Fugitive pieces : exploring the boundaries of womanhood

Keith, Marlise (2002-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The research question of this thesis was: What is the nature of the social boundaries that define women as a group, how has this been depicted throughout the ages and, more specifically, in the work of South African artists, Vladimir Tretchikoff and Irma Stern, and what comment does my own work seem to make on these boundaries? The study used an analytical approach to pursue these questions, while the works of art were analysed according to the levels of interpretation suggested by Panofsky and Dietrich, The aim of this research was also to analyse my own body of work more theoretically within the context of postmodern feminist thought to determine how it resonates with earlier assumptions regarding women. For this purpose a comparison was made between, on the one hand, what Tretchikoff and Stern's respective depictions of women reveal about traditional conventions that hold women captive and, on the other, how my own work seems to question the boundaries that society imposes on women. Both Tretchikoff and Stern were successful enough to raise public consciousness on issues that concerned female subjugation. Seemingly for very different reasons, however, they remained apathetic to the quest for women's liberation. The study shows that Tretchikoff's work reflects a blatant disregard of the identities and social realities of his models, and romanticises their constraints instead. Stern, on the other hand, could not have been unaware of the societal limitations imposed on women. Yet she chose to remain aloof. While she seemed to be able to move masculine requirements and the demands of society to the background to depict women as natural and almost free of stereotype in some of her works, she cannot be seen to have made a major contribution to the liberation of women. In contrast, I have found many similarities throughout the study between feminist thought of the Second Wave and the thought processes mirrored in my art. In addition to the expected outcome, the study has shown that it is possible to trace developments in feminist thought in art.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die navorsingsvraag behels die volgende: Wat is die aard van die maatskaplike grense wat vroue in 'n ondergeskikte posisie in die gemeenskap gehou het, en hoe is dit naspeurbaar in kuns, en meer spesifiek in die werk van twee Suid-Afrikaanse kunstenaars, Vladimir Tretchikoff en Irma Stem. Laastens, hoe lewer my eie werk kommentaar op hierdie vorm van onderdrukking. Die studie volg 'n analitiese benadering in die ontleding van die geselekteerde kunswerke, soos voorgestel deur Panofsky en Dietriech. Die doel van die studie was om binne die konteks van 'n postmodernistiese feministiese raamwerk 'n meer teoretiese ontleding van my eie werk te maak om vas te stel hoe dit ooreenkom met vroeer aannames oor die vrou. Vir hierdie doel is daar 'n vergelyking getref tussen, aan die een kant, die kommentaar wat Tretchikoff en Stem se werk oor die onderdrukking van vroue maak en, aan die ander kant, hoe my eie werk hierdie konvensies blootle. Beide Tretchikoff en Stern was in die posisie om die publiek bewus te maak van die ondergeskiktheid van vroue binne hulle gemeenskap. Ten spyte hiervan, toon die studie dat beide apaties gestaan het teenoor die lot van vroue, hoewel om verskillende redes. Terwyl Tretchikoff se werk die toonbeeld van 'n blatante miskenning van die verskillende indentiteite en maatskaplike realiteite van sy modelle is, en eerder kies om hulle toestande te romantiseer, kon Stern, as 'n vrou, nie onbewus gewees het van die lot van die vroue van haar tyd nie. Ten spyte hiervan, het sy apaties teenoor die ondergeskiktheid van vroue gestaan. Terwyl dit wil voorkom as of sy die patriargale eise van die gemeenskap op die agtergrond kon skuif om haar vroue as natuurlik en bykans vry van stereotipes uit te beeld, kan sy nie gesien word as iemand wat daadwerklik tot vroue se strewe na gelykheid bygedra het nie. In teenstelling hiermee, het die studie deurgaans 'n ooreenkoms aangetoon tussen die feministiese denke van die "Tweede Golf' en die denkprosesse wat in my eie kuns weerspieel word. 'n Bykomende bevinding van die studie is dat die ontwikkeling van feministiese denke in die kuns nagespeur kan word.

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