Tag Archives: sculpture

Female Gaze Friday: Anya Lsk

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week we’ll take a look at collage by Anya Lsk:

Anya Lsk, Untitled, 2013, collage

Anya Lsk, Untitled, 2013, collage

Anya Lsk, Untitled, 2012, collage

Anya Lsk, Untitled, 2012, collage

Russian artist Anya Lsk’s collages beautifully connect the nude male form with other images. Her first piece references Laocoön and His Sons, an ancient Roman marble sculpture that depicts the plight of Trojan priest Laocoön. Poseidon sent sea serpents to strangle the priest and his sons in order to prevent Laocoön from exposing the Trojan horse ruse. This sculpture is a very influential piece. Following its discovery in the Renaissance Italian sculptors artists as renowned as Michelangelo and Titian created works referencing the piece. You can read more about the history of Laocoön and His Sons here.

Laocoön and His Sons, c. 25 BC, marble

Laocoön and His Sons, c. 25 BC, marble

The sculpture was considered a beautiful piece that masterfully portrayed the male figure. Lsk continues this tradition by incorporating Laocoön into a photograph of two partially nude men wrestling. The photograph and the sculpture both display the male form in tense, sensual poses.

You can see more of Anya Lsk’s collages (and photographs) here.

Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Take a look at our previous Female Gaze Friday: Jen Mann’s Cotton Candy and Sway.

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In This Case: Highlighting Women Sculptors

In This Case: Highlighting Women Sculptors

My fellow summer intern, Emilie Reed, wrote a great blog post on women sculptors in the American Art Museum’s Luce Center. The Luce Center is an on-site, visible storage facility that contains more than 3000 works from the museum’s permanent collection, quadrupling the number of objects on view! There are a number of incredible women artists in the collection including Louise Nevelson, Bessie Stough Callender, Yuriko Yamaguchi, and more. Click over to learn more about these American women sculptors.

Bessie Stough Callender, Antelope, 1929, black belgian marble, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Bessie Stough Callender, Antelope, 1929, black belgian marble, 16″x12″x24″, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Yuriko Yamaguchi, Reach Out #3, 1989, natural, stained and painted wood, 34"x72.5"x 3", Smithsonian American Art Museum

Yuriko Yamaguchi, Reach Out #3, 1989, natural, stained and painted wood, 34″x72.5″x 3″, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Louise Nevelson, Night Leaf, 1969, plexiglas, 12.75"x12.75"x2.25", Smithsonian American Art Museum

Louise Nevelson, Night Leaf, 1969, plexiglas, 12.75″x12.75″x2.25″, Smithsonian American Art Museum

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Female Gaze Friday: Nancy Grossman’s “Male Figure”

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week’s image is Male Figure by Nancy Grossman:

Nancy Grossman, Male Figure, 1971, wood, leather, and metal, 68 inches high, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, gift of Joseph H. Hazen, New York, to the American Friends of the Israel Museum

Nancy Grossman, Male Figure, 1971, wood, leather, and metal, 68 inches high, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, gift of Joseph H. Hazen, New York, to the American Friends of the Israel Museum

Grossman is well-known for her 1960s sculptures of heads covered with bondage gear. Although her figures present as male, at times she refers to them as self portraits which lends an interesting twist to the gendering of her work. You can learn more about Grossman and see more of her art here.

Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Check out our previous Female Gaze Friday: Isabel Rocamora

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Smithsonian American Art Museum: Art Charades!

In case any of you were wondering, this is what I do at my internship:

Clark Mills, John C. Calhoun, about 1844-1845

Clark Mills, John C. Calhoun, about 1844-1845

It’s Art Charades! The Smithsonian American Art Museum staff and interns took an afternoon to run around and pose like works of art in the collection. Some of us brought props, others just brought smiling (or grumpy!) faces. It was a blast and we got some great photos.

You can do it to! I’d encourage you to take a look at the entire image set on the museum’s flickr, and then come in and take some photos of your own. Photography is allowed in the permanent galleries and the Luce Foundation Center; feel free to ask a security guard if you’re unsure.

