For the most part, women artists are best known for producing artworks with feminist themes because majority use their form of fine art to express sentiments regarding issues that mostly affect women. In truth, their actions in contemporary society are merely an extension of the practice to use fine art to comment on contentious social issues that affect women the most since the era of the Civil Rights movement in America. For instance, Cindy Sherman’s photographs are renowned for captioning the emergence of the empowered, independent woman in the 1960s through bold fashion statements such as miniskirts and other forms of expression that affirmed women taking ownership over their bodies. However, contemporary female artists comment on contentious social issues in their works by affirming their individual, cultural, or social identities along with collective female identities thus highlighting the contrasting contentious issues they experience relative to their sociocultural backgrounds. Indeed, even though majority use themselves as subjects in their works, those from ethnic and racial minorities focus on cultural and social identities while those from mainstream society focus on individual identities. To illustrate this point, this paper reviews the works of Yoko Ono, Yasmine Diaz, Rikki Wright, Andrea Mary Marshall, and Laura Collins.
Despite having gained international fame for being the wife of the Late John Lennnon of the Beatles until his untimely death in 1980, Yoko Ono grew into her own as a celebrity through her art. She uses provocative live performance art pieces to convey her views on gender equality. For instance, her “Cut Piece” (1964) is a live performance piece that involved the audience with Ono subjecting herself to shameful degradation to mimic the racial discrimination and gender inequality she endured as an Asian woman. While kneeling before a pair of scissors on stage, Ono invited some audience members to cut off pieces of her costume to her discretion (Yoshimoto 290). Due to her advanced age, however, live performances are no longer her forte but she remains a vibrant voice in the Asian art community.
Comparatively, Yasmine Diaz is multimedia artist of Yemen heritage. She uses different mediums to highlight intricate tensions between religion, culture, and gender (Munro). She uses her personal archives and outsourced images to create her compositions thus making them very personal in appearance whenever she uses herself as the subject. For instance, one of her latest installations, Dirty Laundry (ca.2019), can best be described as an open house exhibition of the artist’s home in which she simply presents her home to the viewer complete with essential furniture such as her bed, a carpet decorated with Arabic calligraphy, a mirror, and a childhood picture of the artist with Arabic calligraphy written across her face. Diaz argues that the installation is a critique of adolescence religion, gender, and third-culture identity through a lens of a U. S. born Yemeni-American girl.
Like Yoko Ono and Yasmine Diaz, Rikki Wright is from an ethnic minority background. However, she specializes in photography and videography as her preferred media to convey the black female experience in a soft-focus and sensual manner that make her black female subjects, usually herself, appear powerful and romantic. Primarily, Wright juxtaposes images of her black female subjects in soft focus against bright natural backgrounds to convey the natural beauty of black women. Moreover, the artist argues that her works are not meant to celebrate black women’s natural beauty exclusively but also to compel the viewer to reflect on the resonating experiences between their respective lives and that of the soft-focus subjects thereby extending the notion that all human experiences are comparatively similar thus making race, ethnicity, and other social constructs used to separate or discriminate against people irrational in contemporary society.
Unlike Ono, Diaz, and Wright, Andrea Mary Marshall, and Laura Collins are Caucasian female artists who also use themselves as subjects in their works but focus on self-expressive works such as self-portraitures to promote self-reflection. For instance, Marshall is a skilled painter, mixed media artist, photographer, and model thus uses herself often as the subject such as in her Andrea Mary Marshall (ca.2015, ca.2016) photographs that depict her wearing makeup while drooling a white creamy substance onto herself in the 2015 photograph and her without makeup in the 2016 photograph.
Comparatively, Laura Collins is a pop artist who develops subjects and settings that highlight the absurdities of contemporary society within humorous subject matters. Consequently, Collins refers to her works as impressionistic pop paintings. For instance, her Anna Wintour double crossing her legs (ca.2018) depicts Wintour’s habit of crossing her legs in different settings. Even though the paintings flatter the fashion icon by celebrating her presence at different occasions of repute, the manner in which Collins portrayed her is very unflattering because of the exaggeratedly twisted positions of her legs.
Munro, Cait. 15 Of Our Favorite Contemporary Artists Get Real About Making It In The Art World. Discover. Refinery29.com. 8 August 2019. Web. 4 December 2019.
Yoshimoto, Midori. “Women & Fluxus: Toward a feminist archive of Fluxus.” Women & Performance: A journal of feminist theory. 19.3 (2009): 287-293. Print.
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