Mid-Twentieth Century Feminism and Creativity


Mid-Twentieth Century Feminism and Creativity

Mid-Twentieth Century Feminism and Creativity 1. Examine how key creative women represent the dynamic changes in gender and cultural identity in western society during the second half of the 20th century. 2. Discuss the ways women’s art and social movements intersect in the second half of the 20th century. Introduction In Week 3, we saw the emergence of the “new woman” throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The force of their innovations and creativity in life and work influenced the cultural change that exploded on both sides of the Atlantic during the middle of the 20th century. Given the scope of this course, we can only touch the tip of the iceberg as we explore women’s creations in western society during this period, not because women’s creativity was at “the bottom part of the iceberg” with 7/8 of it waiting to be discovered, as Professor Vickery said of Renaissance artists. Instead, we touch only the tip of the iceberg because by mid-20th century, women’s creative expression began to flourish in all genres and time will allow us to study a mere sampling of these creative women. In Week 4, we see that women were no longer invisible, but were at the forefront of innovations and modernism creating works that not only reflected the changing culture, but served as catalysts for more change. A creative and intellectual woman recognized for her innovation is French writer, philosopher, and feminist Simone de Beauvoir, whose book The Second Sex is claimed to have started the modern women’s movement in France and whose ideas rippled across the Atlantic to influence women’s liberation in the United States. Although Beauvoir herself claimed that her book was theoretical, feminist activists took up her ideas at grassroots and began a movement. By the time The Second Sex was published in 1949, in the world of visual art, Georgia O’Keeffe, a daringly independent woman, was on her way to becoming an important American artist and an icon of women’s creative expression. One of the only women artists in America to have a museum in her name, O’Keeffe is recognized internationally as one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century for her original contributions to American Modernism. Although, the lesser-known Margaret Walker, a major poet and novelist between 1930 and 1945, has been called visionary for speaking out on the liberation of black women and looking toward a new cultural identity for black Americans. After the 1950s and the publication of Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, art and social movements began to intersect in a way that they had not previously done. Two of the many influential feminist artists that emerged during the latter half of the 20th century are Judy Chicago and Carrie Weems whose work on race, class, and gender continues to be controversial today. In Week 4, these key creative women give us a jumping off point to examine feminism and women’s creativity from mid-point to the end of the twentieth century. Required Resources (Do not use outside source) Article Simons, M. A., Benjamin, J., & de Beauvoir, S. (1979). Simone de Beauvoir: An interview. Feminist Studies, 5(2), 330-345. Retrieved from This article provides information about the impact of Simone de Beauvoir’s book, The Second Sex. In 1979, on the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of the book, de Beauvoir agreed to an interview in France, not only about her book, but about her then-current feminist activities. The interview helps students to see how the art and social movements intersect, how one creative woman’s contributions made significant changes in the world, and how a woman’s creative expression can be impacted by society. Multimedia Chicago, J. [Judy Chicago]. (2012, October 3). The dinner party a tour of the exhibition (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. [Video file]. Retrieved from • In this video, Judy Chicago narrates a tour of “The Dinner Party,” now permanently installed at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The audio is taken from the original audio tour, edited by award-winning editor, Kate Amend. As she weaves the history of the women who have a place at the table, Judy Chicago gives the viewer insights into the making of “The Dinner Party” describing her process in creating the art and the symbolism that went into the designs. The video helps students to see why this work of art is considered an integral part of contemporary art history and the feminist art movement. Accessibility Statement (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. Privacy Policy (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. Web Page Brooklyn Museum. (n.d.). Components of the dinner party (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. Retrieved from • This detailed information on the website of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum introduces students to Judy Chicago’s controversial work of art, “The Dinner Party.” The site presents her major motifs, issues, techniques, and the collaborative process that illustrate Chicago’s feminist principles Privacy Policy (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

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