Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Puritan Pensioner

That aged, crotchety maiden aunt of the baby-boomer academic set, Germaine Greer, has been blowing the dust off her Sixties' hard-line feminist ideals to ask, with pursed-lipped disapproval, in a weekend edition of England's Guardian newspaper, "why so many female artists put themselves in their work, often with no clothes on"?
Ms. Greer disapproves – with a puritanism that would do a Southern-born Baptist minister proud. The trouble is, Greer is so busy showing off her intellect she misses the obvious: female artists use themselves in their work to explore and rewrite the ways they have been exploited and objectified, and in so doing, re-assert control over their bodies and their sense of self.
Male artists don't do this because, simply, they don't have to. Art has been a male perogative since prehistoric man took to daubing the walls of his cave. Men have never suffered the various sorts of drooling, debasing, denigrating, dismissive depictions that woman have had to. One reason women make naked pictures of themselves, especially younger women, is so that the audience can see the difference (which is one of physical expression, emotional candour, and subjectivity) between what women see – and feel – and what men imagine.
Does Greer really think age-old male ignorance might be rectified by women only painting themselves clothed?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know Im not usually one to agree with the extremist bullshit that comes from Greers mouth..but It did raise alot of questions for me.
I have to ask- Would you be painting yourself naked if you were say, 40 kgs heavier or covered in stretchmarks?
You also say that its a response to being objectified and expoilted? I cant help but feel like your perpetuating that in reducing yourself to just a naked female form.
While I admire your unremitting dedication to your art, I think that if your trying to represent the feminist conciousness in some way- artistic depictions speak much louder when were not reduced to tits and arse.

Cheryl said...

Jenny Saville (mentioned in Greer's article) is a VERY heavy woman, and paints herself naked. She includes far more 'unflattering' details than stretch marks alone. I think that creating discomfort, and refusing to cover up, to sanitise, obey and conform to a dress code, is a strong part of feminist art.

Charles Marlow said...

umm, didn't i read somewhere on this blog that dooney describes herself as a 'fallen feminist', rejecting the ideology mid-20th century feminism for something that allows for less stark, restrictive, and ideological definitions of what constitutes a liberated woman in this early part of the 21st century. and it seems to me, that includes the right to do whatever the hell she feels like both as a woman AND as an artist. you GO, girl!

Anonymous said...

We must be looking at different photos of Saville because while she is curvaceous, she is a long way off being a "VERY heavy woman" She has however, painted confronting portraits of overweight women- the nudity being ESSENTIAL to the art...

Romana said...

Would a male artist (large OR small) be asked to justify the nudity (male OR female) in his work? I don't see anyone telling off Freud for doing so many of his portraits (including the skinny Kate Moss) in the raw. Seems like sexism, not feminism, is the real issue – but it's not Hazel Dooney's issue.

Anonymous said...

Why does it always have to be reduced to woman v man?? Well he can, why cant I??
When it comes down to it, its NOT about nudity or size or feminism OR sexism.
Alison Croggon said it perfectly..Deep inside the polemic, Greer has a point: the radical art of women often runs the risk of confirming rather than challenging male assumptions about femininity....

Jodie said...

I'm torn on this one. On the one hand, female artists do run the risk of buying into the whole objectification thing by depicting themselves naked and/or in sexual contexts, then again, why is it the responsibility of the artist to babysit the viewer and his/her preconceived, prehistoric notions of masculine/feminine?

As anonymous (7:42) said, why is it always reduced to the sad old male v female crap?

It is hard not to be affected by it, though. When I make art myself, I worry about being a "female" artist as opposed to just an artist.

Urgh, I'm totally conflicted on this one, and am therefore no help at all, I'm afraid. Are we exploiting ourselves by depicting women in this way, or are we mocking the status quo? Hell if I know.

Anonymous said...

I would like to meet an artist that is neither male nor female.

Anonymous said...

Don't knock Greer. She pioneered the way and has been a nude subject of art herself. Respect for your elders is not something coming easily to the younger less experienced generation. There is nothing prudish or puritan about Greer. Her knockers are simply jealous of her power and position in the world achieved through her looks. She was the first of many feminists and should be acclaimed not derided. WTF !!!

Anonymous said...

"That aged, crotchety maiden aunt of the baby-boomer academic set, Germaine Greer.."

I cant' believe how horrid women can be to other women! they can be the worst misogynists deriding another woman for ageing and being unmarried. She is hardly a maiden and has probably fucked more men and women than Hazel ever will. You forgot to deride her for being childless! Why not accuse her of being a witch. You would done been great at the spanish inquisition...

what is feminist art? is there such a thing? There is only ART.
The idea of women artists painting themselves nude when their bodies are not fashionably slim and erotic, is a questionable one. Is it feminism? Personally I think it has nothing to do with any ISM.