The sinister rhetoric of gender. It seems to rationalize a sublime fear of the dreaded anxiety of disorganized organic being. The absurdity of the masculine warrior figure. But what is the individual if not a mass of disorganized form, a jumble of matter comprising hair, skin, bone whose almost fanatic obsession of controlling its every aspect among men is a metaphor for ego dissolution, a focusing of effort to dam and contain before it runs amok. Control of sexuality and the presumed purpose of women’s bodies. Do men own creation? Is the origin of the world the invitation to sex? The fetishized material body of which to project castration anxiety, womb envy and whatever other pretext real or imagined for male domination. It’s easy to see how the lining of art and misogyny is a symbiotic relationship which cannot easily be split from the hard relation to the profane the notion of predatory capitalism and exchange theory has to the female body. Rather ingrained…
Donald Kuspit:This is true despite the ultra-realistic gynecologically accurate, as Arteaga said rendering of their genitals, suggesting a familiar male split in consciousness of the female body: she’s a lower sexual being whose body one lusts for and a higher spiritual being whose soul one loves. She’s either a “bad woman” because one projects one’s “bad wishes” into her, or a “good woman” because one projects one’s “good wishes” into her. Freud noted that it was emotionally difficult for a man to reconcile the opposites to experience the same woman as an object of all-consuming desire and of reverence….
…Graham venerates woman, but strips the veil of modesty from her genitals, as though to confirm that she is a bad woman sexually assertive, brazenly forward. But he is as brazen: he views the female genital without flinching, that is, without experiencing castration anxiety, while confirming that the female body is flawed, that is, lacks a penis. He lifts the taboo against the female genital, exposing it as ruthlessly as Courbet does in The Origin of the World (1866), as Becky, Lying Down (1993) and Lauren 4-21-96 (1996) show. There are many other works in which the female genital is the flagrant center of attention, provocatively drawing our eye to it, even into it, for it seems hypnotically open rather than hermetically closed, a lavish hole rather than a subtle slit. The labia are meticulously detailed, as though they were seductive blemishes, and the female genital becomes dramatically evident when seen in contrast to the perfect, self-contained body to which it belongs.
The female genital is truthfully rendered true to nature. How can woman be truthful and beautiful at once, as Graham shows she is? This goes against the modern grain. Barnett Newman said “the impulse of modern art was [the] desire to destroy beauty,” more particularly, “to discard Renaissance notions of beauty.” “Modern art is abstract, intellectual. . . . Modernism. . . taught that art is an expression of thought, of important truths, not of a sentimental and artificial ‘beauty’.” So much for the beautiful female body, whatever the important truth of its genital. Whatever happened to Keats’s “beauty is truth and truth is beauty and that’s all you need to know?” Clearly modernism doesn’t have the whole truth about beauty, and doesn’t understand the beauty of truth of very visceral truth. Modernism begins with Courbet’s realism, which involved “the pursuit of ugliness,” suggesting that Newman’s paintings, for some the climax of modern painting, are absolutely ugly.
…Graham breaks away from this whole line of thinking, affirming beauty, to the extent of finding it in the seemingly ugliest part of the female body, at least to the male anxious about it. He does so by re-uniting what Courbet separated: the female genital from the female body. He does something more subtle: he subsumes the female genital in a beautiful female body classically beautiful however empirically the case so that it becomes endowed with beauty, an attribute of beauty, the proverbially “something strange in the proportions of beauty” that brings it to life, and, more subtly, gives it projective power and animates it. The female genital is the essence of the female body, and Graham further essentializes it by describing it in raw detail, paradoxically giving it esthetic immediacy, so that the female genital is not only experienced as embedded in the female body but as the bizarre essence of female beauty an existentialization of beauty, as it were, bringing it down from the abstract heights where it was a pure and remote truth, a seemingly artificial idea rather than a perversely eloquent fact of life, not unlike the seductively intimidating penis pictured by Robert Mapplethorpe in The Man in thePolyester Suit (1986). In 1846, twenty years before Courbet’s blatant female genital, Baudelaire remarked that genuine beauty is a dialectic of “the eternal and. . . the transitory of the absolute and of the particular.” Courbet’s female genital is transitory and particular, and so is Graham’s, but Graham’s female body is absolute and eternal, which is why its genital is, finally, enduringly significant rather than simply momentarily shocking, and more scenic than obscene, like, for that matter, Mapplethorpe’s grand male genital.Read More:http://www.artnet.de/magazine/goddess-or-gynecology/