Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Domestic Stereotype Conflict

The statement that stuck out most in this article- " On one hand, she portrays the beauty within the stereotype and on the other side she struggles with its contradiction, that is, the stereotype does not reflect today's complexity and that perhaps that stereotype is not so bad." After reading this article and the posted artist statement i come to some confusion as to what kind of eyes i should be looking through when looking at Anita Powell's empty dress figures. I think she is making an attempt to create an initial attitude of nostalgia of her figures, but when looked upon more closely, there are conflicts and issues at hand that might not be so nostalgic. The visual aesthetic of her line work for surface decoration and the modern curves of the empty dress forms bring this feeling of nostalgia. This is similar to "the 1960's idealization of the 1950's" I think powell is using this time period and aesthetic as a vehicle to gently brush up against more modern issues of gender domesticity and responsibility. They are visually active and work together to tell a larger story. I cannot see these figures working alone outside from groupings. The empty dress form is what leads me to believe that Powell is looking at issues for the contemporary viewer. The fact that the dress is empty allows the viewer to embody what is missing, the flesh, the hair, the eyes. We have to recreate what might be inside. We are persuaded by the imagery to create a certain type of character that is missing. We can come more closely to these issues because they are not directly displayed through the literal figure. They are more in character form with less emotion and obvious persona's. The viewer must make this assumption.


  1. Reflecting on this article I ask myself is Anita Powell commenting on domesticity itself or the media's interpretation of it. The line work and style of rendering are typical of the 50's and 60's advertising which often portrayed the ideal. Early in the article Welch states,"The media succeeded in convincing society that it was the norm for women to stay home to rear children and to attend to their domestic responsibilities." I find this statement confusing. Historically and cross culturally the domestic role has for the most part always been female. It was the norm period. Why would the media need to convince anyone of that. I don't believe that the media was trying to convince the viewer that this was the norm rather than identifying a specific demographic. During the 50's and 60's the U.S. was in a post war economic boom. As the economy surged middle class Americans for the first time found themselves with disposable income and domestic women were a market. It was no different than it is today with advertising, to create an ideal and initiate desire. As for the work, it seems to me that she is simply documenting this fact. It just happens that the subject for this observation is the domestic woman. The dress forms are those associated with the ideal of the time (i.e. June Cleaver) and are overlaid with stereotypical imagery associated with advertising. The only difference today is the culture shift. Advertising is in touch with that shift and reacts accordingly. Now we see car commercials targeting single moms along side the standard mop commercials still aimed at the domestic woman. It's the selling of an idea more than a product.

  2. I think Chris is right that females have always had domestic roles, and that the media didn't need to convince anyone of this, but rather that the media serves to perpetuate gender attitudes that have long been in place (since the emergence of modern humans, women evolved first by the way). What I want to discuss is the material issue. On page 27 at the very bottom Welch notes that, "nevertheless, her visual manifestations of that cridique are unique in ceramics and aesthetically brilliant." This sentence following his conceit that Powell is not the first to critique this gender propaganda, seems somewhat useless. I think this work is brilliant, but why does it matter that it's unique to ceramics? What if these pieces were unique to concrete? Would we even need to mention this fact? The issue here is whether or not the work is relevant and resonant. Personally I could do with something that brings the work into the now. Our culture is on a retro kick, and I honestly believe that these gendered roles are still very alive and kicking, but the work seems static--observant. So throw an iphone in there and ask me why men can't play the domestic daddy role.

  3. Great discussion today. It would be interesting, if you have the time, to find another article by Welch and see if they are all the same....