Saturday, November 24, 2007

Perky Nipples and Vacant Eyes: Women Depicted in Art

I occasionally look at a livejournal community called Black Cigarette, which is really kind of amazing. There are lots of posts like this, written by amazingly pretentious seventeen year olds who think their love of French New Wave/Audrey Hepburn/The Royal Tenenbaums is really beautiful and special and amazing (not to say that some normal people don't post there or whatever, but that's the general vibe.) This post on movie quotes is also pretty mind-blowing.

Anyway, there was recently a post on modern art and it's depictions of women, with the main poster commenting on her love of "gorgeous lips and sullen eyes and nipples and hipbones!" The point is, it repulsed me to no end, with its endless parade of naked, idealized, vacant, passive, cartoony women drawn like hipster Bratz dolls, a lot of which kind of reminds me of doodles I did in high school, but, you know, more offensive. I really can't believe the proliferation of this kind of art! This community is full of young women who are supposed to be artsy, but no one seemed to be able to find any art depicting women you know, doing something, besides maybe licking their fingers.

Simone is more of an expert in this than me, but I can't believe not one of them mentioned Amy Cutler, Kiki Smith or Kara Walker, all (very famous, established) artists who regularly depict women as so much more than docile little nymphets- and who a lot of the crappy artists are basically ripping off.

Anyway, I just love this painting on wood up top by Audrey Kawasaki, who apparently paints the "best proportioned faces and the sweetest supple bodies." The two chicks making out and the girl in her underwear are really making me think, and the vague manga style (ohmygod, there's so much more of that!) is pretty fresh.

Ugh. Does this work by "John John Jesse" look like Suicide Girls fan art or what? The whole tableaux with the octopus and the used condom and the naked girl, and how the octopus is wearing a crown, it's very daring.

Oh man! First of all, I hate how every single "surreal" artist thinks the most "surreal" thing ever is a fugly barren landscape; it was ugly when Salvador Dali did it but now we have someone who is copying Salvador Dali but adding the crucial element of a skinny little female in a trendy dress with her skirt blowing up. I mean, Dali's nudes were offensive and all too, but at least they weren't this retarded. By Fuco Ueda.
This is the kind of art that looks like the doodles I did in high school, but mine didn't have girls with leaves stuck to their tits. We have already seen this style, which is a rip-off of 70's stuff, in Calvin Klien ads and on the cover of this Donnas album and it is just fucking everywhere!

I can just imagine the artists (Nadia Hunt) being like, "I guess I'll draw a a girl with long hair flowing into the a girl with shaggy about a flowy plant to add to the mix?" It must be a laborious creative process!

This one's a picture by Cedric Rivrain of Kate Moss topless, doing it with a swan. Look at her face! Even the real Kate Moss looks more coherant! Look at all the wacky stuff these ladies are doing: being naked for no reason, hanging out with crazy animals in bleak landscapes, showing their boobs...the list goes on and on!

A topless girl in the bushes, looking frightened and drugged. This one evokes a lot of questions, like, "Why is she topless in the bushes?" Not to be sexist, but I can't believe this is the work of a female artist. It looks like the work of a balding forty-five year old who tries to pick up fourteen year olds on the bus to pose for his "erotic art." By Jessica Mccourt(!)

God, this is so tacky and ugly! Are these people just copying pages out of Vogue or something? By Lori Earley.
Just lovely. Really evocative of "artist"/douchebag Jeff Koons, airbrushed porn stars, maybe a little Paris Hilton, lingerie catalogues...

Yeah. Seriously. This is seriously a painting that someone painted. If I went to a gallery and the work of "Sas Christian" was on display, I would definitely feel the urge to destroy it a la that guy who took a chainsaw to Michaelangelo's Piata in the 70's. But what I really want to know is, what is under that red t-shirt? I bet it's boobs!

God, this is so offensive! She's eating out of a dog bowl! And the exploitation of cephalopods in these is perhaps even more offensive than the anime porn. By Junko Mizuno.

This is derivative of Tank Girl, except that Tank Girl was a positive force for young ladies, and everyone was really into it in 1995 when cyber clothing was popular. This piece by Camilla D'errico takes all the cyber hideousness of 1995 with a much added dash of confused and busty twelve year old.

