This essay is my critique on a class field trip that I took to Redline while earning my Bachelors in Fine Arts (BFA) in the Spring of 2016 and my encounter with the artist Daisy Patton. Before we begin, let me tell you a few things about myself. This will make sense later when I really get into the hard-hitting critique of the patriarchy. I’m not exactly the most masculine person around, by masculine I mean I don’t watch sports, I've run into issues in the past because of my voice, my feminine qualities, and sometimes my haircut can be ridiculous, which comes with being an art major. As far as the patriarchy goes, masculinity is dependent on being aggressive. A man’s worth is dependent on how much money he makes, and what he does for a living. According to the “survival of the fittest” mentality, social darwinism gone wrong; the richest man is obviously the smartest, manliest, and most successful, therefore he must have worked the “hardest”. Masculinity is also very American and laissez-faire, where the best are rewarded and the worst are punished, it’s a self-fulfilling superstructure that reinforces itself and feeds the patriarchal argument that the reason women are paid less than men is because they are legitimately less skilled. As an art major, those majoring in masculine fields, especially the more “patriarchal” majors like business and engineering, where the male to female ratio is skewed, liked to ask me “what are you going to do when you’re done with art school?”. Most men go to college thinking that they're going to be rich, and many actively tell people that they’re going to be rich and therefore you should be nice to them.
Initially, I attended CSU with a fully paid scholarship to their Civil Engineering program. The program was filled with overtly church-going-do-gooders who believed in traditional (patriarchal) everything. After a few years at CSU, I dropped out of school and changed my major. I discovered the complete opposite demographic at MSU’s Art College. I attended Art School with almost an entirely female audience, and many of the guys were gay. Yet people consistently represented in the professional art world are straight white males. In both scenarios above, the Social Darwinist aspect is self-fulfilling; if art school is filled with females, then why are successful artists mostly white males? It's a question that implies the answer. One could argue straight up sexism, where people prefer men over women and judge them based off of their sex. I also know that anecdotal evidence is not exactly evidence, and my personal experiences may not be used empirically. Sometimes I go to art shows and ask the curators “where are the female artists?” There are plenty of professional level art shows that are supposed to represent a contemporary style which do not include female artists at all, and I know for a fact that there are many amazing female artists out there.
So in the spring of 2016, I visited the Redline exhibit, “Monumental”. Postmodernism is the act of creating something merely for the sake of existing, it offers nothing new or exciting to the audience, and it's often shrouded by such elitism that the viewer has to read the artist statement to understand the artwork. In my opinion, if art needs to be explained it’s already lost. The purpose of art is expression, and far too often art is lost in the lack of expression.
Kitsch is high taste for people with no taste. Kitsch is consumerism, it could be an appropriation of a monument or famous works of art which become trinkets sold in gift shops. Kitsch is postmodernism itself, it’s an un-ironic appropriation of famous works of art. One Redline artist’s re-interpretation of the Washington Monument fits this bill. Another made a house out of cardboard. Another Artist supposedly printed off thousands of pictures of every tree in Colorado as a statement. As one can see, Novelty items are not necessarily found in a gift shop. As I was walking through this exhibit, I noticed that someone was following me around as I explained my opinions on the exhibit, like she was listening in to every ‘critique’ that I openly gave to my classmates.
When my professor arrived, she took us into a studio space, where I discovered that the person following me around was actually Daisy Patton. Daisy Patton began her presentation by discussing an artist's “reputation” like it’s a threat. All a person has in the “art world” is their reputation and “word travels quick”. Word travels quickly to whom in what context? Is everywhere filled with gossip? There is some validity to keeping one’s reputation intact, but it’s also a way for the elite to push people around whom they don’t agree with. This blog post will most likely harm my reputation, but I'm sharing it anyways. My goal isn't to be mean, one could easily replace Daisy Patton's artwork with any number of artists, male or female. My purpose is simply to help people look at something in a way that they may not have looked at it before, and of course, my critiques don't apply to everyone.
Daisy Patton’s artwork defines pastiche, pastiche is a word associated with postmodernism. It means humorless parody. One of her inspirations was Andy Warhol. Daisy Patton’s artwork is eerily similar to Andy Warhol’s artwork and his stereotypical ultra famous screen prints which only represent the smallest portion of his body of work but somehow make it into artist’s mind's as a haphazard way to discuss consumerism while simultaneously putting little to no effort into execution. Her artwork was not funny, it wasn't intended to be funny. Novelty and Nostalgia are two words that I can associate with Patton’s artwork. She takes nostalgic photographs of women throughout history, prints them out, then smears colors on top of them. This process is supposed to highlight neglected women throughout history in a feminist fashion.
Patton also works with youth. I don’t know how many times people pretend that they’re doing good in the community when they’re really concerned about their public image. “Working with youth” has become a bad cliche, the equivalent of “raising awareness”, a lazy and easy way to pretend that one is “helping”. A person can get good PR without having to put any legitimate labor into it.
