Dr. Zoë Marie Jones on (re)Presenting Woman

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Art (re)Presenting Woman adorned the gallery space in Arctic Java, UAF Wood Center throughout March, Women's History and Culture Month. 

Dr. Zoë Marie Jones, Assistant Professor, Art History, shared the following words to open the show, to acknowledge the student artists, and to celebrate their contributions to the artistic presentation, representation, and (re)Presentation of Woman.  

As most of you know this exhibition is in celebration of Women’s History Month, an event that seeks to recognize the contribution of women both in contemporary times and throughout history. As an art historian I am very aware of the difficulty that women and women’s issues have faced (and continue to face) in the field of art. Although much work has been done to recuperate the feminine role in our traditional canon of art, it remains an under-recognized area of study. Much of this is due to the unavoidable fact that in many cultures a woman’s ability to contribute to culture was extremely limited. Unfortunately this still continues to be a problem, albeit somewhat mitigated. In today's world the challenge has expanded to include larger gender identity issues, a topic that is far from being satisfactorily explored.

The theme of this exhibit is (re)Presenting Women. Historically women were very much marginalized in the arts. Obstacles ranged from a lack of educational opportunities, restricted movement and travel, and a general bias against the female psyche. Often women’s creative endeavors were deemed craft instead of high art and even the few women who managed to break into the male art world were constrained by a lack of models, poor access to materials and difficulties in acquiring adequate training. As a result, well into the 20th century the majority of female artists were known for their self-portraits, portraits of other women, and for paintings of domestic settings. Woman as subjects in paintings is another problematic field. Early depictions of female subjects showed them as passive or subservient or else as allegories referring to either their purity (ie. the Virgin Mary) or supposed degeneracy (ie. Eve). This dichotomy also existed through the early 20th century as women were consistently either depicted as either a pure soul or a temptress. In the late twentieth century there were a number of female (and sometimes male) artists that challenged these archetypes in often militant and blatantly confrontational ways. This was a necessary step in the re-cooperation of the female image and our current artistic culture is indebted to these pioneers.

In conclusion I would like to acknowledge all of the artists who have submitted art for this exhibition. You represent a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and gender spectrums and your participation in this event reinforces the view that artists interested in gender equality can come from all walks of life. Thank you for your contribution.

Dr. Zoë Marie Jones

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