Skip to content

Posts by rebuller

Censoring the Maternal Body

By Rachel Epp Buller

In the last decade or so, scholars across disciplines have worked to shed light on the complicated ways in which Americans praise the pregnant body while simultaneously rejecting the post-pregnant body. For example, in a recent guest post for Nursing Clio, Carrie Pitzulo traces the history of how the pregnant body has shifted in our societal perceptions, from scandalous and invisible, to highly celebrated, at least in the case of thin, white women and especially in cases of celebrity pregnancies. In Pregnant Pictures, Sandra Matthews and Laura Wexler examine the ways in which we create roles for women (and how women resist those roles) through visual images of pregnancy.

Read more

Faculty Mothers: Continuing the Conversation

By Rachel Epp Buller

Listening ear. Moral support. Advisor. Counselor. Professor. Mother?

I’m in the midst of reading Academic Motherhood: How Faculty Manage Work and Family, by Kelly Ward and Lisa Wolf-Wendel--both of whom are well-published professors of educational leadership.[1] Ward and Wolf-Wendel aren’t the first authors to address this topic; other notable contributions to the conversation include Mama, Ph.D. (and the subsequent Papa, Ph.D.), Parenting and Professing, The Family Track: Keeping Your Faculties While You Mentor, Nurture, Teach, and Serve, and Academic Motherhood in a Post-Second Wave Context.

Read more

Visual Campaigns against AIDS, Then and Now

by Rachel Epp Buller

Once upon a time, AIDS was a focal point for artists in the United States.
My design students and I recently read Maud Lavin’s Clean New World: Culture, Politics, and Graphic Design, in which she discusses the rise of political art and design in the 1980s after the election of Ronald Reagan.[i] The Eighties – the decade when the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and social services were cut dramatically. Lavin asserts that, because the liberal mainstream seemed to disappear almost completely during the years of Reagan popularity, a variety of artist collectives took on the mantle of politics, social action, and public health.

Read more

Breastfeeding 101: Why This Discussion Still Matters

by Rachel Epp Buller

I had the opportunity to visit Los Angeles over the weekend and facilitate a panel discussion about breastfeeding. The audience consisted of mothers of infants and toddlers as well as expectant mothers, who came for a “Mom’s Night Out” to hear from a panel of “experts” that included Elaine Stuart (childbirth educator and doula), Dr. Tanya Altmann (LA pediatrician), Corky Harvey (long-time lactation consultant and co-founder of The Pump Station & Nurtury), and Jamie Lynne Grumet (the mom at the center of last year’s controversial TIME magazine story about extended breastfeeding). After hearing some of the audience questions I was reminded once again why these discussions are so important, why lactation consultation is on the rise, and why there is a constant demand for breastfeeding classes and breastfeeding support groups: because breastfeeding is not always the easy relationship that most of us expect it to be, and mothers need this information.

Read more

Barbie’s Dream House?

by Rachel Epp Buller
Well apparently, Barbie's house is not such a dream after all. I’m working in Berlin for two months this summer, and there’s been quite a kerfuffle about the life-sized Barbie Dreamhouse that opened near Alexanderplatz in May. Organizers bill the Dreamhouse as a temporary theme park, but I think that may be overstating it slightly. The 2,500-square meter house is more like an expensive fun-house shopping experience – pay the money, walk through and see life-sized Barbie ensconced in her expansive pink world, bake virtual cupcakes on a touch screen, do some dress-up if you paid for the high-end VIP package, and then end your visit at the toy store.

Read more

Marketing Domesticity

By Rachel Epp Buller
One of the recurring themes in my “Women and Gender in Art History” class this semester has been the historical association of women with the domestic sphere. In the nineteenth century, we looked at examples of European art that addressed this clear cultural separation of spheres, where public = masculine and private = feminine. Of course, this cultural association of women with domesticity persisted throughout much of the twentieth century (think June Cleaver) and was cleverly marketed to women through seemingly endless inventions of domestic appliances and ever-better cleaning products.

By the 1970s, American feminist artists and writers began taking on the gendering of domesticity. Building on Betty Friedan’s arguments in The Feminine Mystique (1963), writers like Pat Mainardi critiqued the cultural assumptions that made cleaning a gendered imperative. In “The Politics of Housework” (1970), Mainardi examined the excuses used by her husband to avoid sharing the burden of household chores:

Read more

Bodies on Display, Then and Now

By Rachel Epp Buller
I witnessed a breakthrough this week, one of those “a-ha” moments that, as a teacher, is so terribly exciting. I’m teaching an undergraduate seminar this spring on Women and Gender in Art History. Since we’re a small school, though, we don’t have an art history major and many of my students come from non-art backgrounds. This means that most of the ideas and artists we’re talking about are brand-new for most of the students.
What was this “a-ha” moment? It was the realization, voiced by one of my students, that the display of women’s bodies that we see happening throughout the history of art is not really so different from the display of women’s bodies in contemporary popular culture. This may seem apparent to many of you readers, and the student in question was surprised herself that she had never made this connection. She is well-read in ideas of the male gaze, and considers herself savvy when it comes to critiquing mass media representations of women.

Read more

The Need for Separatism?

By Rachel Epp Buller
Last weekend I attended the 3rd annual Feminist Art History Conference at American University in Washington, D.C. While it was great to be surrounded by scholars with similar research interests, I found myself wondering how much longer we (as feminist scholars) will feel the need for a separate sphere, so to speak.

To be sure, conferences and organizations devoted to women’s histories have performed, and continue to perform, important roles. We offer alternative voices to patriarchal histories, not only recuperating individual women but reexamining through the lens of gender the kinds of histories that are told. We make visible marginalized herstories.

Read more

Are We Stuck in the 1970s?

By Rachel Epp Buller
Having made and studied art for quite a few years now, I find that issues in contemporary culture often lead my mind to wander to art historical references. "Binders full of women," equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights - it all leads me back to art. For instance, over the centuries we've seen a consistent historical pattern of interest among male artists in representing the vagina - Leonardo da Vinci, Gustave Courbet, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Christian Schad, to name only a few (see also TimeOut New York's recent survey of the vagina in art, heavily populated by male artists). But it's only in recent decades that women artists have turned to the vagina as subject (object?).

Read more

Breast is Best… in Art?

Breasts are everywhere in popular culture. This is nothing new. And yet I’ve been struck in recent years by the resurgence of the breastfeeding body in visual culture and contemporary art. It’s apparently a big deal (i.e., magazine-cover newsworthy) that Salma Hayek, Alanis Morrisette, Tori Spelling, Kourtney Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, Christina Aguilera, and many other celebrities breastfeed their babies.

Read more

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,816 other followers