As a participating artist in the upcoming show Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze I have been giving deeper thought to the polarities that come from gender, racial and religious differences. This particular show obviously focusing on the former. The wider the divide the more push that often comes from each side, and granted I fully accept that there once was an urgent need for fierce movement, but at some point, in the words of that oh! so eloquent speaker Rodney King, "can't we all just get along?"
There are some very prominent names included in this show. Personalities that paved the way for female artists to have a greater platform from which to create. Personalities that continue to chip away at the antiquated stereotype that the best artists are dead, french and male. Carolee Schneemann's work delves into studying the body, sexuality and gender and has been described as expressive, exuberant and intelligent. The documentary !Women, Art, Revolution, by Lynn Hershman Leeson, exposes the feminist art movement of the 60's, and Gorilla Girls on Tour!, is working to change the world, one sexist city at a time. These are all positive, change making actions, yet I question my previously weakened sense of authority in weeding out what worked for me individually vs. having a generational knee-jerk reaction.
Feminism is defined as a series of movements aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal, political, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Somewhere along the line I picked up the idea that feminism equaled individuality and autonomy, and put men and women on opposite sides of the playing field while creating a lateral hierarchy rather than a team-based horizontal one.
From my own experience, I have found tremendous strength in accepting help, allowing myself to feel vulnerable and accept that men add to our world. Couple this with the tenacity, fortitude and focus that woman have exemplified throughout the history of the feminist movement and anything is possible. That is not to say that there won't always be men, and women, who play into the extreme stereotypes, but it's important to understand the reality of the situation rather than just reacting to or making generalizations.
Reversing the Gaze encompasses all the ways that women view Man-as-Object, by reversing the views that male artists have objectified women. While we do live in a world of instant gratification that places high expectations on how a woman should look or behave, the show's organizers aim to equalize the gaze between the sexes through the collection of male adoration, male impersonations and male appendages. As an artist who is honored to be amongst so many amazing women I can say that I will be putting on my newly found sense of authority, wrapping up in acceptance and throwing on my wide angle lenses in order to appreciate both sides of the gaze.
Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze opens at SOMArts November 4, 2011 with an opening event from 6-9pm. The exhibits runs through November 30.