male SP work. I did a little searching around and came across an essay written by Lydia Vasko. Titled "Feminist Art and the Self Portrait" it talks about a large movement from female artists that basically takes aim at the "patriarchal trajectory of the artistic canon".
you can find the full essay here.
or just read a few small, but significant passages below...
As a result, in the sixties and seventies, feminist artists began exploring representations of self in their art in response to the void in the traditional artistic canon where women should have been. Their creation of self portraiture was driven by the lack of acknowledgement women artists received and “bolstered by the belief that the personal is political, women artists sat down to create art that expressed their feelings as women artists in a man’s world, as women in a man’s world, and just as women” (Borzello 159). Many women of the time wanted to take control of the image of woman, of their roles as saints, sinners, and muse, as objects of paintings, and overturn traditional notions of male artist, female model (Borzello 159). No longer wanting to be portrayed as the object of the male gaze, feminist artists saw self-portraiture as “a way to keep control of their own representation” (Loewenberg 399).
A main concern of the period was “to reclaim the female body from its imprisonment in art as a beautiful, voiceless object to be judged by male spectators. One strategy was for women artists to use their own bodies in their performance, photo and video works, on the principle that as they were in control they could direct the viewer’s response” (Borzello 167). By placing herself in front of her camera, canvas, or theatre the artist was able to assert herself as a women artist, inserting herself into the greater canon of artists as well. This was a significant movement by female artists, both politically and artistically. The artists placement of ‘self’ is powerful in its ability to represent the ‘self’. It is through representation that the female artist can be seen in the public sphere not only as subject but as artist, thereby gaining agency and voice. By stepping in front of the artistic lens, the feminist artist was able to not only control the gaze fixated on her, but make a claim for recognition and power (Borzello 154). According to one art historian, this self-representation is one of the methods used by subjugated peoples to regain their voice.