In her seminal essay, Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey uses psychoanalytic theory to demonstrate how the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured the form of film. According to Mulvey, woman’s on-screen image forms and reinforces phallocentric thought in two ways. First, woman symbolizes the threat of castration due her real absence of a penis and secondly, her child is raised into the realm of the symbolic. In other words, her maternal plenitude compensates for her lack. Mulvey states, “Woman’s desire is subjected to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound, she can exist only in relation to castration and cannot transcend it (58).” I beg to differ.
“Woman [...] stands in patriarchal culture as signifier for the male other, [...] in which man can live out his fantasies and obsessions through linguistic command by imposing them on the silent image of woman still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning (58).” The hierarchy and power dynamics encouraged here are problematic. Surely, women can and already have surpassed the label of “male other” and bearer of castration anxiety. These thoughts then lead Mulvey to question how women can fight their oppression if their unconscious is structured within the language of patriarchy. In this sense, we are all predisposed to slightly more misogynistic tones due to the hegemonic reality of our society. This tendency is something I want to be acutely aware of in future writings. Thankfully, we do not have gendered words in the English language, so their influence upon cultural identity can be overlooked for this writing.
Alternative cinema must react against the obsessions and assumptions of Hollywood in order to exist as a counterpoint to it. The best of cinema, Mulvey explains, is through the skilled manipulation of visual pleasure. But what is visual pleasure for women? Mulvey states by analyzing pleasure, or beauty, we destroy it (59). My intention is not to destroy pleasure through analysis, but to better understand how men and women differ in their pursuit of it. How can we put this into visual terms? Mulvey believes it is through the thrill of leaving the past behind without rejecting it and daring to break away from normal pleasurable expectation in order to conceive of a new language of desire. This echoes my own sentiments completely.
Scopophilia is sexual stimulation through sight, often taking people as objects with a controlling and curious gaze. Mulvey uses scopophilia to explain the objectification of the female body. But how do women look at the male body? Film plays on and encourages voyeuristic fantasy and separation; a sensation that is enhanced in the ambience of the dimly lit movie theater. Film gives the voyeuristic illusion of looking in on a private world which simultaneously creates a loss of ego (I forgot who I am and where I was) and the ego ideal, a joyous recognition of the self through the glamour of movie stars.
Since I am attempting to invert the male gaze within my own work, I found that I was continuously flipping and replacing certain key words throughout the text. It started by simply replacing men with women, sadism with masochism, but then I realized that I was starting to replace “threat of castration” with “threat of rape.” This is challenge that repeatedly compromises the presence of the female gaze. How do women circumvent the threat of rape? Is it through masochism and submission? According to Mulvey, men use voyeurism and fetishism to escape castration anxiety. “The look, pleasurable in form, can be threatening in content [...] the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification. Man is reluctant to gaze at his exhibitionist like (62).” Woman, thusly, becomes his property and unpleasure.
For the most part, Mulvey’s text feels dated and out of touch with contemporary society. However, I believe her essay is an important component to my research as it continues be a major influence in feminist and cinematic theory. I am interested in finding contemporary criticism that incorporates new psychoanalytic theories so that I may better inform and answer the questions presented above.
Mulvey, Laura. Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema. Screen Magazine. 1973.
The female body has dominated the art world for decades. Her image continues to reinforce the power of the male gaze and all of its consequences: objectification, misogyny, sadism, etc. Over the course of the past year, I have been researching female artists and filmmakers who specifically address the difference between the way that women look at men versus the way that men look at women. In her seminal essay, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Laura Mulvey suggests that woman’s on-screen image reinforces phallocentric thought due to her obvious lack of a penis, which in turn generates castration anxiety for the male. But what happens when a woman looks at the on-screen image of a man? The presence of a scopophiliac female gaze is constantly compromised by the woman’s real fears toward the male, which are directly informed from her existence in a patriarchal society. The question persists: Can a female gaze exist without the threat of rape? The purpose of my thesis, When A Woman Looks is to investigate the nuances of heterosexual desire from a female perspective. Louise Bourgeois, Maya Deren, Joan Semmel, Sarah Eliassen, and Cecily Brown are just a handful of female artists who have contributed to this audacious canon of art. It is my intention to create an erotic visual language that women can respond to without shame and sentimentality. Through video and sculpture, I seek to cultivate a proficiency in this visual language that has largely gone unexplored. My upcoming thesis exhibition will be merely a portion of the cinematic vision I hope to achieve within the next year.
