a history of western art

from the renaissance to the present

Feminisms


people, terms, and concepts: social activism, essentialist feminism, social constructivist feminism


This topic examines various strategies of feminist art as an example of social activism in contemporary art.


          What is the goal of ‘activist’ art or art as social action?

          What are the two main types of feminism? How do they differ in their assessments of whether/why women are different from men? How do they differ in their goals of what equality between men and women will look like?

•   How do the works below exemplify these strategies?


Barbara Kruger, We Won’t Play Nature to Your Culture, Social Constructivist Feminism, 1983

Which type of feminism is associated with Barbara Kruger? What feminine stereotype(s) does this work satirize and how? Why does Kruger tend to use this type of format (photo + short text) in her works?


Ana Mendieta, scene from the Tree of Life series, Essentialist Feminism, 1977

Which type of feminism is associated with Ana Mendieta? How does this work celebrate ‘natural’ female characteristics and power?


Judy Chicago and others, detail of Dinner Party: Mary Wollstonecraft place setting, 1974-79


Judy Chicago and others, Dinner Party, Essentialist Feminism, 1974-79 (detail below)

Which type of feminism is associated with Judy Chicago? How does this work celebrate both women’s achievements throughout history and what makes women different from men? Think about medium and technique as well as subject-matter.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still, Social Constructivist Feminism, 1978

Which type of feminism is associated with Cindy Sherman? How does Sherman use self-portrait photography to question ideas of identity and femininity?