We live in a visual world, surrounded constantly by images from adverts to music videos to social media. A great deal of what forms our understanding of gender comes from these sources. Because of this it makes sense to form my work from found imagery from sources in the media and produce collages and re-imaginings through stitch techniques.
While exploring the Feminist Art section of the Tate website I discovered the artist Linder Sterling, sometimes referred to as simply Linder. Her work came to prominence in the 1970’s, amidst the explosion of the UK punk scene. In fact one of her most famous works was the cover for Buzzcocks single “Orgasm Addict”. Linder takes images from magazines and pornography, usually of women or couples, and juxtaposes them with found photographs of flowers and domestic products. Although some of these works are 40+ years old they still feel incredibly relevant and their slick aesthetic means they appear far from dated. Many of these photo-montages feature cut, spliced, torn and burnt elements, these processes themselves in line with the punk philosophy of DIY and aggression. The subject returns again and again to the nude female form, eyes and domestic items. Flowers and cakes also occur again and again, more symbols of traditional femininity. These combinations are a subversive appropriation of symbols of feminine ideals in media culture. The emphasis on the eyes reminds me of John Berger’s observations on the role of women in art. In his TV series “Ways of Seeing” he states “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”
This seems to be the exact issue that Linder explores in her work; the objectification of women by the sexualised gaze of men. This sexualisation is in turn employed in media and especially advertising, using attractive women to sell products to men and the pressure to be attractive to men to in turn target women.
No doubt Linder’s work was inspired by the Dada artist Hannah Hoch. Hoch’s collages serve as a humorous and satirical commentary of great social change and the resulting evolution of culture and media through the two world wars of the 20th century.
She was ahead of her time, exploring complex subjects of politics, femininity and gender in her work, using seemingly unremarkable materials from popular magazines, illustrated journals and fashion publications to form her collages.
The image below combines the distrustful gaze of one woman with the more ‘perfect’ mouth of another and adorns her head with doilies arranged in the shape of a bridal veil, a comment on the ideal woman and the expectation that she will become a ‘good’ wife.
In relation to my own work I will take inspiration from both Hoch’s and Linder’s visual styles, collecting found images to produce photo-montages around the topic of gender. My aim is that these works will be humorous and play on stereotypes.