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Posts from the ‘Art’ Category

Hip Hop Breaks Silence on Mental Health: Pharoahe Monch’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By Austin McCoy

While some hip hop artists and groups have addressed the issue of healthy eating, few have tackled mental health. Hip hop’s distant relationship with mental health should not be surprising, as many African Americans have considered issues such as depression, suicide, and other mental and psychiatric ailments taboo. Last month, the suicide of For Brown Girls' creator and blogger, Karyn Washington, served as a reminder of the enduring silence of African American depression sufferers. Washington’s death provoked conversations among black members of the media about mental health. Coincidentally, rapper Pharoahe Monch released his fourth album—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)—a week after Washington’s passing. In the album, Monch highlights the intersections of the stresses of inner city life, drug use, suicide, and the structural and cultural barriers to pursuing mental health care. PTSD just might serve as the perfect opening to a conversation on African American mental health.

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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.

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Women’s Music Festivals: More Than Music, More Than Bodies

By "Anonymous"

For the last 14 years, University of Oregon’s Women’s Center has coordinated OUT/LOUD, one of the only queer focused women’s music festivals nationwide. Following the controversial cancellation of Bitch as the OUT/LOUD headliner in 2010 due to questionable comments made in a blog about her then  partner, discussions began about the oppressive nature of including performers that would be exclusive to the  community and musicians that have been featured at traditionally -exclusive events. Though it seems implicit that trans* people would be included in a queer festival, the women’s festival circuit is guilty of a long history of exclusion of trans* and gender variant folks from queer and women’s spaces. Aside from marking a debilitating division within these communities, these exclusionary practices stem from an extensive history of defensive rhetoric regarding -exclusion policies and criticism of  women’s identities from academic authorities and women-only spaces.

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Mature Audiences Only: Sex and Censorship at the Movies

By Carrie Adkins

Can we all just finally agree that the ratings system currently used by the Motion Picture Association of America is misguided, outdated, and increasingly irrelevant?

I realize I am not saying anything particularly original or revolutionary here, as people are basically complaining about the MPAA everywhere and all the time now. These complaints vary, but most of them fall into two major categories. First, there’s the inconsistency issue: the ratings sytem seems to be applied subjectively and arbitrarily. So, for example, using the word “fuck” more than once is supposed to result in an R rating, except sometimes, as with The Social Network, it inexplicably doesn’t. Meanwhile, the sexually explicit The Wolf of Wall Street avoids the NC-17 rating for no perceptible reason aside from being directed by Martin Scorsese, while less explicit (but sadly Scorsese-less) films either have to cut material for an R or else accept the NC-17, knowing that the NC-17 typically results in much lower profits. This situation was discussed perceptively by director Jill Soloway, who was forced to make a number of cuts to Afternoon Delight in order to avoid an NC-17.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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?).

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