Women, and the female figure, havebeen a dominate subject matter throughout art history, however due tobreakthroughs in feminism especially in relation to art.
The idea of womenbeing merely a spectacle for the male gaze is slowly becoming a thing of thepast. This is evident when comparing female nudes from ‘great masters’ such asRembrandt to more contemporary examples of female nudes such as the work ofCogan. Second Wave feminism bought around a change in perspective in particularto the idea of women’s sexuality and the freedom to express this. Rather thanthe female figure being painted as an object for the male gaze to admire, as inRembrandt’s Danaë: Cogan describes her work as the’figures, often female heroines, allude to their anxieties, insecurities,vanities and desires through visual narratives.’ This therefore, givesthe impression that it is the woman’s choice to be viewed, to be vulnerable;rather than a decision made for her by a man. According to craftivism.com’Craftivism is the practice of engaged creativity, especially regardingpolitical and social causes. It is a way of looking at life where voicing youropinion through creativity makes your voice stronger.
‘ However, this is arelatively new term, coined at the start of the 21st Century by writerBetsy Greer, no doubt influenced by the feminist art movement of the 1960’s and1970’s. The feminist art movement saw a breakdown of the hierarchy of artforms, with previously undervalued practice such as the domestic crafts nolonger seen as lower art forms. The female artists at the forefront of thismovement included Judy Chicago and Louise Bourgeois.
The ideas of feminismand craft seem to be firmly hand in hand as this is a concept that continuedthrough third wave feminism of the 1990’s, evident in the work of artists suchas Tracey Emin, who draws on her own experiences of sexuality, vulnerabilityand femininity. For example her work ‘To Meet my Past’ (2002), where she notonly references earlier work such as ‘My Bed'(1999) but again reveals muchabout her own struggles throughout her life, using techniques classed as ‘craft’rather than ‘fine art’ including appliqué and needlework, indicating theimportant and evident links between feminism and craft as a form of expressionof prejudice and oppression. Perhaps Emin’s own awareness of this connection isthrough calling the work ‘To Meet my Past’ – indicating towards taking inspirationfrom previous generations of women using ‘craft’ to express and raise awarenessof their own oppression.