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Gender in Art

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Language Arts And English +1 Age Levels Post-Secondary, Adults

Let us stop for a minute and think of how gender is portrayed around the world. Women were always seen as the beautiful creatures who mainly relied on their beauty alone to get what they want/need. Men, on the other hand, are the strong tough guys who can take on anything with their incredible strength. The woman stays at home doing housework and cooking, while the man is out there in the world working hard to provide for his family. These are all things we were brought up to believe about the two genders. There is a clear divide between male and female. There always has been and there always will be. However, let's shift our brain to think about how gender is portrayed in different pieces of art. With art, we are able to visually see how each gender is portrayed differently. With nude statues, the males embrace their masculinity and can openly display themselves, while the women are always needing to be more secluded and have items such as cloth covering their more "intimate" parts. Men are also visually depicted as having great strong bodies which shows that they are supposed to be the dominant character, while when a woman poses it's more graceful. These are just a few examples of how the two differ. 

Through this collection we will be looking at various time periods. We will first be looking at Ancient Greek art, observing male and female nude statues, and again, seeing how they are portrayed differently. As mentioned earlier, men were fully nude while women were mildly nude. It was appropriate for women to bare some of their naked body, because women's bodies have always been seen as gracious and beautiful, but for a woman to be fully exposed would be distasteful. This concept is still seen in the modern day, for society has a problem with women showing so much skin and body and will get called derogatory names, while it's totally acceptable for a man to show all he wants. We will also see a little bit as to how men were sometimes held captive by a woman because women were portrayed as very manipulative and acting in the role of being a seductress to get what they wanted from a man with temptation. 

Taking a turn, but not a turn too far away from Ancient Greek art, we will be looking at the Renaissance era. Renaissance means rebirth, and many pieces of art show this. For women, they were shown as a little bit more chubby because in that time, being more voluptuous meant you were wealthy, and wealth was considered very beautiful. Not only wealth, but also fertility. Women are child bearers, they are bringing life into the world, and that is also a beautiful thing. Women were still viewed for their beauty, and men were still viewed for their strength, but they had more of an "athletic intelligent" portrayal. They were still strong and muscular, but they were shown to not only be physically strong, but also intelligent and healthy. The biggest difference from earlier times, though, is that women were starting to be more appreciated. I feel like they were getting more light shone on them and they were displayed with children a lot, and I believe that is to show the beauty of them being able to give life to new beings in the world. 

We'll also be taking a quick glance at a couple pieces of Baroque art in which women were appearing even more powerful and overshadowing men by showing that they could be just as strong as them. With women being so inferior to men in Ancient times, we can see how as times move on, they really want to grab the power from the man and become superior. 

The last collection features works of art that were created during the postmodernism era in the mid-late 20th century. During this time feminist art was a big thing and was becoming more popular. Women artists were becoming more recognized and feminist groups such as the Guerrilla Girls formed to fight things such as sexism and racism in art. Much of the art during this time was geared towards showing what women can do. There was a lot of female empowerment shown in the arts, really breaking that barrier between male and female, showing that a woman can do everything that a man can do. You'll notice that a few of these works are done by feminist activists and were made for the purpose of campaigning for women's rights. A big thing that's different about this collection of art compared to the other two is the fact that they are all geared towards women. The work of art by Winslow Homer is the only one that features a man, and even then, the man is not the important subject of it; the woman is. This is because during this era, again, feminism was booming. 

This collection is great for people who are interested in the subject of gender portrayals and how men and women are perceived differently. It is an interesting learning aid, because people may only believe that women and men were just treated differently in society, and perhaps didn't know that the divide between male and female was also seen in pieces of art work and in writings. It's also a great representation of what gender was like in Ancient times and how it's changed as the years and centuries progressed. It's amazing to see how, women especially, have went from not having any attention brought to them, to turning into very powerful figures in society. 

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