16 July 2014

Sweet, Sweet Feminism

I feel like the Internet has been one of the best places for open discourse on feminism, it's various waves, and where we stand today. Between the circulation of feminist art pieces, women speaking up and openly about their bodies, discussions of beauty and photoshopping, the endless podcasts and vlogs I keep running across, it's hard not to come to this place (The Internet) and find a community in the masses. I don't keep a pinterest, but I might be "pinning" some things that have been inspiring me as of late. Hopefully this will turn into a series, but for now, let's do this.

Deborah de Robertis and Courbet's "Origin of the World" Performance

Animated .gif via Hyperallergic
The French performance artist, Deborah de Robertis, recently staged a performance in which, adorning a shimmering golden dress (not unlike the guilded frames in the gallery), she posed in front of Gustave Courbet's "Origin of the World". This isn't the first work of feminist art related to Courbet's anatomically incorrect, and at the time controversial painting of the vagina (he forgot the outer labia and the clitoris, naturally...), but it is one of the most talked about.

I think what de Robertis did here was draw attention to the objectification of the female body, which has been happening for centuries in visual art by drawing a direct comparison to herself as a living breathing person, not just a vagina on a wall. Also, the female genitalia is demystified through her performance, juxtaposing the two dimensional painting with the three dimensional person, proving that there are more parts, literally and physically to being a woman. She's entering a space, the museum as well as the canon of accepted and condoned artists - a mainly male institution upheld and funded by a male cohort. And for her to walk in, make herself present, and point out the true origin of the world, her vagina, I say brava!

Vagina selfie for 3D printers lands Japanese artist in trouble

Image via the Guardian
The Japanese artist, Megumi Igarashi, aka Rokudenashiko, was arrested in Japan for emailing the data from her work that involved using a 3D printer to photograph and make an image of her vagina. While she used the imagery from the project to make a kayak in the shape of her vagina, she was actually arrested for breaking some of Japan's obescenity laws - which strikes me as odd for a country that has an entire sector focused around the pleasure industry.

In a statement following the raiding of her studio and confiscation of 20 of her works, Rokudenashiko said "Japan is still a society where those who try to express women's sexuality are suppressed, while men's sexuality is overly tolerated." Her work has been stated to demystify the female genitalia, which should not be so shocking since she's working and living in a country that has a festival dedicated entirely to glorifying the penis. Well done lady, you're fighting the good fight.

Nathan Rabin Apoligizes for Coining the Term "Manic Pixie Dream Girl"

Image via Salon.com
And in completely unrelated news, the culture writer Nathan Rabin has officially apologized for coining the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and is calling for an end of its usage. The entire article is well written, but here are some of my favorite quotes:

“The trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a fundamentally sexist one, since it makes women seem less like autonomous, independent entities than appealing props to help mopey, sad white men self-actualize.” 

"As is often the case in conversations about gender, or race, or class, or sexuality, things get cloudy and murky really quickly. I coined the phrase to call out cultural sexism and to make it harder for male writers to posit reductive, condescending male fantasies of ideal women as realistic characters." 

“Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness. But in the meantime, Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest.”

As someone who might fall into this weirdly vague and truly sexist trope (I'm slightly waifish, somewhat spontaneous, and a bit cutesy/quirky), I'm glad he recognized that this term has snowballed into something misogynistic and so off the mark. It's ballsy to coin a term, but even ballsier to put an end to it entirely. Way to go Nathan, apology accepted.

15 July 2014

Sandy Goes to Grad School

Seeing myself in a Jose Lerma painting at Kavi Gupta 

I have been wanting to write this post for five months, to the day. Starting in late August, I will be a full-time student in the Museum and Exhibition Studies (MUSE) program at UIC, and I could not be more ecstatic about this decision. When I began to think about graduate school back in 2009, it seemed impossible, unattainable, and to be honest, something I wasn't even sure I wanted or needed. I "lucked out" landing my dream internship at the Art Institute, then lucked out again landing in the company of my wonderful colleagues in the fundraising office, finding a nurturing community and a space to grow. But also, I was a bit hampered. So cozy was I, that the thoughts of grad school fizzled out. I could have stayed at the Art Institute indefinitely, working in development with my backstage pass to the museum... but a little whisper in the back of my mind kept asking me

"Are you happy?"
"Is this what you want to do?"
"Are you working in a meaningful way?"
"Are you being pushed creatively and intellectually?"
"Are you accomplishing what you want to accomplish in the museum?"

Regram from @jen_oatess : me hanging out in Packing with a very famous painting.

