Wednesday, August 10, 2016

St. Clare, Alma Thomas, Eva Hesse

In the musical Oklahoma, Ado Annie sings that she's "just the girl who can't say no." Her No is really a Yes, to being laid by any man who wants her, few questions asked and no conditions laid down. The three women that I am writing about also said no, Clare to the restricted life of a medieval woman, an arranged marriage and a life bound by the patriarchal strictures of the 12th century - married young, with no rights to a life of her own and usually dead in childbirth at an early age.

On August 11th, we celebrate the birthday of St. Clare of Assissi who refused an arranged marriage, fled home, put herself under the protection of St Francis, founded the Order of the St. Poor Clare's, women who lived in extreme poverty and aided the poor. Following such a strict religious regime is not what I would do but I have to admire a woman who struck out for her independence and said no to what was expected of her. It took a lot of courage.

About St. Clare from the St. Francis Lutheran newsletter

Alma Thomas: "Creative art is for all time and is therefore independent of time. It is of all ages, of every land, and if by this we mean the creative spirit in man which produces a picture or a statue is common to the whole civilized world, independent of age, race and nationality; the statement may stand unchallenged."
-Alma Thomas, 1970

Born in 1891into a black family, Alma Thomas was born in Georgia but her family fled the south because of the racial violence. She also rejected the conventions for black women of her era, becoming an educator and a painter whose works now hang in the White house.

NY Times: 

"Eva Hesse," a documentary feature on the life and work of one of the greatest sculptors of the late 20th century, is on an entirely different plane. It opens Aug. 19 at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco and the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.

Eva Hesse, “Addendeum” (1967) on view at Tate Liverpool in 2012 (photo by Rept0n1x via Wikimedia Commons)
Eva Hesse (1936-1970) is one of the greatest American artists of the 20th-century. She was a pioneer, helping to establish the post-minimalist movement, but her career was cut short at age 34, when she died of a brain tumor. In just a decade, Hesse challenged and changed the field with large scale, complex sculptures and installations that defy easy categorization. This documentary explores the the life and work of Hesse, making superb use of the artist’s voluminous journals, her correspondence with close friend and mentor Sol LeWitt, and contemporary as well as archival interviews with fellow artists, including Richard Serra, Robert Mangold, and Dan Graham. Art critic Arthur Danto has written that her work is: “full of life, of eros, even of comedy… Each piece vibrates with originality and mischief.” The documentary captures these qualities, but also the psychic struggles of an artist who, in the downtown New York art scene of the 1960s, was one of the few women to make work that was taken seriously in a field dominated by male pop artists and minimalists (Film Forum). (2016, 108 min, digital)

She said no to the misogyny of the 1960's where she was expected to be the good little wife to her husband who was seen as the "real" artist and yes to her own genius. She declared herself in a letter to her father, she was probably 19, she says: ‘I don’t want to have a life where I just do the same thing every day — I’m an artist.’ At that age, knowing what it was going to take for her as a woman in the late ’50s, early ’60s, to stand there and go: ‘You know what, I’m good enough. It’s not just about being a woman artist, I’m good enough and I’m smart enough to be acknowledged as a great artist on any level.’ (interview with Marcie Beglieter on the making of the documentary, Benjamin Sutton, May 2015. Hyperallergic).

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