When a Woman Looks follows a painter, a soldier, and a young woman through a dreamlike sequence of separate, but mirrored experiences. The artist quietly paints watercolors through a series of colorful layers and tedious marks. The soldier treks across an unforgiving dune-like terrain, persevering despite the physical trial of the task, to reach an unknown destination. The woman glides in and between these moments through a collection of her own obstacles. From tap dancing in porcelain shoes to escaping the grasp of a controlling husband, she navigates her own way through these moments by encountering and compromising with a different male character each time. It is my hope that the resulting film is one of strength and resilience; one that is free of accusation and malice. With enthusiasm, moxie and genuine curiosity at the forefront, When a Woman Looks has the potential to attract all who dare to look.
This is just the beginning of what I hope will be a lifelong source of exploration and experimentation. I look forward to sharing my future findings and thoughts with you all soon.
All the best,
The dreaded first critique of graduate school is officially over! I had spent the whole last year talking to people about graduate schools and grad critiques. I'd often hear things like, "They're pretty brutal," or "I know several people who cried during their critique." This kind of sentiment had me mentally preparing myself for the worst. I felt like I was sharpening the blades of intent to prepare for a battle of the minds in defending my work. Although I was asked some challenging questions, I certainly didn't feel personally attacked or wounded.
I presented three different works: a figurative sculpture, slip-cast bat embryos, and a video. All works are in progress. Above and below you can see images of the figurative piece, How Was Your Day? With this work I am interested in exploring human relationships, communication, and distraction. More writing and reflection will come once the piece is complete.
The slip-cast bat embryos were created in response to Carl Jung's writing on the shadow. According to Jung, the shadow represents an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one's personality, the shadow is largely negative.
A seven piece mold was used to create these five pieces. However there will be many more molds and many more bats used in the final piece. I will post a mold-making video in the near future for those of you that are interested in this process.
Many thanks to those of you who have given me feedback in-person and online. Please feel free to share your questions or comments below. It's good practice for me to confront and talk about these issues in any way that I can.
I would also like to give a huge thanks to Georgia State University for recognizing me as their first Scholar of Distinction. This was an incredible surprise and honor that was awarded on the strength of my portfolio. I am humbled.
I am also pleased to say that my two studio mates, Kelly Stevenson and Michelle Laxalt, will be joining me at the 2015 NCECA Student Juried Exhibition in Providence, RI. There we will represent 10% of the 30 chosen ceramic graduate students from all across the country. We are thrilled and look forward to seeing you all this March for NCECA at RISD! Cheers!
I have reached the halfway point of my first semester in graduate school and I am exhausted. I knew this was going to be challenging, but I have yet to strike any kind of balance. Reading, writing, working, sculpting...sprinkled with a little bit of sleeping and eating here and there. The work in the studio is slow. I've been trying to push myself to achieve a level of realism with the work that I have not attempted before. I am enjoying the process immensely, but, due to the time it takes to render in such detail, I feel very behind.
My colleagues are incredible. The studio dynamic is positive and energetic. Everyone is very hard working. Kelly Stevenson is in her third year, Ty Nicholson is in his second, and Michelle Laxalt is my wingman in her first year with me. They, along with the other studio grads, have easily been one of the greatest things about this experience so far.
I am very pleased to share some images of a recent trip to New York City, where Joe was an invited to participate in Art In Odd Places, Manhattan. He was one of 62 artists from all over the country that spent the weekend performing along 14th Street. Hyperallergic magazine actually wrote an article about the show. Check it out here! As you can see in the photo below, I was the official documentarian.
However, I had business in the city of my own. After months of work, I was finally able to deliver my commission to the Meany Family. The sculpture is of the six Meany children sitting on a log. Many thanks to Jeff for his support and patience!
After living in Boone for nearly eight years, it is time to say goodbye. This little college town has been so good to me. Not only did I have a wonderful undergraduate experience there, but I got to cultivate really meaningful relationships with a lot of wonderful people. As difficult as it is to say goodbye, I have so much to look forward to in Atlanta.
One of the major things I get to look forward to is attending graduate school. Yes, I will be going to graduate school after all. After receiving an unexpected call from Christina West to invite me to join the M.F.A. program at Georgia State, I now find myself mentally preparing for the start of the school year. With a non-stop schedule throughout the summer, I'm almost completely moved into my new studio and my new home. Joe and I are also home owners now. I could not have dreamed a better situation. We are incredibly happy and fortunate to be able to continue our pursuing our artistic careers in a new city alongside one another.
With all of the positive change and new beginnings, I look forward to sharing with you all that comes flooding out of me in the months to come. Please stay tuned as I will be updating the blog a lot more regularly. Thanks for your interest and support!
