So much is said on the 8th of March every year. From celebrating the achievements of women in history across various platforms to empowering the modern day woman with equal rights.
However, what really caught my attention was Snapchat’s new filters of Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie and Rosa Parks as the brand’s way to commemorate women on this day.
“In the age of the selfie, Frida is considered to be the first selfie artist. She told a story of love, life, strength and passion through her self-portraits.”
– Beatriz Alvarado from the Frida Kahlo Corporation told CNET in a statement.
Notwithstanding the debate this move sparked with regard to the whitening of Frida Kahlo face or the fact that Marie Curie probably never wore smoky eyeliner or fake lashes in lab! Narcissism doth beat feminism thus!
But the Feminist art movement actually dates back to the late 1960’s amidst the fervor of anti-war demonstrations as well as civil and gay and lesbian rights movements. Feminist artists sought to change the world around them through their art; through cultural influences that would transform stereotypes.
Art then, was not merely for aesthetic admiration, but an avenue that could also incite the viewer to question the social and political landscape that would eventually lead to equality. Before feminism, the majority of women artists were denied exhibitions and gallery representation based on the sole fact of their gender.
The Dinner Party (1974-1979)
Artist: Judy Chicago
The Dinner Party is one of the most well-known pieces of Feminist art in existence and is permanently housed at the Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. The installation consists of a large banquet table with place settings for thirty-nine notable women from history and mythology. The settings have gold ceramic chalices and porcelain plates painted with butterfly- and vulva-inspired designs. In addition to the thirty-nine settings, there are the names of 999 other women painted on the tiles below the triangular table. The Dinner Party participates in the feminist revision of history, initiated during the 1970s, in which feminists worked to re-discover lost role models for women, rewriting the past that had previously only included male voices. In the combination of intricately wrought textiles, tile, and porcelain, Chicago reclaimed the realm of “high art” to include what had traditionally been relegated to the lower status of “women’s work.”
“Do I still hope that feminist art can make a difference in the world? My answer is yes. I continue to believe that we need an art that can help us see the world through other people’s eyes and thereby lead us to a future where the world will be made at least a little more whole.”
This women’s day, let art take over. Let the sense of creativity take over our sense of judgment. Let’s understand Feminism for what it truly stands for; equality.
We blame it on lifestyle, work pressures, stress, lack of options… The list is endless.
I sat in the Albertina Museum in Vienna one hot summer afternoon admiring the works of some of the most renowned artists in history. It was breathtaking. Suddenly I heard a soft sniffle right to me. A beautiful Parisian girl sitting on the same bench as me looking at the same piece of art as I was, with a tear gently running down her cheek. My heart reached out to her but I didn’t say anything. I looked at what she was seeing and tried to figure what could have evoked such an emotion.
It was Picasso’s ‘Nude Woman with Bird and Fluteplayer’. A 1967 piece that shows a somewhat disfigured yet very prominent portrait of a nude woman looking at a man playing the flute as a dove looks on. Some interpret the piece as the artist himself wooing her, the dove a symbol of sexual awakening.
Next I heard whispers and realized her friend who was looking for her, had finally found her. They were in a deep French conversation but I figured it had to do more with a boy friend problem than art inspiration. Well, such are the follies of modern day love. Sitting in front of a Picasso, crying over a boy!
As they walked away, I continued to stare at the painting. I couldn’t help but wonder; is love complicated just in our so-called Tinderage? What was love like then? Who was Picasso thinking of when he painted this nude? Was he possibly in love? Or was he in for the chase? What inspired him most? Does the love story of an artist differ much from ordinary everyday romance?
Love is the greatest refreshment in life
Pablo Picasso had a very complicated relationship with the women in his life. An article in The Telegraph by Mark Hudson reflects the various women in his life and the complex relationship he had with each of them; how it impacted his art and his growth as an artist. An exceptional read, the excerpts are as follows:
Of the seven most important women in Picasso’s life, two killed themselves and two went mad. Another died of natural causes only four years into their relationship. Yet while Picasso had affairs with dozens, perhaps hundreds of women, and was probably true to none. “Women are machines for suffering,” Picasso told his mistress Françoise Gilot in 1943. “For me there are only two kinds of women, goddesses and doormats”.