The long and short of it is, I was happy, but I wasn't engaged. I was close to the art, to the collection, to the exhibitions, but not close enough. I wasn't conducting research or working with exhibition practice at all. I wasn't giving tours or dealing with the collection in a direct way. I was learning what I needed to learn, and ironically enough, one of the things I learned about was the creation of the very program I wound up applying to.

After leaving the Art Institute to pursue my new job, the whisper continued to make itself heard. Only this time, it wasn't a whisper. It was speaking to me directly, imploring me to make a decision, make this leap, go. I took the GRE in December, and applied to my program late in January. I found out in February, and was elated. What's exciting to me about this program is the focus on social justice and equality in museum and exhibition practice. I won't just be studying collections, writing for exhibitions, display practice, how to hang a show, and power tools 101.


I'll be armed with the tools to ask the kind of questions I've already been mulling over internally for years. Questions about race and gender, questions about the cost of museum admission, and the need for accessibility in museum spaces. Questions I was once afraid to ask aloud, like how come there are so few female museum directors, or how come so many museum directors make so much money when compared to the rest of the staff? Why are admission prices increasing and free days being slashed left and right? Who are these museum spaces for, and are there communities that are being completely overlooked?

It is these questions that burn within me, and keep me going. It is these questions that I will continue to ask, and hopefully begin to problem solve not only in my program, but in my career.


Yesterday I put in my two weeks notice, next Friday is my last day. Come August, I'm the student I've dreamt of becoming, on the path to realizing myself as the museum professional I knew was always within me. So cheers to me, and seriously, if you have a whisper that is growing louder, don't turn the volume down, turn it up and let it roar.

10 July 2014

New York, New York


Can we just talk about how perfect the weather is going to be this weekend in NYC? My agenda is as follows:
Tonight: Arrive in NYC, drop off our bags at our Air BnB, grab pizza and beers at Alligator Lounge
Friday: Coffee from Gimme Coffee!, train into Manhattan, bagels and schmear at Murray’s, head to Battery Park for the Ellis Island Ferry, top of Lady Liberty, ferry back to Manhattan, potential snack (hello street meat), 9/11 Memorial Museum, Joe’s Shanghai Dumplings in Chinatown, Seaport Music Fest, OWLS at Bowery Ballroom, dranks somewhere with friends
Saturday: Brunch with Esther and Brett, solo date to the American Museum of Natural History, more bagels and smoked fish at Zabar’s, solo picnic in Central Park, free concert at Union Pool, 4Knots Music festival, drinks, dinner, oysters, friends, maybe go to UCB? I have no freaking idea
Sunday: Brunch, wandering around, lazing about, flight back to Chicago
Monday: Freedom.

03 July 2014

Buon Viaggio, Ben

Ben, one of my very best friends since the first day of college, is moving to Virginia today. And while my heart is exploding with excitement for him, it's also tinged with the tiniest bit of sadness at his departure. He was literally the first friend I made on my first day at Knox. I remember sobbing like a homesick maniac, begging my parents not to leave, then wandering around the dorm and meeting him. I liked him immediately. 

Through the weirdness and homesickness, he found a way to make me laugh, like really laugh and forget how much I missed my bed, my parents, and my Chicago. I remember we made plans to get our ID photos taken at the same time, and had a long discussion about the importance of the photo / what we would be wearing. He wore a skull necklace that I will never forget, and I wore every color in the rainbow. One time, we did our laundry together, and he laid our clothes on the floor, started laughing, and said it looked as though we'd melted. We listened to I'd Melt with You, and danced around our clothes on the floor laughing and laughing till our stomachs hurt.

And that's truly the theme of our friendship. While we studied the same thing and had all sorts of common interests and friends, I felt like I could tell him anything and somehow we would wind up laughing and laughing. Our brains always found a way of landing on the same point, finding humor in the weirdest things, laughing as we did without abandon.

Today he is embarking on his next big adventure, one that leaves us far away from one another for the first time since we met nearly eight years ago. I am beyond inspired by his decision to go to grad school at a program that is perfect for him. I honestly don't know where I'd be without him these last few years, these crazy years of transition, yearning, longing, learning, and growth. To send him properly on his way, I've got some gems from our budding friendship to share with you!

Ben, you rock! You are the Spongebob to my Patrick. Keep on dancing and lighting up the world with your wit, humor, and infectious laugh!

The first day I met Ben
The time we melted
In an Iowa prairie at Bioneers
Us dancing to Hot Chip in an Iowa church kitchen
Pitchfork 2009
Pitchfork 2013
Us at a college party, pink wine, duh.
Us later on at the same party. I'm pretty sure this is the night we handed
out homemade business cards that we made before going out.
Us at our favorite bar in Galesburg, Duffy's. The night before graduation!
When we were the homecoming speakers for the Knox College Art
History department in 2012
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