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,