Women are machines for suffering.
For me there are only two kinds of women, goddesses and doormats.
Fernande Olivier who he met in 1904 was his first great love. Picasso moved from the poetic romanticism of his Rose Period to a new way of working inspired both by the dynamism of modern Paris and by the enduring values of Mediterranean culture on which he was to draw all his life.
In 1906, Olivier accompanied him to the village of Gosol in the Spanish Pyrenees, where the cubistic traditional architecture and her strong, sensual features were endlessly analysed in a vast body of drawings that led to the most influential painting of the 20th century – Demoiselles d’Avignon. As Picasso worked on this definitive canvas in the suffocating heat of his Montmartre studio, he was consumed with jealousy and anger towards Olivier who had temporarily walked out on him – this emotional violence feeding into a work that blasted the Renaissance idea of fixed perspective out of the window and changed the course of Western art.
Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon, originally titled The Brothel of Avignon). The Museum of Modern Art, New York City. The painting showcases 5 nude women from a brothel in Barcelona. Their face shows no emotion, two of them are masked even. The painting was perceived as immoral and provoked the beginning of Cubism as a form of art.
In 1912, Picasso began seeing her close friend, Eva Gouel. Picasso’s time with her coincided with the moment of synthetic cubism, in which observational elements were combined into semi-abstract compositions, often including collage or text. While Picasso never painted Gouel, he paid homage to her in several of these paintings, by including the words Ma Jolie – my pretty one – which is perhaps the most overtly affectionate artistic gesture he made to any of his women.
Picasso’s marriage to the Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova in 1915 coincided with a complete reversal in his artistic direction – from world-changing abstraction to relatively conservative neoclassicism. His portraits of Khokhlova have a restraint and serenity inspired by the 19th-century master Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. As their relationship disintegrated and she became increasingly delusional, his depictions of her and women in general grew ever more hateful – tortured masses of teeth, limbs and vaginas.
Dora Maar was Picasso’s partner during the period of his greatest political engagement, her inner turmoil standing in for Spain’s agony during the Civil War in Tate’s iconic Crying Woman. She made a photographic record of Picasso’s work on the monumental masterpiece Guernica, and her unmistakable features appear in the banshee-like head swooping into the painting. But in Picasso’s most telling images of Maar, her features are disturbingly reconfigured – growing out of each other in all the wrong places – as though she is literally breaking down in front of us.
When Picasso threw her over for the much younger Françoise Gilot in 1943, Maar suffered a complete mental collapse, followed by nun-like seclusion. “After Picasso,” she famously declared, “only God.”
After Picasso, only God.
The last of Picasso’s great loves was Jacqueline Roque. Picasso created more than 400 portraits of the demure Roque, who he married in 1961.Picasso met Jacqueline Roque in 1953 at the pottery when she was 27 years old and he was 72. He romanced her by drawing a dove on her house in chalk and bringing her one rose a day until she agreed to date him six months later. She committed suicide in 1986, 13 years after Picasso’s death.
I suppose Love in Cubist times isn’t too different from Love in the Tinderage. Love is love. A feeling so empowering, it leaves you powerless. It engulfs you, takes over your senses and throws you over the edge! But it also confuses you makes you question yourself, makes you wonder if you can perhaps feel a little more deeply. Can your heart beat a little faster? Is this the most you can feel? Are you with the right person? Will you ever find the right person? What exactly is the right person?
* The most commonly accepted periods of Picasso’s work are the Blue Period (1901–1904), the Rose Period (1904–1906), the African-influenced Period (1907–1909), Analytic Cubism (1909–1912), and Synthetic Cubism (1912–1919), also referred to as the Crystal period.
Scene 1: Their eyes met across a crowded room. Not a word was spoken. But somehow they knew, there was more in store for them.
