Visiting Scholar Review: Amelia Jones

Alicia Baca

ARTH 3539-001

Kira Van Lil

Scholar Review: Amelia Jones

The visiting scholars lecture on April 17th 2012 was presented by Amelia Jones. Currently a professor and chair of Visual Culture at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. While she has written many essays and quite a few books, two within the past month, she presented her lecture on one of her papers entitled “Queer Feminist Durationality: The Trace of the Subject in Contemporary Art”. In this she explored her theory of identity in the fine arts and set her main focus on how identity, especially sexual and gender identity, affect the meaning that goes into an artists works.

In her lecture she focused mainly on how the female body is used as the subject in the “cunt art” of the feminist movement in the 1970’s. While the overwhelming majority of the artworks presented in this lecture mostly depicted female genitalia. While the visual choices for her presentation were a bit alarming, even if you have seen art pieces such as these plenty of times, there was certainly a reason for all of the exposure. Jones showed us that in the works of feminist and queer artists their gender and sexual orientation plays an, obviously, huge role in the meaning of their works. However, as a side effect, the artists identity as a feminist or queer overpowers and dominates the artwork itself. As a result, the conceptual meaning of the piece is lost and is often attributed to being something of the genre of shock-art rather than the art of an artist who just happens to be a feminist or queer. However, she did point out that the reason for these kinds of association with this kind of art is due to the fact that gender and sexuality are some of the primary ways in which we present ourselves in society.

Jones then explained her main idea of how we conceive and express our personal identities now and how we should express them. While she did acknowledge that it would be difficult for society to not heavily rely on gender and sexuality as the main was in which we identify ourselves she came up with the term “intersectionality” which she uses to define the complex nature in which ones identity is constructed. As a result she also stressed that we need to look beyond the obvious differences that these artists may have and also examine the other aspects of them that form their identities other than gender and sexuality.

The piece that stuck out the most to me during this lecture was the piece by Mira Schor “Slit of Paint”. The piece consists of warm, fleshy colored paint on a canvas that is built up int he center with a palette knife. The center builds up to a red slit in the center that resembles female genitalia with a yellowish semicolon in the center of it. While this clearly resembles female organ it looks like a wound as well. While I may be over thinking this a bit much, I see it as a way of seeing how the public reacts to feminist art from the eyes of a feminist. It’s clearly a part of them and their works, but it can be wounding to have society overlook your meaning and see nothing but the genitalia that is in front of them.

Overall, while this lecture was rather crammed with quite a lot of information for a one hour lecture, her ideas on how to reconstruct how we express and conceive our identities in the world of the visual arts were really quite eye opening. While her theories may not necessarily be the solution to fixing this problem that the world of contemporary feminist and queer art faces, it certainly offers a new way to approach and reconstruct how we as viewers, researchers, and even artists view and interpret the works of feminist and queer artists.

2 Responses

  1. I too saw the Jones lecture and found that it was an inspiring approach to viewing feminist and queer art and their work. I really liked the way you describe what “Slit of Paint” meant to you and agree with your understanding

  2. I feel as though sometimes in feminist art, the artist seems so pissed off about the way things are, that their art becomes more of a disillusioned transportation for their anger, rather than a well thought out piece. But I do agree that most people, even myself notice gender and sexuality as one of the first things about an artist. Even though i didn’t see this lecture, I will be more conscious of how I view the artist with their work.

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