Erika Doss Lecture

Shayna Weingast

4/30/12

Erika Doss Lecture

Erika Doss is a well known and very well respected art historian who currently teaches at the Univeristy of Notre Dame. I have read her work in several of my art history classes, so I jumped at the opportunity to attend her lecture. Her lecture was titled “Cultural Vandalism and Public Memory: Anger, Citizenship, and Memorials in Contemporary America,” and covered the controversial topic of public memorial art, focusing mostly on the memorial statue of Juan de Onate in New Mexico.

Erika Doss’ lecture was an informative exploration into a realm of public art that many of use experience on a regular basis but often take for granted – monuments. While most of us (the population at large) are exposed to monuments and public works on a very regularly, it is so rare that any of us really take a moment to think about the meaning behind these works. For example, the fountain behind the UMC I just recently learned is the Dalton Trumbo fountain, named for a seminal screenwriter who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. As a film major, this void of knowledge is not just embarrassing, but a reflection of the general mode of oblivion I seem to operate in.

Professor Doss began her lecture by giving a brief history of the statue of Juan de Onate, a monument of particular controversy because of the history it represents. While the actual history of Juan de Onate is shaky, the story accepted by most European-Americans is that Onate was a brave conquer who was one of the founding fathers of the south-west. In this way, Onate’s history is valorized as brave, representing an emblem of courage and conquest. HOwever, for the Pueblo Indians, who were the one that were kicked out of their home by Onate in favor of European colonization, the statue represents death and distraction. For these Native Americans, the statue only reminds them of a traumatic past and stands for a history that attempted to write their people out; the statue is a blatant celebration of the genocide of their people. During this part of the lecture, Doss touched upon an aspect of memorial art I had never considered; the ‘other’ history it ignores in favor of the dominate narrative.

Professor Doss discussed the protests enacted by the Native Americans over the years, playing close attention to one specific act of vandalism that occurred on the anniversary of Onate’s conquer of Acoma Pueblo several years ago. During the celebration, members of the Native American community cut off the foot of Onate’s memorial statue to reference a historical fact that has long been ignored; Onate cut off the right foot of every man in Acoma Pueblo as punishment for their attempted revolt. Doss discussed the emotional turmoil the memorial caused for the descendent of the victims of Onate, and how Native Americans felt victimized and were forced to question their identity as a citizen on the United States. This was the part of the lecture that carried the most emotional and intellectual depth.

Erika Doss then went on to discuss what she calls, and wrote about in her previous book, “memorial mania.” It is a reference to Americas obsession with history and remembering and how our culture is fascinated with publicizing memory through public landmarks. Doss argued that these memorials have no discernible theme or aesthetic stander, but represents our need to commemorate and historicize. Doss gave many examples of different memorials, and brought up how each has an alternative narrative that goes largely unrecognized.

Overall, I found Erika Doss’ lecture to be insightful, interesting, and challenged by knowledge of both art and history (as separate entities). Doss ended by stating that what must be sought out in order to stop these culture clashes is an alternative course for commemorating American national identity. Doss concluded by pointing to the MLK memorial as an example of a positive and successfull contemporary American memorial.

Amelia Jones – Visiting Scholar

Shayna Weingast

Visiting Scholar Review

Amelia Jones: Queer Feminist Durationality

The Trace of the Subject in Contemporary Art

The subject of Amelia Jones’ lecture was, in a nutshell, about identity, and the ways in which identity is constructed and received in art. Her most recent work, “Queen Feminist Durationality,” according to Jones, deals directly with the new emerging theories on how we might think of identity in relation to the visual arts. Jones presented new research on how to think about art after 1960, proposing a shift from object to process and how this shift relates to globalization, digital networking, and a sense of placelessness. She also favored a spatial approach, not a chronological one, and urged that the viewer consider art’s political and social aspects.

