Objects of Voyeurism and Subjects of Agency: The Consumption and Production of Maenads in Greek Vase Painting

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm

In ancient Greece, “In order to achieve adult female status a woman has to become an object as much as a subject; she has to accept and embrace her objectification by the dominant discourses of her culture and internalize a construction of her identity.”[1]

Maenads have often been discarded as flippant characters within Greek mythology, bearing little significance in iconography of ancient Greek vase painting.  Few have focused on their importance as individual characters within the narrative of the Dionysian cult.  Furthermore, the role of voyeurism in both the depiction and consumption of maenadic figures has long gone unchecked.  In order to fully understand the female citizen in ancient Greece, it is crucial to ask the question: In what ways are maenads depicted as agents and active figures and/or non-agents and passive figures?  Why and how are these figures objectified?  As Barbara Goff states, in the context of ancient Greece a woman must come to terms with her situation as ‘object’ within her own culture.  What follows is a close examination of the mythical depictions of maenads and how they proved to represent larger social constructions of women and their relationship to men by embodying both socially normalized ideals of femininity and an oppositional inversion of such stereotypes. Continue…


An Analysis of the Primitive in Art and Anthropology

In Of Interest, Uncategorized on August 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm

MoMA's Controversial Exhibition

Shelly Errington, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and specialist in visual cultural anthropology, reflexively analyzes Western art historians in her essay, “What Became Authentic Primitive Art?” (Cultural Anthropology: 1994). She critiques the notion of Authentic Primitive Art and as a western, ethnocentric ideological construct and problematizes hierarchical arrangement of such non-Western artifacts. She argues against dominating themes of ethnocentrism in Western art by analyzing exhibits of Primitive Art, which she incriminates as the source of non-Western “otherization”. Specifically, she argues against “Art by Appropriation”, stating that “the vast majority of objects found in fine arts museums were not created as ‘art,’ not intended by their makers to be ‘art’,” rather, these artifacts exist independently of the Western Museum proper (Errington: 202). Instead, Errington advocates for cultural relativism in lieu of Western ethnocentrism in the appreciation of non-Western artifacts. Continue…

Portraits of the Artist: Angelica Kauffmann

In Artist Profile on August 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm

The Academicians of the Royal Academy, 1771-1772. Johann Zoffany (1733/4-1810). Oil on canvas, 101.1 x 147.5 cm. The Royal Collection, Painted for George III, RCIN 400747.

Angelica Kauffmann was an accomplished artist in her own right.  As a founding member of the Royal Academy, she cultivated a uniquely feminine style that was both scorned and revered.  Yet open a text covering the Academy, and you’re likely to find a paragraph or two on the artist.  Despite her success, wealth, patronage, and connections in life, Angelica Kauffmann was largely forgotten after her death in 1807.  However, through a close reexamination of the artist’s career and work, one discovers a deeper talent than what history texts gloss over.  By analyzing two works by male contemporaneous artists and one of her own self-portraits, I will reconstruct the misinformed identity of Angelica Kauffmann.  Contrary to most scholarship on the subject, I will prove how her unique education, style, and patronage shaped her into a female master to be recognized as such. Continue…