Feminism, Forced Painting and Formative Teachers at SVA Panel

09/14/2011 12:14 PM |

Last nights panelists (from left to right) Suzanne McClelland, Mika Rottenberg, moderator Lindsay Pollock, Judy Pfaff, Marilyn Minter.
  • Last night’s panelists (from left to right) Suzanne McClelland, Mika Rottenberg, moderator Lindsay Pollock, Judy Pfaff, Marilyn Minter.

Last night at the SVA Theater, in conjunction with the school’s excellent exhibition The Influentials—a show of work by well-known female alums and artists who influenced them—four artists featured in the exhibition spoke in a panel moderated by art journalist Lindsay Pollock. Recent alumni Suzanne McClelland and Mika Rottenberg, and influencers Judy Pfaff and Marilyn Minter covered topics ranging from the over-intellectualization of the art-making process, to what we expect from feminist artists.

The most interesting moment in the hour-long talk came when Pollock asked Minter about her recently re-exhibited Porn Paintings, which caused a stir in the 80s but, the artist said, seemed tame by today’s standards. This prompted the closest thing to a disagreement all evening, with Minter contending that “women working with sexuality is so loaded,” while Rottenberg argued the opposite.

“I think it’s very accepted,” Rottenberg said, “for women to make sexually charged work.” The implication being that female artists are in some way expected to create sexually charged work. Their disagreement underlined the way both artists make just this type of work, with Rottenberg considering her practice less overtly feminist than Minter. “I don’t think of [my work] as feminist, even though it is,” Rottenberg said. “I think at some point that becomes reductive.”

For the most part, though, the panelists agreed that fine art schools have become less male-dominated in their hiring and admissions policies, and more open in their teaching style. Minter, speaking for herself and Pfaff, said: “We grew up with teachers who made everyone do paintings just like theirs.”

“I was the only woman in my class,” Pfaff recalled. “And I never had a female teacher.” Minter concurred.

Pfaff also recounted the prevailing sentiment in the mid-70s that painting was over: “In the 70s ArtForum sent out a note to all the painters saying, ‘since painting is dead, why are you still painting?’ And they weren’t being ironic, it was completely earnest.” But, as Minter put it, in the end “pluralism won.”

(Photo: Michael Grant)