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: 12.3.10

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CHANGING THE ART ESTABLISHMENT SYSTEM

From star/curators/directors & "chief of staff" of exhibitions they create , whose subject-matter they adapt from artists ( which are usually left behind, neither invited to show, nor receives any credit for her/his art) These artists (usually upfront women artists) are left behind as mere objects with no right for veto, nor opinion matter on matters concerning them. The result is that one "league" of artists rule (with one patronizing male artist) & is shown all over the places of art establishments in the country* whether under different themes or styles, while the real inventor are categorically left out…The curators/directors are not really interested in art except for their unquestioned status in the museum where they are free to lead any politics with relation to funds & their donators…As such, they are never content in mere organizing of shows, except when the "ism" is invented by themselves within the wall of their museum…after the subject-matter has become fashionable…ripping off the true artists from their field work & invention within real life & time…i.e. the Women Show in the 90's in Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, which has been considered in the catalogue of a Feminist Show in 2007, in Haifa Museum as the beginning of feminist art in Israel….(a typical shifting of artists' rights & credits given to real artists inventors & pioneers of new art movements....which happened in real life in the seventies & can be followed in Art Paper Pages, "Femina Species," of 76, 77, 78, etc.,by M. Sharon), or in another Tel-Aviv Museum show "The 70's My Body-Myself, " 2008, which is too totally dismissive of real artists, inventors of real art movements in real life & space of the seventies; such distortion of history bring the greatest absurdity, when Pupils, or subordinate artists of such art movement, are the "chosen artists," while the true initiators are ignored that left out altogether from the process of art history, reinvented within museum walls…* (*when one thinks that the feminism in art happened in order to change such distortions, which were the norm in art history, in general…) In order not to have such coincidences over and over again & in order to show the real art as it happened, by true artists/initiator, whether women or men artists, we are proposing that museums will function in the future as cinematheques with independent artists' shows, on the variety of subject-matters, or styles, with artists as chief initiators of their show, with curators as supportive assistants…Thus we are banning, as well, the uniqueness of 1st assigned "league of artists" as has been chosen by its "chief-curator." The shows will occur as according to their subject-matter within their specific styles & movements, as in the cinema; i.e. The Realist movement with its filmmaker, or La Nouvelle Vague & its filmmakers, etc.* (*in art, we consider mainly artists who work as "art- directors," contrary to film-directors on independent art projects, within the evolution of a specific art language & whose art (masterpieces) occur outside museum or gallery space, but whose worked-out art project is brought to an "art establishment space" as the message revealed to spectators in order to study the social, environmental change suggested in that specific art project created in situ…. M.S., 09
 

To the death of Adam Baruch ( May, 08 ) - we are showing some of his articles concerning us, published in the 70's & 80's. Please follow for more...

 

     

 

 

 

 

CenterPeriphery Relations: Womens Art in Israel during the 1970s, The Case of Miriam Sharon, by Tal Dekel. Tel Aviv University

 

 

Published in "Consciousness, Literature and the Arts" magazine, Lincoln University, UK; December 07

 

 

There was a time, not so very long ago, when the term "feminism", no matter how or by whom it was defined, belonged to a monolithic category. The second wave of feminism in America, in the late 1960s, seemed blind to all categories other then "male" or "female". Theories of class and the effects of a rapidly growing global economy; the mutable and fluctuating borders that constantly redefine communities, languages, practices, and national, ethnic and gender identities at the beginning of the millennium non of this figured in the earliest attempts to postulate a politics of "feminism". In this article I aim to re-examine a distinct art manifestation made in Israel - that was clearly influenced by the American second wave feminism - during the 1970s by artist Miriam Sharon, and understand it in light of contemporary discourse.

 

Miriam Sharon (b. 1944) was the only woman artist in Israel who dealt overtly with feminist issues in her art projects during the 1970s. Her work, mainly performance, which was directly inspired by American feminist art, was in fact very much a part of the forefront of international contemporary art. Nonetheless, Sharon never gained the acceptance and recognition of the Israeli artistic milieu, being a "delayed periphery" - either then, or now.

 

In this article I address Miriam Sharons unique position as a lone artist working within the feminist context in Israel during the 1970s, while her colleagues elsewhere in the artistic centers of the world were immersed in a flourishing and diverse creative environment. Indeed, it could be said that in the local artistic sphere Sharons work was ahead of its time, for it angered local critics and leading artists, who treated her dismissively, as curator Ilana Teicher commented: Sharons extensive feminist activism, her attempt to promote feminist art in Israel, met with substantial resistance on the part of the artistic establishment and received hostile reviews (Teicher, 1998, 27). Sharon was in fact systematically excluded from the local artistic scene, to the extent that, with the exception of Teicher, she is not discussed or even mentioned in the canonical history of modern art in Israel.

