Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Feminism has always been present in art, beyond Frida Kahlo

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For years , artistic spaces have been marginalized for women who, for the simple fact of being women , have their doors closed, giving little value to their creations , since most of the time their works are not recognized or given the importance they deserve. yes it is given to the works created by men.

This problem of disparity is not exclusive to the world of art and shows the struggle that millions of women around the world carry out every day to obtain the recognition that their male counterparts have for the simple fact of being men. 

The lack of spaces for both exhibition and dissemination in institutions such as museums or galleries , as well as a null practice of gender parity, are an example of the difficulties that women artists face . Just to give an example, in 2019 the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC) had only 14% of works by women and 64% of its works were by men; even less than 4% of artists at the MET are women.

Another difficulty is the devaluation of their work , since pieces created by women are sold and auctioned for lower prices than works created by men , there are even works that come to auction for up to 46.7% less than their value than works made by men. 

In an interview for El Heraldo de México, Andrea Urbina, Daniela Cuevas and Mónica Zamora, cultural and arts managers , members of the “Maldita Musa” collective , a platform created as a space dedicated to claiming the participation of women as creators and artist, spoke about feminism and art beyond the figure of Frida Kahlo, considered the most iconic feminist artist in the world, but who is not the only woman who has managed to break stereotypes, shining with her own light in a world dominated by mens.

Frida Khalo: her role and relationship with feminism

There are various themes that run through the current image of Frida . Of course, she was a woman artist who fought for her position as a creator and not a muse in the Mexican post-revolution era, a very macho and misogynistic era; and that she managed to exhibit while she was still alive in Mexico and other countries such as France, Philadelphia and the USA. 

However, on the other hand, or so we know, he exercised his sexual freedom in various ways, publicly showing his dissent, as well as his sexual-affective relationships with men and women. She displayed and defended her political activism related to the communist party and portrayed herself in her work with androgynous characteristics , with some traits considered “masculine”, but in doing so she questioned gender roles and expression , such as growing a mustache, eyebrow and wear pants.

He also created works such as  “Frida and abortion”, where he talks about one of the many abortions he had, and with his piece “A few little piquetitos” he denounced a femicide , topics that he was not used to talking about at that time. 

And although Frida questioned and transgressed stereotypes and stood firm in her ideals, there is also another part in which she is really questioned why she is automatically named as a feminist symbol.

Unlike other artists like Aurora Reyes or María Izquierdo , who are not as well known as Frida ; This is because the artist  managed to be known for different reasons, one of which is having been a partner of one of the “fathers” of muralism.

Her love triangles and lesbian relationships also drew attention to her largely because of the morbidity that caused the tragedy of her spine and her unibrow. For this reason, Frida is considered a whole character created collectively around her.

Feminism conceived from art 

For the members of this collective, there is not just one feminism , but several that come from different sociocultural contexts that attack problems and injustices according to a space and time, therefore in the field of art, feminism is conceived in different ways and are more Well, the artists who have used and use their skills to express themselves artistically, demonstrate, raise their voices and demand justice. 

In this sense, art could well be considered “artivism” (art+activism), although not necessarily every piece of activist art is feminist and not every artistic work that questions patriarchy and its oppressions is feminist. 

Art is political and as such a form or means of protest that even serves to denounce the harassment or abuse that both artists and women have suffered throughout history, the members of “Maldita Musa” point out . 

Sadly for years and practically since the beginning of art as an expression, the works created by women are considered inferior to those of men just because they were created by women , for this reason feminism in art seeks to guarantee that merit is obtained what they deserve.

As Lucy R. Lippard, one of the most important feminist art theorists, writes: feminist art “is not a style or a movement, but a system of values, a revolutionary strategy, a way of life”, comment Andrea Urbina, Daniela Cuevas and Monica Zamora. 

From invisibility to zero recognition: The difficulties faced by women artists 

For centuries the work of women has been made invisible because of the fact of being women. Whether it’s men who have stolen their ideas, husbands who have taken over their jobs or because in their times they couldn’t sign with their real names so they left the piece anonymous or signed with initials, the members of “Maldita Musa” stand out.

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