I'm so glad that all this art is totally free of body hair. I, for one, appreciate the shading on the naked crotch of the red-haired one. I love how the women in this one are ostensibly supposed to be some kind of selkies/mermaids/sea creatures, but they also found the time to apply makeup, get boob jobs, and squeeze in a Brazilian! Who says today's modern water sprite can't do everything? By Esao Andrews.

And, finally, this piece of crap by Aya Takano, of two retarded adolescent blow up dolls about to make out.

I'd like to end this with a quote from the post: "I don't like Audrey Kawasaki. I think sometimes she gets too close to kiddie porn. But I know what you mean about painting of women. Intoxicating."

Haven't these people ever heard of the male gaze, for christsakes? Don't they know that these images of women as passive"muses" and sexual objects is pretty much the oldest and most typical subject there is? What do we get from these images that cannot be gotten from a crappy fashion ad? All in all, it's sad this art is bad and popular and all, but it's even more sad that it's popular among young women.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe how much of this shit is like exactly the same as those paintings of cute puppies where their eyes are huge and glassy that you can buy from some pseudo homeless person on Newbury Street for $25.

Do these people also think those paintings of sci-fi landscapes with like four pink moons and an acid green milky way are really mind blowing?

I also thought this quote describing an anime artiste was pretty great:
"he tends to exaggerate girl's boobs a lot, and it seems completely retarded/sexist/whatever of him and it annoys me sometimes, but he has such a good grasp at anatomy. he makes women's bodies disgustingly ideal and impossible"

The picture is on there somewhere. The "grasp at anatomy" just jumps right out at you.


Moka said...

Although I do agree with your post for the most part I have to admit I'm fond of Aya Takano's and Junko Mizuno's work (Her "pure trance" comic is my favorite pick on my humble comic book collection) and, yet, I believe Audrey Kawasaki's paintings are the only ones on that post which I find truly valuable.

Simone said...

The problem is, you don't get taught about the male gaze in art school. In Jensen's, which i believe is the standard art history book (i think it's called that), they had a chapter on feminist art that included stuff by the guerrilla girls and jenny holzer and all the great 70s stuff. That lasted for about a year, in the next edition, they took it out, because it "wasn't neccessary." It's not just that it isn't taught, it is NOT ENCOURAGED for young women (or men) at art school to question the status quo, and subsequently the patriarchy is even further internalized and you get art like this, by women.

I mean, even at Hampshire college, I really had to actively resist the establishment ideas about women in art- i remember in my first drawing class, the teacher, gideon bok, sexy male painter professor extraordinaire, showing slides of Balthus paintings without a WORD of critique! In my art history 101 class, I was laughed at for suggesting we learn about Lee Krasner AS WELL AS Jackson Pollock. And, I mean, I was pretty militant and I had a hard time, so I'm sure these women don't even know where to start being angry, or even how. These women all need feminism in their lives. They should read some Mira Schor and go to the Sackler center at the brooklyn museum. Sigh. I'm so depressed. Now please post some good art by women on here. I can help.

M said...

I guess I can't see what makes Audrey Kawasaki's work any different from the others. It's very similar both in subject matter and in the exaggerated, cartoony style.

Dear Dan, I saw that picture as I studied that post in minutie. Do you think I should do an overall anti-anime post? Or, anti the way people are drawn in anime but positive about Totoro and how cute Totoro is?

Dear Simone,
It truly is weird that it doesn't even seem to cross the minds of these people that there is anything reactionary/offensive/typical about this art. It's like, if anything, this art should have purely CAMP value like black velevet paintings of ladies with afros riding naked atop tigers, you know?
I will do a positive art post to make up for this sad, sad one. Please let me know of anything I should add to it. PS: If you want to do a guest post on nice art that would be okay too! A "And then I wouldn't punch them", if you will.

Perfect Ratio said...

Totes Brill.

Anonymous said...