Patton shared with my school group that she was published in Fresh Paint Magazine. She also told my class about that one time that she shared a blog about her artwork written by the “Jealous Curator” onto Reddit, and the redditors told her that she “could not paint eyes”. She told the class “I obviously can paint eyes”, in which I raised my hand and replied with, “how is it obvious, you have one painting in your studio which suggests that you can paint, but the eyes are closed, and it’s not included in your body of work, how does this suggest that you can paint anything at all when none of these are actually paintings, especially since you say that they’re photographs?” Her eyes rolled back and she was visibly not amused, she did not appreciate my feedback. One of my classmates called me a troll. On relapse, Patton’s “Reconstructed Reunions” does include some nice realistic paintings which suggest that she can paint eyes, it just wasn’t obvious at the time.
Let’s solve the artistic debacle in relations to the hierarchy of the artforms. Art inherently cannot serve a utility, therefore if it serves any kind of utility, it becomes a lower art form. Thus knitting and quilting, which can be used to keep one warm, are a lesser art form than painting. And painting, which serves no utility, but serves more utility in terms of a practical decoration than say performance art, is a lesser art form than performance art, the problem with performance art is that it has a tendency to be “novel”.
Patton provided an example where she claims that a man got a residency that she was after, even though she had an MFA and he had a BFA, at which point I raised my hand and asked, “does a degree even matter?” I do not enjoy the premise of defacing other people's artwork without even seeing it, and implying that someone out there is excelling in life simply because they’re a man and you’re a woman(or vice versa). This is a textbook example of the “straw man argument”, a logical fallacy. Daisy Patton was the definition of a cliche. Utilizing a pure ideology to further her own interests, she turns everything into a pity party.
What are gendered career paths? Liberal arts degrees are nicknamed “MRS” in the South, pronounced “Em Ar Es”, as if getting one implies that your career choice is "housewife". Men get money-making degrees and women get liberal arts degrees, this is cultural. A male nurse is a bad joke, and a female fireman is also a bad joke. Gendered personality types, men are aggressive and confident, women are passive and submissive. A gender is a performative act that is reinforced throughout a person's life, it’s a multi-party system, not just men oppressing women; women participate and propagate the system too. I don’t know how many people, mothers and fathers, who have told me that it’s not okay to cry. (A lot like slut-shaming, or wearing makeup, or dressing “girly”).
Daisy Patton is an embodiment of a cliche housewife, she has a liberal arts degree(MRS), stays at home and knits (she has a whole series devoted to knitting), she mentioned that she doesn’t work and that her husband provides everything for her. There is very little empowered or feminist about her, she does not break the boundaries as a feminist artist. I don't know how many feminist artists are out there who still wear makeup, go to church, and stay at home knitting, then say that they’re oppressed when they’re performing the traditional female gender role and fueling the problem. Culturally yes, someone told them, or they told themselves, that it was okay to be a housewife. They blame all their failures on sex, instead of the cultural implications that come with enacting a female gender role.
Let’s rephrase this. The conservative man, one who believes in hard work equating to success, who applies Social Darwinism to everyday life and makes arguments that the best and brightest are the only ones who make it to the top is incapable of acknowledging that success may be based on luck. This superstructure feeds the conservative, driving him mad. Instead of acknowledging his own failures, he perverts his guilt and victimizes a group of people to blame his failures on. The conservative man, incapable of acknowledging his own failures, blames all of his failures on the immigrant laborer.
This is where it gets ugly, gender equality is not about sex, it's not about genitalia, and when I hear someone use the argument he was a man she was a woman I cringe. Wage inequality is not about sex, but it is often explained using sex, in the same way that a racist justifies their racism. Did you know that 44% of all prisoners are black? Wouldn't this imply that African Americans are more violent than everyday Americans? Or is this a logical fallacy, a false causation argument? The major cause of crime is poverty - not race, but poverty is often caused by racism. There’s also the cycle of poverty, which states that 99% of people will die in the same class that they’re born in. Poverty also prevents young men and women from being able to afford lawyers, and thus they end up in prison more often than their fiscally capable counterparts. Poverty is inherited. The former argument, "he was a man and she was a woman", is a textbook example of the Freudian obsession with the penis (we all know that Freud disliked women right?). When Americans discuss Hillary Clinton, they often bring up her husband’s perversions, which implies that Americans today are daydreaming about Bill Clinton’s penis and defining a woman based on her husband’s dick. The focus on the sex of a person is not indicative of gender, genitalia does not define traditional gender roles. Judith Butler states that gender is performative, and this is the point, just because a man has a penis and a woman has a vagina, does not mean that either are following their traditional patriarchal gender roles in society.