Life can be very unpredictable and surprising. Just when you think you've got it all figured out, life throws you a curve ball. A BIG curve ball! I spent all winter working and preparing myself for graduate school this fall. After a very successful application and interview process, I finally made the decision to attend Edinboro University for my graduate studies. However, that has all changed in the course of a month.
I am very happy to say that Joe has received and accepted a full-time faculty position in the Department of Art at Spelman College in Atlanta. This very joyful and somewhat unexpected offer has changed our whole situation. We now find ourselves closer to reaching major career and life goals then ever before. As much as I was looking forward to graduate school, it seems that I've been pulled down another path toward Atlanta, GA.
If you are looking at graduate schools in the coming years for ceramics, I highly recommend taking a good look at Edinboro University. I'm not sure what's in the water up there, but there are some pretty exciting things coming out of the ceramic department from both the undergrads and graduate students. Check out their program:
My class in the Craft Enrichment Program has come to an end for this semester, but I am happy to say that I will be teaching an animal sculpting class every Monday for the month of June. I had a wonderful group of students for the figure sculpting class and hope that you will be able to join us this summer for, "Hooves, Paws, and Claws." Hope to see you there!
Hello everyone and happy spring!
It has been a rough winter here in Boone, but I've had a lot of exciting things happen during these past snowy months. After spending Christmas preparing for graduate school applications, it seems my hard work has really paid off. I decided to apply to seven different graduate programs all across the country and feel very fortunate to say that ALL seven programs had me listed as a finalist. This whole experience has been incredibly encouraging to say the least!
After several official offers and much research and deliberation, I am happy to announce that I have chosen Edinboro University as my graduate program. Crisinta Cordova was the person who put this school on my radar and I'm so glad she did because the more I researched the program the more interested I became. With the three main focuses of the ceramic program being glaze chemistry, mold-making, and figure sculpting, I believe it is a perfect fit for me. It feels great to know where I will be spending the next three years of my life. I think the work is going to explode out of me!
I also wanted to share some images from the latest workshops that I've been involved in lately. The first two images have been from Cristina Cordova and Jason Bige Burnett's collaborative workshops titled, "The Printed Figure." The class was in such high demand that they decided to split it into two separate sessions. Jason's clay screen printing techniques and slip applications were mind-blowing. Daniel Long and I were fortunate enough to assist both Cristina and Jason during the workshops. I left both sessions incredibly inspired. Please feel free to check-out more of their upcoming workshops at www.travel-arte.com.
In late February my class, "Exploring the Figure in Clay" started in the Craft Enrichment Program at Appalachian State University. I have been so impressed with my students! They have been working really hard on their sculptures so I wanted to take the time to recognize them by sharing some images of what we've been up to.
That's all for now! New work is on the way so stay tuned!
Happy New Year!
I am very excited to share what I've been up to in the studio with images of brand new work! I've been preparing for graduate school applications and portfolio submissions since August. There are six schools on my list and I've already sent off two applications. It has been a great start to 2014.
All of these sculptures would not have been possible without the kindness and generosity of Cristina Cordova and Bob Meier. Both Cristina and Bob have let me fire my work in their kilns and take up space in their studios repeatedly throughout the many months. Without them I would have no way of firing my work!
I would also like to recognize and thank the members of the Nth Degree Gallery It is in the Nth that all of this work was created. I am very thankful to have my studio space among so many incredible artists and wonderful people.
I am forever grateful to you all for your constant support!
This February I will be teaching a figure sculpting class in the Craft Enrichment Program at Appalachian State University. The class will meet Thursday nights from 6:00-8:30 pm starting February 20th to April 10th. Please visit their website for more information and sign up today!
It's that time of year! There's a lot of beautiful handmade items to complete your shopping lists here in the High Country. This weekend is the popular holiday TRAC tour of Mitchell and Yancey counties. Come and visit the studios of the wonderful artists that thrive in and around the Penland area. The TRAC tour
The 27th Annual Appalachian Potters Market is also happening this weekend in Marion, NC. Come and visit Bob and some of the other artists from Doe Ridge Pottery at McDowell High School from 10 am to 4 pm today. The show consists of 66 potters under one roof. Please help support the artists in your area by shopping local this holiday season. They will be happy to see you.
Hello everyone! I've been working really hard in the studio to produce new work for graduate school applications due this winter. Here's a peek at what I've been up to.
Yes, another cow lady has pranced into my thoughts. I would love to sculpt this series life-size. I feel like they would be so much more powerful if I could increase the scale. Maybe in graduate school...We'll have to wait and see.