Here are a few more photos form art charades:

William Rimmer, The Falling Gladiator, 1861

William Rimmer, The Falling Gladiator, 1861

Continue reading

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Women in (Patriotic) Art: Mimi Herbert

Happy Fourth of July! Check out some American flag sculptures by Mimi Herbert:

Mimi Herbert, Folded Flag #2, 2001

Mimi Herbert, Folded Flag #2, 2001

Herbert is an American artist well known for her “Flags & Folds” series. Her silkscreen formed acrylic sculptures of American flags reflect a sense of the artist’s patriotism as a first generation American citizen. With work in the permanent collections of renowned American museums such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Renwick Gallery, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art Herbert is recognized as an important contemporary American artist. Continue reading

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Sexual Control of Women in Bernini’s Rome

I’ve been inspired by a weekend trip to Rome (Che bella! I would have loved to study abroad there, not that Florence isn’t wonderful!) to finally post a paper on Bernini’s depiction of women in sculpture and how his work reflects Counter-Reformation ideas of sexual control. But first! I’d like to suggest picking up the book, Bernini’s Beloved: a Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini by Sarah McPhee. It’s a very enjoyable read, and not at all difficult to get through. Much of my paper (at least the information on the Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini) grew from McPhee’s research. Enjoy!

As a tool used to promote the Catholic Church’s political power, Counter-Reformation artwork often contained messages condoning the sexual control of women. This is particularly evident in the sculptural work of Gianlorenzo Bernini. By examining the context of Bernini’s Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini and comparing with his bust of Medusa, one can conclude many Roman Baroque artworks not only accepted but enforced male control of female sexuality.

Pope Paul V is tentatively quoted as saying, “Pictoribus, atque Poetis, omnia licent; we must put up with these great men because that excess of spirit which makes them great is the same that leads them to this strange behaviour”.[1] While it is uncertain if the Pope truly spoke these words, it is certainly the attitude the papacy adopted a few decades later in regards to Bernini. A quick summary of events: Bernini—in the height of his career—fell in love or in lust with Costanza Piccolomini, the wife of one of his workers, carried out a passionate affair, then became enraged and slashed her face upon discovering her possible liaison with his own brother. These events, while clearly deplorable, can possibly be understood by today’s historians as the actions of an emotionally and mentally unstable individual. What cannot be explained is the response by the Catholic Church, namely, the forthcoming punishment for Costanza (who shall be referred to by her first name due to uncertainty regarding usage of her last) and the lack of punishment for Bernini.[2]

Bernini, Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini, 1636-37

Bernini, Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini, 1636-37

Costanza was punished for going against contemporary morals—which in Baroque Rome and the Counter Reformation formed the basis of most laws. Seventeenth century Romans followed the concept of honestà, the idea that women were under the surveillance of the community. As a result, following Bernini’s attack, Costanza was incarcerated despite her husband’s (Matteo Bonucelli) seeming indifference toward her behavior. Costanza was likely reported for adultery or some form of impropriety by her neighbors, her surgeon following the attack, or any number of members of the community. She was confined within the Monasterio di Casa Pia, an institution for disgraced or at risk women. For adulterous women like Costanza, it was expected their husband would either excuse their infidelity within two years or abandon them to a nunnery. The Governatore of Rome, Giovanni Battista Spada, was responsible for the sentencing, a fact Costanza was not initially privy to. While she was eventually released to her husband following her personal plea to the Governatore, Costanza had already been subjected to four months of illness due to a lack of food and health care.[3]

It is telling that Costanza’s punishment was the result of a male government official’s disapproval, and that she had been shielded from such punishment for years by the very same affair she was now facing punishment for. It is a testament to Bernini’s pull within the Catholic Church as well as to the selective enforcement of such laws. Costanza and Bernini’s adulterous affair was publically known and possibly encouraged by her husband Matteo for the advancement of his own career (lending wives to a superior was not unheard of). Costanza was only punished once her adultery was no longer beneficial to Bernini. Continue reading

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Félicie de Fauveau’s Memorial to her Mother in the Cloister of Santa Maria del Carmine

Félicie de Fauveau's Memorial to her Mother in the Cloister of Santa Maria del Carmine

A week ago I visited Florence’s Santa Maria del Carmine to visit the beautiful Brancacci Chapel and was excited to see Félicie’s burial monument to her mother, Madame Anne De Fauveau. You can read more about the monument and its restoration here and read more about Félicie de Fauveau’s sculpture here.