Jones gave the audience a quick background on feminist art, showing works from feminist artists like Valie Export and Judy Chicago. These work deal with the objectification of women, and the ways in which women form identity based on their relationship to men. In this section of the lecture, there were copious vaginal images (what she called “cunt art”), to which Jones discussed issues of male castration paranoia, fetishizing projections, and the gaze theory. Jones spoke about the binary relationship of the male gaze and female fetishism, and the ways in which women construct an identity based on their relationship to the male gaze, rather than independent of gender influence. Despite the often grotesque genitalia art she presented in her PowerPoint, this was the part of the lecture I enjoyed the most, and which I found I had the most background in, having read works by Laura Mulvey and Gloria Steinam for my thesis.

While elucidating her approach, she dipped into nearly incomprehensible jargon: phrases such as “logic of latency” and “activating a conceptual body via material traces expressing the work’s having been made” left me in a state of bewilderment. Once Jones went beyond the realm of feminist theory, I found myself lost amongst her esoteric vocabulary and obscure references. On more than one occasion, I had to stop listening to her lecture all together to re-group my thoughts and get back on track with what she was saying.

Jones then went through the three main words of her thesis, defining each as they related to her argument. Beginning with feminism, as I discussed above, she then shifted her lecture towards understanding “queer,” perhaps the most loaded word of her thesis. Jones defined queer as “the impossibility of the subject staying still…riding the line of indentified and identifiable.” That is to say, Jones seems to be arguing that what makes “queer” queer is its lack of a specific subject or identifier; queer always remains in the limbo between a fixed and fluctuating identity.

Jones ended the lecture by defining “durationality,” which was the part of the lecture I struggled the most with. Jones left the definition of “durationality” completely opaque—it’s not even a real word. I came away with no concrete definition for “durationality,” only that it implies a certain framework for which scholars can/should look at art, especially in light of technology, globalization and homosexuality.  Instead, she linked the world “intersectionality” to “durationality” (another made up word), which allows her to address the sexual aspect of all imagery.

Overall, I found Aemlia Jones’ lecture to be fascinating but extremely challenging. Her vocabulary alone had me lost and confounded, while the content of the lecture reinforced my feelings of confusion but addressed some very important and interesting topics. However, her lecture was extremely appropriate to attend and I truly feel I gained a great deal of knowledge from the hour I spent in her world of scholastic investigation.

Cindy Sherman – Exhibition Review

Shayna Weingast

Exhibition Review 2

Cindy Sherman – MOMA

For my exhibition review, I chose to write about Cindy Sherman’s retrospective at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. Although I have attended many art exhibitions this year, including The Denver Art Museum’s phenomenal special exhibitions such as Ed Ruscha’s On the Road and the Yves Saint Lauren retrospective, as well as and Damien Hirst’s dot domination at New York’s infamous Gagosian Galleries, it was Cindy Sherman’s work that had the greatest impact on me.

After writing an honors thesis on Sofia Coppola, another female artist who deals with issues of femininity and the role of the female in the arts, I was able to approach Sherman’s work with a whole new level of understanding and appreciation. I have been a big fan of Sherman’s work since I learned about her my freshman year of college, and seeing her work all together, in sequence, with copious amounts of supplementary information in the form of a free audio guide and the curatorial write-ups, really made me re-think and evaluate her work in a whole new (positive) way. The exhibit provides its viewers with the unique experience of engaging with her entire canon on a personal and intimate level. In the first room of the exhibit, there is a write-up about Sherman and the meaning and purpose of her life’s work. The introductory blurb, written by the curator of the show, expresses that her work is inherently about “the constructs of identity, the nature of representation, and the artifice of photography.” Without sounding too agreeable, for me these three pithy phrases totally and completely encapsulates the entirety of Sherman’s artistic purpose.