I find it very difficult to understand why female sexuality is so frowned upon. Would these pictures be more appealing to you if they were fat, slovenly women with nappy bushes in their sweaty crevices? If not, how about old school marms with tightly wound buns and turtle necks (no breasts of course, that's really pushing it and sends the wrong message to young women). I think the really sad aspect of this post is that you aren't taking into consideration the amount of talent some of these pieces require, or the time it takes. Gross, tacky, and ugly would be the women who live to be playboy bunnies. Gross is not the female form. You might argue that what's gross is how thin, busty, youthful these girls are in these pieces, but has it ever occurred to you that not ALL real, healthy women are chunky, hairy, and brutish? I could name countless celebs and friends who are naturally thin and beautiful and comfortable with who they are in spite of the current trends, but I'm sure I'd be met with ridiculous arguments about how they MUST throw up and cry at night about not looking like and not having enough coke to be Kate Moss. I guess, evidently, no real woman can have a nice/trim/fit/slender body. Your critiques aren't even constructive, just childish and petty.

M said...

dude, when have chunky/hairy/brutish women EVER been depicted -let alone depicted positively- in art/media/anything, let alone the "current trends?" have you been living exclusively at the michigan womyn's music festival for the past ten tears? (zing!)

this type of art focuses on ONE idealized formula that is typical, old and tired. it's called "women as decoration" or "the male gaze" or "there are other things you can draw besides sexy young girls." it's not frowning on sexuality, it's frowning on depicting young women as something only to be looked at. i never said it's wrong or unhealthy to be thin or that it makes you stupid and anorexic. sometimes i even praise thin people on this blog for having good outfits! shocking!

despite recognizing that it takes effort/some amount of drive or talent, this art is hella tacky in both form and subject. i have made art before myself, in fact.

you say yourself that the female form isn't gross, but it sounds like there are plenty of female (unwaxed, perhaps) forms that offend you. if you really appreciate women's bodies you should appreciate that they all look different and cannot and should not have their "sexuality" represented by a series of nubile nymphet images.

chunky, hairy and brutish

PS: is this john john jesse?

Anonymous said...

To be honest, some of this comes across a bit "I am personally offended by people who are not sexually attracted to people like me." I mean, this art is boring, and it's obviously male gaze all over the place, and it ain't doing our fucked-up society any favors . . . but the whole "your tastes are not okay" angle doesn't seem very sensible.

I think it's acceptable to make art that's merely decorative. I do think it's weird and bad that both men and women so frequently use women (and the same type of women) in such decorative art, but I also think it's acceptable to have sexual and aesthetic tastes that are rigidly mainstream.

If this were advertising, I'd feel differently. But I can't bring myself to wish semiprofessional artists would consider our cultural mental health before doing personal pieces for their own kicks and a few Internet back-pats.

I do wish this little glimpse into our collective psyche revealed finer things, though. No argument there.

M said...

I find it interesting that what everyone seems to get from this argument is that I think this art is bad simply because it makes me feel unattractive, or is hurting my mental health, even though I never said anything of the sort. Implicit in everyone's arguments is that, ultimately, as a female, I am just jealous of the subjects of these paintings, and need to get over it.

This art does not make me feel unattractive (though obviously that is the purpose of many things geared towards women.) This is not about me, my body, my looks, and my feelings about myself. If anything, this art fits right into the culture that contributes to people like me being called pet names by people I don't know and being called out on the street and generally being "complimented" by strangers and etc. If it makes me feel bad, it's because it is yet another contribution to the culture of men and women viewing female bodies as public domain. THAT'S what pissed me off, okay? Should I post a photo of myself to prove that I am cute and thin enough to make this argument valid? Twice people have used what they imagine my looks to be as some sort of weapon.

As for criticizing taste, that is what I do on this blog- I criticize things from an aesthetic angle, and this art, besides relying on boring, tired subjects is simply bad and trendy, and, despite being a small internet trend or whatever, representative of like 50% of art in general. I never said decorative art had no merit, I never said that people aren't allowed to be attracted to conventionally attractive people. You said that.

Everyday I criticize for people following bad, boring, typical, ugly trends, and why is it any different with art? You say that it is acceptable to have mainstream tastes, but are those tastes not worth critiquing or examining and drawing conclusions from? Why not?

Anonymous said...

I've read this post a few different times since it was originally made. At first I would have given about 1 or 2 of the artists some excuse (mostly Aya Takano- I had just assumed she was trying to make some sort of statement about Japan's child pornography problem, but no matter how much I looked at her work after reading this post, I just couldn't see how the problem was addressed.)

Yeah, nearly two years later and I couldn't agree more with you.

Nate Bear said...

Sometimes I wish I were better at drawing sexy girls. But most of the time I'm glad. This post pretty much illustrates why.