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Women in Art: Félicie de Fauveau

A Tuscan-born artist who worked in both Florence and France, Félicie de Fauveau was a sculptor, political activist, and defier of early 19th century social norms. Following financial ruin, the Fauveau family left Tuscany and returned to France where Félicie was to become a high society sculptor. Under the court of the Bourbon Monarchy and, specifically, the salon of the Duchesse de Berry, Félicie was able to thrive in creating work with a neo-Gothic/neo-Renaissance type of style that frequently utilized Catholic iconography. Félicie was a staunch supporter of the Bourbon Monarchy, and was arrested as part of a royalist insurrection led by de Berry. Upon being released from prison in 1832 she entered a voluntary exile in Florence, remaining there for the rest of her life and creating sculpture in the troubadour style.

Félicie de Fauveau

Félicie de Fauveau

Félicie de Fauveau caught my eye in a handy book I picked up just a week ago, Art by Women in Florence: A Guide through Five Hundred Years. I would definitely recommend reading this. Costing €15 and worth every penny, the book includes images and concise explanations of the significance of the work and background on the artist. It’s small enough to carry around in a medium/small purse and includes a fold-out map showing the locations and titles of twenty notable pieces. I’ll definitely be using it throughout my stay in Florence. If you’d like to take a look or order a copy online, check it out here. I’ve also seen copies in various bookstores around the city, Paperback Exchange seems likely to have them (They also carry Invisible Women, which I’ve been eager to take a look at. Apparently another AWA piece).

One of the book’s entries is found in Santa Croce, a late 13th century Franciscan basilica (In which I give weekly tours through Ars et Fides, stop by and maybe I’ll be there to give you a free tour!). Santa Croce is a gorgeously austere Gothic structure and the largest Franciscan basilica in the world. It became Florence’s primary burial church in the 14th and 15th centuries, going through a redesign in the 16th that included the addition of monuments and tombs all along the walls as well as an unfortunate whitewashing of the frescoes in the nave. One of the monuments in the upper loggia of the cloister is de Fauveau’s Burial Monument for Louise Favreau, created in 1854. The piece was commissioned by Louise Favreau’s parents and was originally located inside the basilica in the Medici Chapel before being moved to the church’s subterranean former oratory della Compagnia della Maddalena. Unfortunately, de Fauveau’s monument was badly damaged by the 1966 flood of the Arno, which left Santa Croce sitting under 22 feet of water, mud, and debris.

Felicie de Fauveau, Burial Monument for Louis Favreau, 1854

Felicie de Fauveau, Burial Monument for Louis Favreau, 1854

The piece was cleaned after the flood, and finally placed in the cloister’s upper loggia where it now remains (Directly to the right of the exit from the basilica to the cloister, before you go down the stairs). De Fauveau’s work accumulated grime and became discolored over the next four decades, and has now been fully cleaned and restored by AWA (The Advancing Women Artists Foundation). AWA is the organization which created and published Art by Women in Florence, and is an American non-for-profit aiming to identify and restore works by women artists in Florence’s museum storage.

And this is a piece of incredible timing (For me at least!). AWA in collaboration with The Florentine (Florence’s English publishing house) and the Opera di Santa Croce (As well as with the patronage of the Comune di Firenze and the Polo Museale Fiorentino) will be hosting a lecture series titled, Félicie de Fauveau: the workshop of a French woman artist in nineteenth-century Florence. The series is free to attend and features several art historians discussing the influences upon de Fauveau’s work. I believe the series in only in Italian (Unfortunately for me), but it should still prove to be an interesting crowd and a great opportunity to check out the restored artwork.

For information on the event (And to see/download the event poster) check out the Florentine’s website.

