Some Thoughts on the Half the Picture Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum

The moody and cloudy weather of September 8 was diluted with the visit to the e­xhibit ‘Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection’ at the Brooklyn Museum.

Located on the fourth floor, it consisted of a variety of posters, pictures and installations.

While walking through the hallway, my attention was caught by the picture of Renee Cox ‘Yo Mama’ (1993), that displays the naked African American woman with a baby in her arms.

Yo Mama

 

Ms. Cox shows us the oversized Virgin Mary, as an attempt to skewer the whiteness of traditional Christian art.  

The first emotions, that are evoked, while looking at that picture, mean strength, power, and confidence. That woman, she looks into the future. She seems like a warrior, superwoman, that is able to take care of the family and baby by herself. She is not afraid. She is her own support. It can be called a positive and healthy feminism. That woman, she is actually of a bigger size than the average person. All her posture and facial expressions are trustworthy.

And I was questioning myself, why did she catch my attention so well? And what does the current modern society actually need in terms of female power?

That one, who is the fighter, who is not afraid to be stronger as a man? Or that one, who will follow someone else?  The answer appears to be in favor of a strong one. But then does not it mean, that if you are so self-made and confident, that you are lonely in fact? And how to avoid that inner conflict?

And will you still have that confidence and strength, if one day you will wake up and get the diagnosis of let say – the breast cancer? Wouldn’t you want to be connected to someone, who will be ready to give you his hand and tell you ‘hey, baby, I am with you and we’ll fight it together’..?

I guess, that a female simply cannot afford to be that kind of soft in the modern world since it could be considered as a weakness and someone can use it. Deep inside ourselves, we are alone. And we, women, have to fight and be ready for the challenge. Then we might be able to afford the illusion of safeness independency, but we will not need it anymore. We would be over it.

Moving forward, we see the installation ‘To Prudence Lopp’, done by Beverly Buchanan (2007), that represents the traumatic history of slavery.

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There is something in that installation, that people would like to not keep in memory, that horrible division of people of different skin color. And there is very symbolic, that those houses right next to each other are also dark and white. I think it was a kind of smart idea to create those houses looking old, to underline that all of that history of slavery is our past, and is no longer in our present.

 

The other piece worthy to mention, is ‘And Babies?’ of The Artists’ Poster Committee of Art Workers Coalition (1970). The poster displays the brutality of the war in the Vietnam, when U.S. solders murdered between 347 and 504 civilians.

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What you see there is a pain and suffering of death. It’s kind of a brave desire to capture that moment and present it to the public. Fells like someone is screaming through that picture. And I was questioning myself, if we could guess, what could those women from the poster really wanted before being killed? Did they want to be protected or to protect themselves?

And why should we actually use that kind of a powerful, loudly speaking picture to attract someone’s attention and to be heard? Why less radical methods are not that effective? Why people don’t want to react peacefully?

Those three examples of the visual presentation of the feminist attempts to be heard, mentioned above, are important, but not the last worthy to see from the whole exhibit. So it’s definitely worthy to go there and check on your own.

I think that kind of installations will appear more and more, since we need those female voices. Some of them eventually reach the world-wide recognition, the others – stay local, in their niche, and they are of the same very big level of importance for the particular person.

To be present. To be in this moment. To live and understand issues of the current society, that’s what matters. 

 

                                                                                                                                Written by

                                                                                                                                Alina Kuderska

My Experience with the Heavenly Bodies at The MET Cloisters

With no doubt, The MET Cloisters Exhibit 'Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, that I got a chance to visit on Sept.2, will feed the starving imagination of those, who is inspired by the charm of the middle ages & religion, and who loves the 'epatage' of John Galliano  and elegance and grace of Valentino.

 

The very first gown, that welcomes you to the exhibition, is the super sparkling couture dress made by Viktor & Rolf.

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All the statues and icons are covered with the dark grey shadows, accompanied by the Ave Maria... And here you start your journey to the hidden secrets of religion. 

Right away you see the pure white wedding dress of a bride that is standing in front of the altar and gives her prays to the God.

Then your attention is captured by the half-broken wooden statue of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ in her hands, that represents her step into the motherhood. 

The very deep feeling of appreciation touches my heart during the whole visit and after it.

The tombstone of the monk followed by the tombstone of the grotesque dress right after it makes the visitors compare and put the buried dress on the same level as the buried holy person. It makes an impression that both of them have a life after death and we should pray for them. 

 

It seems a little bit ironic actually, that the garment can be idolized to that point, but there is something in that for sure, since all of us, especially nowadays have different values. The installation itself was very strong. 

The special respect was given to the color performance during the whole exhibition. They were deep but solid, and together with the silhouettes, they were representative enough of the period of  1300s. The monastic feminine dresses and flat but multi-constructed men's gowns were done mainly in the black, brown and cream tones. They served as s nice introduction to the colorful and religious explosion that followed them. 

Digital printed icons on the John Galliano's dress, framed with the black binding, depicted the idea of the real icon, skillfully framed by the dark wood. It seems like there is also some sort of irony in that: that you can actually carry holiness on yourself. Yes, you can still pray for it, but at the same time simply wear and maybe you can get a chance to feel the pure spirit better. 

The print of the baby boy on the left, right on the same place where the Virgin Mary carries Jesus on the icons, ironically can make a joke that a woman that wears that dress, could be like a superwoman, someone beyond standard limits of the human being existence. Is that good or bad, I wouldn't judge, but I do believe, that the phenomenon of religion can be and should be discussed from the very different perspective. Especially now, since we live in the so-called free society.

There were also 3 dresses right in the heart of the collection, that were not allowed to take pictures of. And here is the irony again: all those rules and restrictions. I deeply remember visits to the church in my childhood, when during the mess, there was always something that kept a secret in it, that you were not allowed to see it clearly. It made me feel of some sort of excellency, that exists in our society. When not everyone is allowed to do the same thing, and only certain amount of people, that are either rich enough or are members or certain society or club or what so ever, are able to get that unique access to something. 

Those dresses were from the John Galliano's collection, by the way. 

Past can come to the present. And it can fulfill it with the new value. In other words, by rethinking the past from the present moment and by making certain projections to the future, we are able to analyze the values, that make a progress of the society. 

Those kind of gowns, together with the place where they were represented and skillfully done decorations, were very strong. That kind of a religious journey is able to evoke the feeling of the sacrifice of the best that you have as an attempt to purify the soul. 

Wherever you go, God follows you. 

'Stop complaining, the life is too short!'  That's what an old man told his lady, that was sitting right next to me. Lots of us had variety of thoughts and feelings that day during the exhibit... 

What i like

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