To What Extent Did Female Surrealists Reverse The Male Gaze Within The Surrealist Photography?
Table of contents:
Identification of Art (pg.4)
Photography in Surrealism (pg.6)
Representation of woman (pg.6)
Relationship between female/male gaze (pg. 10)
According to the oxford dictionary Art is an “expression of the human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture.” (1, oxford dictionaries) Art captures time and is presented by many standpoints that have been expressed in a visual form for us to interpret. Art teaches us perspective as we look at a work of art we try to see into the minds of artists and why has the artist used specific color schemes or shapes to represent what he was thinking of the time. Many artists use their form of artwork to pass along their views and feelings hence the images produced by them can express an innovative way of seeing the world from their perspectives.
In my essay, I will be focusing the art movement of “Surrealism”. It is a style in art and literature in which ideas, images, and objects are combined in a strange way, like in a dream. The Surrealists attempt to channel their unconscious state of mind as a means to unlock their power of the imagination. (2, theartstory )Therefore this topic boils down to one question, To What Extent Did Female Surrealists Reverse the Male Gaze within the Surrealist Photography?
Surrealism began in Paris in 1924 and was later moved to Mexico and the United States and it had a huge impact on women artists. The tale of surrealism in the United States started by including two women artists, Lee Miller and Rosa Rolanda, who appeared from different sides of the country (New York and California, respectively) and discovered themselves in 1920s Paris modeling for an artist and photographer Man Ray (the United States, 1890–1976). Both women were decided to build their own uniqueness, and they used innovative methods in photography to begin an investigation of their imaginary worlds and themselves. Unconsciously, surrealism became the beginning of two tides of creativity: the imagined, which arose from intelligence and was created originally by men, and the intuited, which arose from the artist’s experience and was generated mostly by women. The women’s art reflected the female psyche as beauty and it surprisingly began a new conversation between the different artists that increasingly modified the relationship between the genders. (3, lacma)
Identification of Art
Although the male surrealists in Paris during the 1920s examined the unconscious within dreams and their paintings did not significantly expose the individual experiences. In this, the women differed considerably from their male counterparts, as their art often reflected personal wounds and tortures. For them, surrealism became a means of increasing self-awareness, searching their inner thoughts and feelings, dealing with their experiences, and discovering or building their true identities.
The themes that dominated the work of women surrealists in Mexico and the United States reflected the artists’ past experiences, present-day situations, fears, hopes, and desires. The feminine exchange between the self and the other was distinguished from the male surrealists’ outward projection of their motives. Femininities transformed the female body into a site of protection, psychic power, and creative energy. They also improved set the stage for the feminist evolution by creating art that inspired social institutions and gender boundaries. Since the time of the Egyptians, portraits have served as reports that record an individual’s likeness at a particular moment in time. While conventional portraiture provided information and hints about the sitter’s characteristics, interests, social status, or history, because many of the art of women surrealists were self-referential in nature, portraiture was an ideal vehicle for exploring identity. (3, lamca)
Objectification of women in Male Surrealist art depicted the male gaze in its darkest form, through the ideas of the uncanny, obsession, and convulsive beauty. Women were treated as objects throughout Surrealist photography and painting instead of as human subjects. Their femininity and beauty were valued to the extent of held belief that a woman’s destiny is to be beautiful and be present for the male gaze. Women Surrealists have gained notoriety in the last sixty years for their presence in the Surrealist movement and for their perseverance in providing the female perspective in opposition to the male perspective. (4, scholarscompass) Surrealism was a gated realm created exclusively for male artists, the majority of whom objectified and fetish zed women. For a female artist to unlock this gate, she had to fulfill the male artists’ need for narrowing the role of women down to an object of male desire.
Photography in Surrealism:
Surrealism began the medium of photography into artistic practice. One of the authors of the Surrealist movement in 1924 in Paris was a photographer – J. A. Boiffard – and its affiliates included photographers such as the American Man Ray and the Frenchman Eli Lotar, along with Claude Cahun and Dora Maar, whose craft has lately been rediscovered. Other visible artists within the surrealist movement 4, for example, the Belgian René Magritte 5 also incorporated the comparatively juvenile medium into their work.
Photography made an indispensable participation to the development of Surrealist aesthetics by giving pictorial form to the “gaze of desire”6. Modification, fetishization, gender-switching, scandalization and hallucination were some of the principal themes inscribed by Surrealist photographers. In addition, new instances of using the medium were examined in Surrealist paperbacks and publications. (10,artdaily)