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Bridge 1 Part 2- “Olympia”

Theme: Gender (sex, androgyny, LGBTQX, oppression)

Link to Bridge 1 part 1

Bridge 1 part 2a:

We had to give a partner two pieces of art that relate to our theme and have them ask questions about the works. My partner was Sofia Perevalova and the two works of art I chose were “Untitled” by circa 1976 by Jo Ann Callis and “Olympia” by Edouard Manet.

The ‘what if’ questions Sofia gave me for “Untitled” were:
-What if the photograph was a painting, how/would the concept be altered?
-What if the photograph was of a man, would it still have a vulnerable aspect to it?
-If you saw the photograph happen live would it change your opinion on it, how?

In response to her questions on “Untitled”:
I think that if the piece was a painting rather than a photograph the initial shock power of the piece would be dimmed.  One of the things that makes the piece so strong is that it is of a real woman rather than just a painting of a real woman. The fact that it’s a photograph gives it a sense of reality. You know that since that is a photograph of a living woman, she must be out there somewhere (or was when the painting was taken). It’s easier to dissociate from a painting because it doesn’t feel as animate as a photograph does.
If the photograph was of a man and he was also not wearing a shirt there would be no real vulnerability to it because our society views a man not wearing a shirt as normal. Men take off their shirt at the beach, the gym, amusement parks, while jogging, and plenty of other places. Whereas women’s chest is treated as if they must be hidden unless their being shown for the purpose of ‘sex’.
I personally don’t think I would find it as powerful as I saw it in person, which I know probably seems backward. If I was to only interact with this piece live, it would feel more like some weird performance piece that I would probably find more intimidating than anything else. Being able to view the piece simply as a 2d work of art allows me to appreciate the piece and look at the various aspects without having to confront the person photographed.  It also allows me to show the piece to a wider audience.

The ‘what if’ questions she gave me for “Olympia” were:
-What if the painting was modern? Would its meaning and purpose change?
-What if the painting was a man also nude in bed, would the painting be more sexualized or less? how does gender influence the purpose of the piece?
-What if the painting were done using brighter colors, would it somehow become more sexual as it would adopt a more “pop art” aesthetic?

I used these ‘what if’ question to do Bridge 1 part 2b:

Bridge 1 part 2b

Piece used: “Olympia” by Edouard Manet

When I first read the assignment page for Bridge 1, I immediately wanted to have an interactive aspect to my piece. I wanted to have an interactive aspect because I feel like it makes people more engaged in the work and helps to tell a narrative. I originally wanted to accomplish this by having multiple panels, all landscape to match the original work, that would be stacked on top of each other. You would see the narrative as you flipped through the panels putting the outcome somewhere between a painting and a picture book. I messed around with that idea but ended up scrapping it in favor of an etched plexiglass panel over an illustrator print-out.
I felt that the picture-book-esque idea was a little juvenile and overly straight-forward for the project. I decided to etch the plexiglass so that you could see through it and capture the idea of looking behind a work for its story and/or meaning.

For the finished work I focused on the ‘what if’ questions:
-What if you could behind a work of art? (my own)
-What if the painting was modern? (from Sofia)
-What if the painting were done using brighter colors, would it somehow become more sexual as it would adopt a more ‘pop art’ aesthetic? (from Sofia)

Since my theme is gender I choose a highly gendered piece to focus on. Instead of emphasizing the use of gender in the piece I decided to use more simplified human forms. By simplifying the forms of the people in the original piece I was able to have a level of ambiguity that wasn’t present in Manet’s original painting. I feel like the ambiguity enhances the theme of gender because now that you’re not sure of the figures genders you’re left to wonder or make assumptions.
By simplifying the forms I’m also able to give the piece a much more modern aesthetic, like Sofia suggested. I responded to one of Sofia’s other questions by using brighter colors, though I didn’t use bright enough colors for me to get a “‘pop art’ aesthetic.”
My piece definitely falls within the fine arts for display realm of visual culture. Though it has the slightly interactive aspect of being able to remove the plexiglass from the piece, that’s the only part of it that is not simply for display. If it were to end up somewhere within the realm of visual culture I’d say a small gallery or a show about responding to the work of great artists. It would have to be a physical space because the work doesn’t come of the same online as it does in person.


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