Friday, May 20, 2011

Sculpture and Feminism

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
How does the recent behavior of Dominique Strauss-Kahn relate to sculpture, and how does sculpture relate to feminism? 

Sculpture has always been one of the macho arts. When I was in school, women weren't even allowed on the foundry crew. Too difficult for the "little ladies." (That was changed by a group of determined women sculptors who proved they could do the work.)

What hasn't changed much is the genre of female nudes... aka Bronze Barbies. Guy's love to make them.

It's always the hot babe. 

My dislike of this genre stems from the fact that rarely do the Bronze Barbies portray an individual woman. (Obsession I can understand. Look at the work of Gaston Lachaise. )

The sculpture I'm talking about idealizes features to the point of being generic. It's pretty and it sells.
The breasts are always perfectly pert or gravity defying DDD's. Women know that breasts come in a myriad of shapes and sizes. Don't male sculptors know this? Why do the bronze breasts and bodies all look alike?

The Bronze Barbies never portray any of the stages of a woman's life. (Barbie is over 50!)
Spend some time with 'Celle qui fut la belle heaulmière' (the Helmet maker's once beautiful wife) to see what Rodin could do with an older model. The sculpture isn't pretty. It's life. It's Art.

Writer Isabel Allende speaks passionately for women and Feminism in this TED video.

"What I fear most is Power with impunity. I fear abuse of power and the power to abuse."

Images of "sexy" women bought and sold are so woven into our global culture, so pervasive that we don't really see how odd it is. The next time you see a bronze nude of a woman,  let yourself really Look and See the work. Ask youself: "How true is this sculpture?" or better "What story is this telling? ............What is this selling?"

Your response?


Cindy Michaud said...

My hero! preach it brother...i'm wid ya.

kara rane said...

hi Patrick-
agree on the barbies.
I paint pretty, powerful,diverse women.
some are my friends & have attitude, different shaped bodies, and yes- i portray them sexy,,because they are.

Patrick Gracewood said...

I'm all for uniqueness and individuality in art. It's the generically pretty/sexy that I can't stomach.
"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion."-Francis Bacon

As an artist and woman, what makes the person and the quality you are trying to portray sexy? Would love to have a conversation (instead of me ranting) about this topic here.

Deb said...

Viewing Rodin's sculpture after Lachaise's , there's no denying the difference between obsession(one man's 'sexy'), and love. Lachaise's sculptures are all about him. Viewing Rodin, I'm lost in humanity's embrace.

Theresa Cheek said...

Very interesting Patrick! Sex still sells and women being portrayed as "Barbies" perpetuates the myth. Sculpture still seems to be a man's world in many ways.....women call always purchase those aprons with David on them though!

Patrick Gracewood said...

I received JoAnna's comments via email and am reposting them here.
Her website is

------------------------------------There is of course such a disposition as Barbie Syndrome..

I believe how women portray women in life and art can have a far more powerful impact.
In daily life women have been evolving truth with the myth
concerning what constitutes femininity.

It all runs far deeper and many a paper and thesis written on such things... I admire your
raising the point in terms of sculpture and the generic interpretation...
commercialism not the least perpetuates this.... moulding the public eye.

I wanted to thank you again for your help regarding the sculpture shipping problem
I got my solution via crates and cushioning.. and successfully shipped a few more

SO thanks one more time...

'True Star Stay True' :)