Félicie de Fauveau: the workshop of a French woman artist in nineteenth-century Florence

Thursday, April 4, 2013  – 3.30pm-5.30pm – Santa Maria del Carmine’s Sala della Colonna
Friday, April 5, 2013  – 3.30pm-5.30pm – Santa Croce’s Sala della Colonna

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Women in Art: Katharina Fritsch

Katharina Fritsch’s work has tremendous appeal to our sense of youth. Her large scale, brightly colored sculptures are simultaneously playful and terrifying, looming larger than life in a way reminiscent of the gargantuan landscape we navigated as small children. In fact, at her current exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago I observed a number of children running between her pieces with delight, shouting excitedly to one another as well as to their parents. It’s unsurprising, given the electric colors and the whimsical subject matter, that Fritsch would be popular with kids.

Fritsch and her work at the Art Institute. Photos by Max Herman via TimeOut Chicago.

Fritsch and her work at the Art Institute. Photos by Max Herman via TimeOut Chicago.

Fritsch's work against the Chicago skyline.

Fritsch’s work against the Chicago skyline.

As adults, however, we sense something more sinister in Fritsch’s work. The same factors that made the  twins in The Shining so very terrifying are at play here. The uneasy sense of repetition, the matte quality of the color, and the emotional blankness of the figures are very off-putting. One of Fritsch’s pieces, Monk, is placed at the end of a hallway, directly around a corner for some. Imagine how it feels to turn to your right and see this staring back at you:

Monk (1997-99)

Monk (1997-99)

I’ve watched enough bad horror movies (And episodes of Doctor Who, honestly) to know that this can mean nothing good. Continue reading

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Women in Art: Rachel Whiteread

Rachel Whiteread is one of those artists whose work you take one look at and just say, “Woah”.

House (1993)

Some artists have a technique that grows on you, that requires time and explanation to understand and appreciate, but not Rachel Whiteread. Her work takes you there the second you lay eyes on it (Or maybe that’s just me? I really enjoy her work).

Whiteread works with negative space. She explores the absence of an object and gives that absence a physical presence. We can see this in one of her most well-known and controversial works, House, which is fairly self explanatory as the concrete cast of the interior of a Victorian home. House is one of those pieces where you love it or you hate it as we see reflected in the widely varied responses to her work. While this piece earned her the 1993 Turner Prize (Arguably Britain’s most prestigious award for young artists, launching many careers) it also brought the K Foundation art award, a prize supposedly given to Britain’s worst artist (The K Foundation award is fascinating. Only given in 1993, it latched on to the Turner Prize’s artists and exhibitions, held shows made of money, burnt money, and was generally outrageous. Read about them here if you get the chance! It’s interesting that this type of performance doesn’t seem absurd today but was met with much clutching of pearls in the 90s. Then again, today we have Lady Gaga and Kesha. We have the tea party. We are not shocked by anything.) House was demolished in 1994.

Kind of interesting that House, a work about absence, was demolished. Does that make the piece weaker (as it no longer exists) or stronger (as it’s absent in physical presence which goes hand in hand with the concept)?

Whiteread is also well known for her controversial holocaust memorial, known as Holocaust Monument or Nameless Library:

Holocaust Monument or Nameless Library (2000)

Her work is well suited for a Holocaust monument. As her works emphasize the idea of absence and death it’s well suited to the purpose and tone of the memorial. In addition, the cast of the library’s walls is composed of rows of books with the texture of the pages captured wonderfully, which many believe is a reference to both the Nazi book burnings and to Jews as a “people of the book”. Unfortunately the piece took five years to complete due to bureaucratic drama. It’s interesting to note that Whiteread’s process leaves pieces of the absent object in her casts; pieces of paper from the books, chipped paint, wallpaper, and tiny scraps of who knows what, they all leave their mark. It’s one of the things that makes her work relatable. We’re not viewing something that’s necessarily too clean and sterile, we’re allowed to see some of the memories, and the process behind the work.

Whiteread doesn’t simply do buildings, although she does tend to lean towards architectural pieces, she’s additionally created smaller, more personal works including bookshelves, doors, sinks, and other household appliances. Take a look:

Untitled (Mattress) (1991)

Untitled (Library) (1999)

Surface (2005)

In addition to working with concrete and plaster she’s also made a number of interesting pieces using resin. These pieces are interesting in that they experience more shifts in appearance depending on the state of the lighting. Apparently they’re especially beautiful outside where their appearance transforms with the sky: Continue reading

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