Scene 2: She sat nervously in a really cold conference room when he entered and asked her warmly “Tea?” All fear left her when she realized this was where she belonged.
Scene 3: They wandered out of the airport with wonder filled eyes. New York was more than they could have ever imagined.
Scene 4: She was a menacing old woman sitting outside the subway. The little boy glanced at her as he passed her by and ran towards his mother, instantly grasping her hand.
Various scenarios, one moment of truth. The first time you look at someone and instantly decide if you’d ever want to see them again. The magic of first impressions? There’s no going back!
Scene 5: We walked around the palatial gallery of the most renowned personal collection of art. Marveling the exquisiteness of each piece, getting transported into another era. But something was missing. Something larger than life. As we made our way to the exit, I stopped. Something had caught my attention; it was drawing me towards it. “This is it!” She said, “Impressionism at its best. It has to be a Monet!” And a Monet it was!
a style or movement in painting originating in France in the 1860s, characterized by a concern with depicting the visual impression of the moment, especially in terms of the shifting effect of light and colour.
o a literary or artistic style that seeks to capture a feeling or experience rather than to achieve accurate depiction.
Soaking in some of their best works from Monet’s “The Thaw at Vétheuil”, “The Water Lily Pond” to Renoir’s “Wheatfield” a whole new world opened up to me. A sudden realization of the form of art in the art of life; how impressionism as a form of art, impacts the way we look at life. A flashback of memories, some almost crystal clear but never quite the regeneration, giving a sense of reality, but not completely.
Claude Monet, the undisputed leader of the Impressionists, spent his childhood in the French town of Le Havre, where he began to paint landscapes of the Normandy coast. After studying for a short period at the Académie Suisse in Paris, he took up plein air painting as a self-taught artist, striving to study the effects of light and time on nature.
He and Auguste Renoir were the first artists to use the loose brushstrokes characteristic of Impressionism.
We walked out in a stupor. An experience of a lifetime. The first impression of impressionism. An everlasting one!
A convention was being planned for leading European artists by a handful of amateur organisers.
“On a Sunday on La Grande Jatte, perhaps”? Suggested one of them.
“No!” quipped the Thinker. “At the Moulin Rouge!”
But what would be served to the Potato Eaters then? Stacks of Wheat!? They must cater to the Old Masters’ palates. They realised it wouldn’t be easy. They hoped that the convention would be the first of a series of dinners; but feared that if it failed, it would end up being the Last Supper!
They hence called Da Vinci to crack the code,
The guest of honour would be Madonna (and child),
Van Gogh’s presence would certainly make it a starry night!
Michalengo would bring David,
Vermeer, a girl with a pearl earring.
They decided to go Dutch; and invited Rembrandt,
Monet and Renoir would certainly make a good Impression,
Picasso declined. He was going through a Blue Period in his life.
Then they debated on the theme of the convention. Classical? Romanticism? Realism…?
The discussions were endless. If you heard them, you’d Scream.
They imagined the dinner to be like the creation of Adam.
After all, the convention would be a renaissance of sorts!
They say friendship has no bounds; it knows no time, it has no place. There are friendships that last a lifetime, some fade away with time, some reignite over a memory, a moment, a fragmented conversation.
This friendship started in school. Play dates at joggers park soon turned to attending art classes together. It was our first tryst with art. A deeper bond developed over colour schemes and textures. She had a beautiful sense of aesthetics. I was merely finding a form of expression. I soon gave up and found my solace in writing. She continued blossoming with each piece that she created. Then school ended. So did college. Careers took us on different paths. Life happened along with all its atrocities. The once upon everyday play date became an annual birthday attendance.
But life has its own plan. And friendships find their way back with art playing the role of the perfect matchmaker. They met at an exhibition. Then another. And never looked back since. From checking out new artists at Jehangir art gallery post work hours and over weekends to landing up all the way at Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, they found their solace in Picasso’s Guernica at the Reina Sofia. So magnificent is the power of art. It transforms the way we think, live, believe and in this case, the way we find our space in each other’s lives.