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In the process of reevaluating my position on feminist art (which will result in a post here one of these days) I came upon this discussion of a project from Italian artist Anna Utopia Giordano wherein she Photoshopped female bodies in classic paintings to conform with contemporary standards of feminine beauty. I had covered the topic of how perceptions of feminine attractiveness have changed over time in this post last year, but the current article takes the analysis to a much different level.

Venus of Urbino (Titian, 1538)

This particular article’s author is one Emma Gray, the (an?) assistant editor of Huffpost Parents and Huffpost Women. I’m not sure exactly what her point is, but she seems to be condemning the standards that society imposes on young women without saying exactly who she hold responsible for this imposition. Another article on Giordano’s work on Jezebel.com goes as far as to point out that all but one of the paintings in question were produced by (are you ready for this?) MEN.

In one breath Gray says that most of the changes are subtle, but in another she calls them “obviously disturbing.” The Jezebel piece calls the images “jarring.” At the risk of drawing hostile fire on this, I think they’re neither.

Maybe one of my many feminist friends can straighten me out on this, but I find this treatment of Giordano’s efforts to be needlessly sensationalistic, perhaps even inflammatory. The way one gender has perceived the other has changed constantly over time; this is just a fact.

It’s true, too, that the fashion industry’s view of feminine beauty, identified by obliquely by Gray as a major problem here, is hardly consistent with what you’d get from probably a majority of men if you happened to ask them about it. I could be wrong about this, and if so I’m sure I’ll hear about it, but my perception is that the fashion industry is dominated by women anyway. Again, I’m not sure what the point it.

I’ve reproduced Giordano’s own words from her website, translated from the original Italian to English via Google Translate, below:

“Art has always been looking for the aesthetic canon perfect equilibrium of sizes and shapes ideals to be followed to represent the human body. The standard of beauty has evolved throughout human history, from classical Greek proportions of Polykleitos of Argos in florida and busty beauty of the Renaissance, reaching the slender body of Twiggy to the more athletic divas of our time. Utopia is the question: what would happen if the aesthetic standards of our society had belonged all’incoscio Collective great artists of the past? His answer is Venus: ten ten historical works that readapt “Venus” by granting the aesthetic harmony with the contemporary eye.”

Is this just a case of contemporary journalism manufacturing a controversy to generate interest or am I missing something important here?

 

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