Amelia Jones: Review of Visiting Scholar – Morgan Rice

Review on Visiting Scholar Lecture – Amelia Jones

Morgan Rice

I attended the lecture “Queer Feminist Durationality”given by Amelia Jones. The lecture was split into three parts, and in each part she ended the section by bringing the conversation back to her main point. In the first section, she explored different aspects of feminist art from the mid 20th century on, and talked in depth about what she called ‘cunt art’ (which she described as being art in which the female body was frozen in time, such as in old paintings, etc). She compared old paintings of Venus to modern-day works in which the female body was arranged in such a way that the woman’s vagina would become the focal point of the work. She showed many modern and contemporary works which displayed this same technique. One in particular, entitled “Genital Panic” by Valie Export, featured a woman dressed in a man’s biker clothing, holding a gun, with hair and makeup done in such a way that she looks gender neutral. The crotch of her pants has been cut, however, and she is positioned in a powerful stance-type pose. Jones discussed the ways in which this work touched on the idea of fetishism and the male gaze on women in art.

In the next section, she discussed the term ‘queer’ and how it functioned in the idea of queer feminist durationality. One of the artists she chose to talk about in this section was Jenny Saville, and Jones discussed, in particular, her work called “Matrix”. In this painting, a woman’s body is viewed from underneath, and the stomach and breasts almost cover the figure’s face. However, the face of the figure is that of a man, not a woman. This opens up the discussion being made in many artwork about gender boundaries, and how they can be blended.

An artist that she talked about for much of her lecture was an artist named Cathy Opie, who I found especially interesting. This artist does a lot of self portrait-type works, in which she aims to break down the boundaries of gender and sexuality, showing herself as both a strong figure and also a tender motherly figure. She uses her body as a medium for her work, and embraces her tattoos as well as her own skin as an important part of her work. One of the works she created was entitled “Self Portrait, Nursing” and it showed the artist nude, breastfeeding a boy who looked too big to be breastfed, and who also had a different skin tone and hair color, making it seem likely that he was not her son. This work was interesting, but I admit that I could not help thinking about the situation of a young boy not related to this woman, and clearly too old to breastfeed, being placed in this photograph.

Throughout her lecture, I did not quite understand if she was talking about feminism or homosexuality, or if she was trying to merge the two. There was definitely a sexual element to the lecture, but the information and artworks shown seemed to be of such a broad sampling, that it was hard to follow what statement she was really trying to make. Another thing that I feel lost her some amount of credibility, was a segment at the end where she brought up an artist named Paul Donald, who made phallic sculptures, some of which represented Gatling guns. I suppose I can see a connection between feminist art, such as Georgia O’Keeffe’s work which included beautifully painted flowers emulating the female anatomy, to this art which showed harsh phallic objects made out of weaponry. However, I felt that this work contrasted what she was saying, rather than strengthening it. Also, at the end of her description of his work, she mentioned lightly that the man was her lover. To me, it seems that a lecturer looses some amount of credibility when including a loved one’s work, because it is unclear if she truly felt that his work had to do with what she was trying to talk about, or if she was merely trying to promote his work through her lectures.

I admit that I did not much enjoy this lecture, but this might be partly because after hearing the title repeated several times over, I still did not understand what ‘Queer Feminist Durationality’ was supposed to mean. It seemed to be a combination of words that brought up a lot of different interesting works of art, but it did not feel explained. To be fair, she only had an hour to discuss what seemed to be a very deep and complex topic, and it is possible that she did not have time to go over each work that pertained to what she was trying to say in enough detail. Perhaps if she had more time, I could have gotten a better idea of the statement she was trying to make.

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