Tuesday 9 June 2015

My Feminist Fridays: Mary Kelly at Tate and Linda Nochlin at National Gallery

For the last two Fridays instead of popping to a bar or vegging out in front of Netflix (both very good ways to spend a Friday) I spent my evenings listening to two fascinating feminists from the art world.

The Friday before last I was at Tate Modern listening to the artist Mary Kelly in conversation with the adorable Hans Ulrich Obrist.

Then Last Friday I went to listen to seminal art historian Linda Nochlin in conversation with Tamar Garb.

I did not know much about Mary Kelly, I was only aware of her work Post-Partum document because of the furore it created while on display at the ICA. Linda Nochlin on the other hand is a staple part of any good art history undergraduate's reading list. I made sure to brush up on her important essay Why have there been no Great Female Artists? and I have to say I had forgotten how brilliant it was.

Mary Kelly walked into the talk in her leather jacket with her trademark suffragette style hair. She talked largely about her work Post-Partem document giving us various insights into it such as how she now wishes she hadn't included the hyphen. Despite this work naturally stealing some of the focus she also took us through some of her other works, describing how she came up with the idea of using lint as a medium in her later work. Her body of work is an attempt to understand and convey the personal, looking not just at how it is expressed but how it is created. She and Hans talked for a while about how she sees people as creations of the time they were born in and how you carry this with you throughout your life.

When I arrived Linda Nochlin and Tamar Garb were already seated in front of a portrait of themselves entitled Night Taxi. In their conversation they explored how Linda Nochlin's relationships with other art historians and artists that she has built throughout her career have effected her arguments. When drawn into the subject of her 1971 essay on female artists Linda talked about how it felt like everything was falling into place. They went on to talk about the anthology of Nochlin's essays that has recently been published by Thames and Hudson which includes Linda's famous theoretical essays alongside pieces about specific female artists. In discussion of this they touched on how she went about selecting these artists as while they all engage with realism they have very diverse artistic styles and interests. This is now definitely on my book wish list!

Both auditoriums were filled to the rafters a testament to how the issues focused on by these two women remain engaging and compelling to this day. It was a treat to be able to listen to two such inspirational women in person and it reminded me to take advantage of the rich programme of talks that are an offer in London

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