In the introduction to Reframings, Diane Neumaier states that she is attempting to put together a feminist work, a book of art (photography) that deals with the female experience. All fo the chapters in the piece depict issues that women must constantly deal with, sex and anxiety, meditations on baring, identity creation, etc. Overarching themes that connect these chapters include creating a sense of personal identity, the exercising of agency and the realization of self through art.
One topic that is constantly discussed in class and in discussions of art in general, especially in photography, is its constructed nature. The pictures in the book fo the native artist (Marilyn Monroe with a fan, her in a pink dress and also in slacks) highlight this point. There is also the series in which the â€śobjectâ€? of the photos turns herself into a subject by directing/controlling the sets/costumes/etc. of her reproductions suggesting a creation of identity (or perceived identity). This becomes an explicitly feminist/female issue because femininity is seen as constructed in and of itself. There is a degree of artifice or construction to â€śappearâ€? feminine. Women don make-up to create â€ślooks,â€? to match â€śmoods,â€? to reflect how they feel or see themselves to the world. This particular aspect of creation of identity is demonstrated in the â€śElle Girlâ€? photo (partially obscured face) and the â€śBuns of Steelâ€? shot because both focus on the constructed (socially conditioned) ideas of femininity. Both the Elle magazine and Buns of Steel are traditional signs of â€śfemale.â€? It is because of this that creation of identity is one major theme of Reframings.
The next theme that permeates Reframings is the exercising (or not) of agency by female subjects. Because women are traditionally the object of photos (that is, they are looked at and fetishized) not subjects, the issue of agency arises. That is to say, can these women in the photographs affect their own conditions? The entire project itself, Reframings, challenges the belief that women have abbreviated agency. There are a multitude of photographs in the book in which the women â€ślook backâ€? at those that are objectifying them. Also, because the book was meant to demonstrate art coming from â€świthin a womanâ€™s vision,â€? the art deals specifically with women. The art form itself allows women to exercise agency because they, as photographers, et up conditions that allow their subjects to look back. These women â€śuse the systemâ€? of oppression to utilize their agencies.
The last theme of the book is the realization of self through art. All fo the chapter themes deal with representation and creation as well as agency of both the photographers and models. But more than anything, the chapters and book as a whole, deal with the realization of self of the photographers. The photographs are each artistâ€™s search to express who she is. Through the process of creation, as we are learning in class, there is always a certain amount of self-discovery. The artists explore their opinions on subjects like â€śqueer politicsâ€? and family life through their lenses and the result of that explorationâ€”the photosâ€”reveals what they have discovered. Artistic methods such as obscured faces, framings and text layers give hints as to what the artists believe (e.g. consumer culture obscuring the woman) thus providing the final theme of Reframings.
The next portion of this paper is a reaction to the final chapter of the book. The perhaps most apparent feature of this article is its explicit use of theory. That is to say, this writing is extremely dense. She engages theorist such as Foucault and Kafka which would, I feel, focus this work more toward an intellectual (read: scholarly) audience. In my reading of Foucault in particular, I found his ideas to be multideminsional and a bit inaccessible. Because Solomon-Godeau discusses and/or utilizes some of his theories, I am made to assume that Reframings was meant for a specific audience, not just for the art enthusiasts.
One idea that she discusses, the function of an actual artifact/work of art in the politics of representation, really struck me. She says, â€śâ€¦politics of representation, therefore, virtually by definition precludes any notion of autonomous, much less transcendent meanings in works of art focuses attention instead on the generation of meanings as they operate to either affirm, contest or subvert dominant ideological formations.â€? I connected to this idea for one particular reason. It is because it made me question whether or not it was possible to produce some work that could possibly develop â€śautonomous or transcendent meaning.â€? Is there any sort of work that could cross all cultural boundaries and produce the very same meaning in all people that view it? I came to the conclusion that no, there was no one piece of art that will develop the same meaning in everyone for the simple fact that for me, good art will be translatable (and therefore personal) to everyone that sees it. That is to say art always produces a multitude of meanings, which it should. To produce the same meaning in everyone is, for lack of a better term, boring. Art is discussion.
The other idea I particularly like, was the interplay between the â€śartists [as] an unmarked termâ€¦â€? and the idea that women, as a subaltern group, are â€śâ€¦an undifferentiated categoryâ€? essentially â€śsilencing he occlusion of women of color, of lesbians, of postcolonial subjects.â€? Solomon-Godeau discusses who women, as one functioning group, â€śrepresent the truth of woman or female subjectivity.â€? Because she is woman, she must only speak from a womanâ€™s (usually white) point of view. Sexuality, ethnicity and personal life experience(s) seem not to enter the picture (pun intended). By reducing all woman to one characteristic (her gender) any other words she has to say relating to issues of sexuality, ethnicity and the like are, in effect, erased. This is, I believe, one of Solomon-Godeauâ€™s strongest (and most clearly stated) points.