The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Oct 05, 2010

Nudes Put Spotlight on Women

Posted by Anne Tschida

In what has become a notorious underground act in the art world, a group called the Guerilla Girls surveyed the Met museum in New York and found that less than 5% of the artists were women, while 85% of the nudes were female -- most all presumably painted or sculpted by men. Called the Weenie Count,

the Girls back in 1989 asked, "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met?"

In general the ratio of women to men in galleries and shows remains lopsided, but Miami can start to change that -- like just this week for example.

At the Bass Museum, a very intriguing exhibit addresses some of this, called "The Nudist Museum." The New York-based artist Ellen Harvey painted the Bass' classical 54 nudes, which in itself is an incredible effort, but from the documentation of the actual works, without seeing them firsthand. The result is that some of the paintings are vague, or look unfinished, and the sizes she simply guessed at.

But of great interest is how we view these nudes in the entrance space to the museum. As Harvey points out, nudity today is so strongly associated with sex. Indeed, when she first wondered about this amount of nudes in a family-oriented space, she realized after arriving that the exhibit may even be seen as tame compared to the attire of all those South Beach bodies just outside the museum's doors.

As the salon-style gathering of paintings underscores, nudity has been about so much more when depicted in art. Many of the naked bodies here are infants, with obvious religious reference, very non-sexual in nature. Harvey showcases nudes that represent "purity, titillation, truth, comedy, beauty, love, and ugliness." And this time, we are also seeing it through the eyes of a female creator.

Two other women creators will present their work on Thursday night. The last installment of "Elusive Landscapes" will unspool at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens -- if you haven't seen one of these events by Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez, make sure you hit this one. Thanks to a grant from the 2009 Fan/Knight New Work Award, filmmaker Rodriguez came up with this outdoor space art intervention, where she would film various parks and gardens, and then show these projections directly on the flora and foliage of the spaces themselves (the last episode took place at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens). At Vizcaya, she will be working with not just the tropical landscape, but also with the sculptures and fountains of one of Florida's finest gardens. Rodriguez will supply her own homemade insect repellent as well. What a show!

Also on Thursday, another Miamian, Agustina Woodgate, will put on another type of show, no less interesting. At the Main Library in downtown, she will perform "Growing Up," her version of "Jack and the Beanstalk;" along with gallerist Anthony Spinello and performance artist Federico Nessi, they will "wake up sleepy corners of the auditorium, make magic with mysterious library collections." The next day they will return for The Reading Room, highlighting artists' books from the library's collection.

Way to go, girls.

"Elusive Landscape," final installation, with eco-film art from Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez, on Thurs. Oct. 8 from 8:00 to 10:00 pm. at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, 3251 S. Miami Ave., Miami; "Growing Up" performed by Agustina Woodgate on at 7:00 p.m. on Thurs., Oct. 7 , then in the Reading Room from noon to 2:00 p.m. on Friday, at the Main Library Auditorium, 101 W. Flagler St.; 305-375-2665. "The Nudist Museum" through Nov. 7 at the Bass Museum of Art, 2121 Park Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7530;

Back to top