Sadie Hawkins: A Reflection

Feminism. We’ve been there and done that, right? In the feminist conversation, there is a cycle of denial and frustration. Women are, and have always been, major players in everything from business to political science to art. We know this and tend to use this knowledge to deny the fact that women are subservient in our modern patriarchal society.

In a recent Tête-a-Tête conversation at CentralTrak, Celia Eberle discussed her work with gallerist Cris Worley. Eberle’s work was featured in CentralTrak’s Sadie Hawkins exhibition, a group show curated by Leigh A. Arnold, consisting of women artists whose work focuses on challenging traditional gender expectations, role-reversal, and Feminist/post-Feminist sensibilities.

As CentralTrak prepares for its next exhibition, Jeff Gibbons-
“Let the Drip From the Ceiling Become an 8 Foot Hole in the Roof," I reflect on the greater context of these feminist conversations and ask: What have we learned?

I offer a porcelain metaphor and a scholar.

In her Tête-a-Tête interview, Eberle discusses her research process for a body of “faux-porcelain” works. Her findings illuminate what feminist scholar Gerda Lerner calls the need for feminist consciousness.

“In 2002, I went to all the porcelain centers of Europe, and I was able to sort of confirm my theory that images and forms that were desirable when Europe first discovered how to make porcelain are still being made today.”

“I thought, ‘What if we just didn’t remember how to make porcelain and it was something we had to rediscover and reinvent; and we just got it totally wrong?’”

Gerda Lerner was professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a visiting scholar at Duke University who authored two seminal works in the feminist canon: The Creation of Patriarchy and The Creation of Feminist Consciousness. The former offers a detailed historical account of the creation of our current patriarchal power system over the course of 2,000 years and the latter offers a bit a history with a theoretical framework for changing gender inequality. Below is a paraphrase of the framework:

  1. Awareness and acknowledgement on the part of women that they have been placed in a subordinate class and have suffered wrongs as a result.
  2. Patriarchy is a social construct.
  3. The possibility of creating a sisterhood, where women view women in a positive light instead of seeing “maleness” as superior.
  4. Women's self-definition of goals and strategies for change.
  5. Creating a vision for the future.

That is where artists come in.

Chris Worley briefly read from a Vulture article, “Jerry Saltz: My Final Word on MoMA’s Woman Problem” in which Saltz reiterates the grim statistics of inequality for women in our institutions. This is not an art-world problem, it’s a worldwide problem, but we know it’s there. Now it’s time to define new goals and create a new vision.

Sir Isaac Newton is quoted, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” So, in the wake of our past several months of feminist dialog, check out the talk, where Eberle shares her career learnings, including finding herself in the context of art history and the contemporary art world, and take a few moments to learn what great women artists are doing and then contribute your own vision to the conversation.

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