The rooms in the show are arranged chronologically for the most part, allowing a procession through iconic series, including the Untitled Film Stills (1977-80), Old Master Art History portraits, Clowns, Disasters, Fashion Victims, Society Women, etc., while displaying changes in technology: black and white to color, and manually projected backgrounds to digitally created environments. Having access to many photographs from a single series creates unity, whcich allowed me to fully immerse myself in the reflexivity and intimacy of her work. With this comprehensive chronological approach, the viewer is able to see the progression in both ideas and technique that was happening from project to project.

Sherman is also famous for posing for all her own photographs, dressing herself in elaborate costumes, and taking the pictures herself in the privacy of her own studio, without the presence of anyone else. This imitate experience reinterprets the norm of the artist/model relationship that ultimately develops in photography, as well as refigures gender relationships. The role of the viewer is also called into question in her photographs because, in traditional photography, the photographer and the model enter into a dialogue with each other, and this gazer/gazee dynamic functions as the fundamental relationship for which the viewer is invited to experience. However, Sherman’s work challenges this relationship, as all outside “gazers,” specifically that of the male sex, are illiminated and the viewer is then responsible for creating a new kind of meaning to extract from her work.

Another aspect of her work that I found intriguing, which I had never seriously considered before the show, is that she leaves all her works untitled. Sherman states that this is to refuse a narrative, which I think is an ingenious tactic. So often, when looking at any piece of art in a museum or gallery, the first thing I look for is the title. A title is often the crux of the work – it contains the artists’ statement, message, and intention for the work. It can dictate the viewer how to feel, respond and interact with the work. It still amazes me how much power a work’s title has over the audience’s reaction/response. To return to the point, as Sherman’s works have always been left untitled, the experience I had with her photographs relate to the name she gives to the overall series, not the individual works. That is not to say that the individual works are not powerful or important, which they very much are, it’s that I find myself more free to experience each work with my own mode of interpretation: a freedom rarely found in my museum-going past.

Sherman deals with the major obsessions of our time: identity, narcissism, physical transformation through will and artifice. The most salient issue in her work, however, seems to be that Sherman’s formula depends on her disappearance. In a recording from the audio guide, Sherman says that her characters don’t represent her, which is one thing for an actor to claim but quite another for an artist. A work of art, after all, is an artificial extension of its maker. What unifies her work is its reflexivity; what all her photographs have in common in that they call into question the fundamental nature of photography, identity, and artifice. Each series deals with these issues in their own way. For example, her “fashion photograph” series highlights the grandeur of high fashion, but undercuts it but undercutting the grotesque physical appearance of the women draped in the elegant clothing.

By the end of the show, I did come away with genuine respect for Sherman’s craft across the years (especially in the age before Photoshop where her staged constructions were all done by hand), and for her unique ability to hold up a mirror to ourselves. For nearly 40 years, she has consistently and unflinchingly shown us our stereotypes and roles, our categories and clichés, our delusional hopes and shattered dreams. Sherman is a monologist, a gifted storyteller with a canny supply of stereotypes, assumptions and perceptions. Her assets include a fairly ordinary face and body that easily disappear into the story she happens to be telling.

Clyfford Still Paper 1

Shayna Weingast

1/29/12

ARTH 3539

The Clyfford Still Museum

“To be stopped by a frame’s edge is intolerable.” – Clyfford Still

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Clyfford Still Documentary – Extra Credit

Two months ago, in preparation for the opening of the Clyfford Still Museum, the Denver Film Festival had three screenings of the new documentary, Still, directed by local Amie Knox, this film we will be watching this Thursday in class. When tickets went on sale, the two scheduled screenings sold out almost immediately, and the festival added a third screening so more art-enthusiasts could see the film before the opening of the museum. Still played as the very last film of the two-week, two-hundred film festival, and got me, and the rest of the community, truly interested in the life and work of Clyfford Still.       Continue reading

Shayna Weingast Intellectual Profile

INTRO

1)   I am a senior film studies and art history major. With film, I am studying theory and criticism rather than production. I will be graduating in May and I plan on attending graduate school in August, ideally at NYU in the Tish program for Cinema studies Continue reading