Gender inequality is cultural. It happens through repetitive conditioning throughout someone's life. Did you know that in nearly every culture on earth men cannot cry? Some believe that it’s impossible for men to cry? Gender roles apply to both sexes. It is a well-known fact that women have been taken advantage of for the past few thousand years. The very idea of marriage and virginity share their roots in the patriarchal oppression. A woman’s virginity was only important to a man as a way to transfer property to the man’s true firstborn heir, without questioning whose kid is whose. Women became property because of the ability to reproduce, and the importance of virginity was propagated by the idea of identifying the true heir when there weren’t any blood tests. Thus a woman’s virginity is “sacred”. The patriarchy has survived for millennia, and the focus on virginity and still survives today, except we call it slut shaming. I have a bad joke for you. “What’s another word for feminist interpretive dance?..... Stripping”. Fundamentally, feminism is about women’s empowerment and sexual liberation, a feminist who slut shames and attempts to control female reproductive rights, is not a feminist at all.
Imagine an evil corporate businessman, the kind who believes in reducing costs to increase profits, the go-to example for this would be a fast food chain like McDonald's. Now imagine a world where women get paid less than men, right out of the tube, why would any business person not hire women? She can do the same job, work the same hours, and is equally qualified, PLUS she’ll work for less? Now let's go back to the conservative who blames immigrants for his failures. Immigrants come from a different country, they don't speak the language, and they’re desperate for work, therefore immigrants are willing to work for less money. The single mom is in a similar situation, she has a kid to take care of and doesn’t have time to look for a higher paying job or to negotiate, she’s willing to take whatever job she can get. I can think of a perfect example where both the single mom and the immigrant are both victimized because of their willingness to get paid less. It’s called fast food. 1/4th of the employees hired at minimum wage jobs are mothers. An estimated 29% of laborers working at low wage jobs are single parents. Another study found that nearly 20 percent of restaurant cooks and 30 percent of dishwashers are undocumented immigrants. A fully functioning and barely regulated capitalist state results in wage inequality, but it’s not because of sex, it’s not because men intentionally pay women less than men, it’s because of the willingness to get paid. Single moms don’t have very many options and are therefore willing to work for less, they are the favored employee that a “for profit” business would hire. Gender inequality is not a man being chosen over a woman because he has a penis and she has a vagina, inequality is a cultural tradition reinforced by the everyday movements throughout one's life. I don’t know how many wives that I’ve worked with, who are perfectly okay with accepting half the pay that they should be getting, simply because their husbands provide for them. Often these wives are uber feminists themselves. The cultural implications of wage inequality are not only related to one's inability to aggressively pursue a wage, but it’s definitely a factor. Research shows that women endure a societal backlash whenever they ask for a raise, so they’re used to simply being offered one.
When a male artist is chosen over a female artist, it’s not because he has a penis and she has a vagina; get your head out of the gutter and quit thinking about dicks all day. According to MacArthur grant winner and feminist art critic Linda Nochlin, it’s a waste of time to try and find a female renaissance master because the patriarchy would not let women study the nude. (Artemisia Gentileschi studied her own naked body). Women were not allowed to be in the same room as naked people way back when unless they were prostitutes. One might wonder, why is the nude important? Well, the human body is the most difficult thing for another human to draw, when one draws an animal, there is a lot of room to make mistakes because we are not animals ourselves, when one draws a human, the slightest imperfection is noticed even by the untrained eye. Humans can easily recognize other humans. Developing your artistic skill set is widely dependent on studying the human figure. Historically the institution has changed, but gender roles have not. Society has changed but the cultural implications of working from the nude have not. Therefore, the objectification of women by the young straight male artist, as offensive as it may sound, may actually help to further his artistic career. Working from the nude helps artists to develop the skillset necessary to further their craft, which could explain why even today, straight male artists, while the minority, are commonly seen within the professional art scene.
Ludden, Jennifer. "Ask For A Raise? Most Women Hesitate." NPR. February 14, 2011. Accessed March 08, 2016. http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133599768/ask-for-a-raise-most-women-hesitate.
Nochlin, Linda. Women, Art, and Power: And Other Essays. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.
Noguchi, Yuki. "Women's Salaries Back On Top For Younger Set." NPR. September 1, 2010. Accessed March 08, 2016. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129584041.
Weissmann, Jordan. "More Than a Quarter of Fast-Food Workers Are Raising a Child." The Atlantic. August 06, 2013. Accessed March 08, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/08/more-than-a-quarter-of-fast-food-workers-are-raising-a-child/278424/.
 Weissmann, Jordan. "More Than a Quarter of Fast-Food Workers Are Raising a Child." The Atlantic. August 06, 2013. Accessed March 08, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/08/more-than-a-quarter-of-fast-food-workers-are-raising-a-child/278424/.
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 Liz Jones (March 20, 2013), “Immigration Reform in the Restaurant Kitchen,” KUOW News.
 Ludden, Jennifer. "Ask For A Raise? Most Women Hesitate." NPR. February 14, 2011. Accessed March 08, 2016. http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133599768/ask-for-a-raise-most-women-hesitate.
 Noguchi, Yuki. "Women's Salaries Back On Top For Younger Set." NPR. September 1, 2010. Accessed March 08, 2016. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129584041.