Final project for my study for a Masters in Visual Arts
SUPPOSED is a personal inquiry into language used by curators within fine art galleries in the UK. This book forms a part of my creative and theoretical art practice for a Masters in Visual Arts.My aim is to reveal the implied sexism which exists within the normalisedlabelling of women in the curated descriptions in fine art galleries. Using primary research and theory, my approach analyses the language used in curated text in art galleries with reference to women artists and sitters. My argument is that the description on the labels next to certain fine art pieces contain superfluous and/or irrelevant information; subjective opinion; and personal details. The prose used for a female artist/sitter is on many occasion blatantly different to that of a male. This book is an account of my discoveries through personal research at the National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery, Courtauld Gallery, Tate Britain (all London); the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Tate Liverpool; Cartwright Hall, Bradford.
It was the chance discovery of a woman called Catherine Redshaw which led me to investigate ‘invisible women’ further through my art practice. I live near a small town called Otley which boasts of a famous son, Thomas Chippendale. He was born there in 1718 and there are events going on to mark the 300th anniversary of the furniture maker's birth, including tours and talks, even an ale has been named in his honour: Chippend'Ale. This got me thinking about the women in his life - and Wikipedia informed me that there were two significant others who, in my opinion, stood out due to their apparent insignificance. These were his wives.
Thomas and Catherine Redshaw married in 1748 and Wikipedia states "and they had five boys and four girls." Catherine died in 1772; in 1777 he married Elizabeth Davis and "fathered three more children". There is plenty of information on Thomas Chippendale on the internet; unsurprisingly not so much - in fact virtually nothing - on the women who produced his offspring. Catherine is mentioned on www.geni.com, as being a wife and mother, listing the names of her nine children. Elizabeth can also be found on the same site where her life is also reduced to a summary consisting of her birth date, death date and names of her four children.
Using a laser cutter, I transformed an image from an online photograph of a woman in Victorian dress. I decided to cut out the shape of her face andy by removing the perceived example of identity - the facial features - I had taken away the entity of this woman, her essence and her being. Marks indicate her dress, hair and bonnet. The material used also underlines the issue of transparency.
For my show I have created three representations in clear Perspex of The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Venus, and Olympia, women from well-known artworks whose face and body are recognisable yet of whom little or nothing is known. The subjects of these pictures were real living breathing women who had lives and families, yet they are known solely by their painted image.
•A book containing my findings of how art gallery labelling and curated text descriptions categorise with implied sexism both women artists and sitters. Here are some pages from my book of research.
Re-imagining famous works of art with women and children in place of the men.