In compiling the works of a number of women artists into one book, Diane Neumaier, editor of â€œReframings: New American Feminist Photographies,â€? sought to create a feminist project that would showcase the works of feminist artists and, as such, share theories of feminist representations, critique various modes of feminist art, and reach out to more feminists to project their perspectives through the medium of art and creative display. Neumaier compiled the book before it became commonplace to access the works of various artists in such a way and with similar aims in one place online, through sites dedicated to such specific aims as â€œReframings.â€? As such, â€œReframingsâ€? becomes a source for aspiring artists, students, and feminists to uncover the work of a wide variety of women artists, and assists in the construction and understanding of various theories and practices of feminist art.
Similar themes reemerge throughout the various subcategories of the book. Because the focus of â€œReframingsâ€? is feminist art, a great deal of the work represented focus on a gender study. Within many of the subcategories, an analysis of gender portrayal comes to the fore. Further, and similarly, identity plays a huge role in shaping many of the works. The third chapter, titled â€œIdentity Formations,â€? focuses on just that. Many of the themes that run through the chapter are self identity, and the rejection of a particular projected identity. An example of this is a photograph shown in class of two women mimicking the exercises on a â€œBuns of Steelâ€? video. In the image, the two women are copying exactly what is depicted on the television screen, and as such, the piece works to critique with mockery the ways in which the women are playing into social expectations on a number of levels; they are exercising to duplicate the image of an idealized body, but they are also shown as puppets with little agency, who imitate directly the performances of media images.
There are other examples of gender studies throughout the book, as well. These examples show the traditional matriarchic role of women within the private sphere, for example Margaret Strattonâ€™s works which focus on the gendered pieces that constitute her motherâ€™s home in Chapter Two. Further, themes such as race and sexuality based marginalization emerge in various pieces, speaking about the constraints constructed by a heteronormative society and a society in which whiteness is the overarching determining factor for who is granted the right to look and to speak, regardless of any effort to earn or deserve the privilege. Art provides a medium wherein women of color or queer sexualities are able to express their identities and be noticed, at least in a compilation like this. I cannot go so far as to say that the art world is a more accepting place for deviant identities than academia, literature, or any other outlet. We have already looked into the work and purpose of the Guerilla Girls, and their efforts to reveal the underrepresentation of women and artists of color in museums. However, efforts such as â€œReframings,â€? and with the increasing use of technology and the internet to construct forums online and websites devoted to the focus on women artists to go even as narrow as only a theme of one particular chapter to a site, seem to be a useful means of putting the work of these artists on display, allowing their art to be studied and analized, so that the messages they seek to portray are heard and used to invoke some degree of social change and perhaps greater social acceptance.
A true benefit of the organization and collaboration of â€œReframingsâ€? is that, by compiling the artistic techniques of so many women artists in one place, with such similar themes resonating throughout, it is easier to find a technique that meshes with individual personality. It provides a great deal from which to learn and from which to draw in oneâ€™s own artwork.
I think it is beneficial to look at the various approaches represented in â€œReframings,â€? in order to find a method that works with your own message. The themes of these women are applicable to so many others. Identity is a personal and sometimes difficult thing to represent. A compilation such as this is a good starting point; it is a place wherein feminists can turn to find methods that speak to the messages they seek to produce and present to an audience. I think a lot of the issues presented by the feminist artists in this compilation are issues that are seen in feminist theory over and over again. However, I think that producing and reproducing the same themes in various mediums is an important way to reach out to different and diverse audiences. To study the work of various artists who utilize different techniques, and to study the apparent fearlessness with which they make their statements is an important and beneficial means for amateurs to garner courage and creative technique, as well as ideas about issues that they/we may want to produce for ourselves, is to benefit the ways in which we grow as artists and feminists ourselves. For myself, the gender representations are striking, and I would like to learn more about depict the ways in which gender barriers have shaped my life.