 

In 1979, art critic Sara Britberg-Semel pointed to Sharons unique position in an article where she asserted that there was no distinct womens art in Israel of the 1970s: There is art in Israel, and there are women artists [in the 1970s] but the combination of the two has no real meaning in the local context ... Miriam Sharon is the exception to the rule (Breitberg, 1979, 50). In 1990, a Tel Aviv Museum curator, Ellen Ginton, attempted to explain the absence of feminist art in Israel during the 1970s. In a catalog for an exhibition on Israeli women artists in the 1970s and 1980s, she wrote that painter Rafi Lavie, who was a formative figure for the whole generation of outstanding women artists of the 1970s and supported and encouraged many of them, was also the main formative figure for the local consensus that there is no womens art. On the one hand, she noted,

 

women artists of the 1970s have taken center stage Michal Neeman, Tamar Geter, Dganit Berest, who started to exhibit in the early 1970s Today they are joined by painters who display a much more overt feminist mode (Pamela Levy) and on the other hand, the artists themselves are totally silent about the feminine element, and actually deny its existence, even though they are fully aware of what is evolving in the US What has been completely rejected by the local establishment, with the complete agreement of the artists themselves is not the women themselves or their art, but the term womens art It may very well be that those women artists who refused to renounce the notion of womens art were rejected [by the establishment], such as the artist Miriam Sharon, who has been the chief spokesperson and representative of the American notion of feminist art, in Israel of the 1970s (Ginton, 1990, n.p).

 

Ellen Ginton, much like the author of this paper, was interested in highlighting the anomaly in Israeli womens art as compared with the United States. This article will broaden the discussion on feminist art created in Israel - the 'periphery' - during the 1970s, which was perceived as anecdotal or even nonexistent.

 

Although it is beyond the scope of this article to present the development of the feminist movement in Israel, it should be bore in mind that the American feminist movement, which flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, was not easily transplanted to the young state of Israel (established in 1948). The unique conditions in Israel, including the pioneering, collective institution of the Kibbutz which had proclaimed equality between the sexes, and the dominant role of the army, to which women were also conscripted, created the impression, or indeed the illusion, that women in Israel were already emancipated (Sasson-Levi,  2002, 289-301).  As psychologist Ariella Friedman wrote:

 

Unlike their sisters across the ocean, for Israeli women, the Feminist manifesto brought no dramatic novelty, at least at first sightFor they have had the same roles and jobs as men had, from the beginning of Israeli history. Women already experienced working outside home, in the community, and had long ago denounced their feminine attributes even dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, women in Israel fought for changing traditional gender roles and received egalitarian treatment: they worked the fields, took weapons to defend the settlers and took part in all rallies and assemblies (Friedman, 1999, 25). 

 

In this context, Miriam Sharons political-feminist awareness and activism was a unique and a non-conformist position in Israel, even well into the 1970s. This may be because, unlike her women colleagues living in Israel, Sharon traveled to Europe, living in Germany, England and France during the famous students riots of the late 1960s and was exposed to the sweeping social movements in Europe. An additional crucial impact on Sharon's political views and art was her visit to New York City in 1976, where she was introduced to prominent local feminist artists, with whom she kept close and consistent touch with over more then a decade, such as Ana Mendieta, Carolee Schnnemann, and Mary Beth Edelson (1). During her seven-month visit to New York, she learned and absorbed the politics of awakening feminism, which she then imported to Israel (Rubin, 1987).  In the following, Sharons work will be viewed in correlation to the American feminist art of the 1970s, and in the context of the theoretical foundations for the growth of this trend.

 

The "Ashdoda" project

Miriam Sharon operated in a wide range of artistic mediums during the 1970s, but her main and distinct form of expression was performance art, in which she combined the concepts of earth and nature as she experienced them through her feminist prism. For her, these concepts had deep significance and in her art she gave them concrete representation through female figures drawn from ancient tradition. She believed that these female figures symbolized women abused by the masculine world (of progress, science, technology). At the same time, she insisted on the importance of nurturing the community and based her performances on cooperation with the local people. These ideas and principles are demonstrated in two of Sharons emblematic works the Ashdoda project (1978) and The Tent of the Goddess project (1980) which display similar themes and motifs to those found in projects created by contemporary American feminist artists.

 

The Ashdoda project was a performance that took place on a dock in the port of Ashdod (off the Mediterranean coust in the southern part of Israel) in the autumn of 1978 (see fig. 1). The name invoked Ashdoda, the goddess of mariners during the Canaanite period (12th-10th Century B.C.A), and the project was inspired by a figurine of this goddess that had been excavated from the sands of the Ashdod seashore  (Teicher, 1998, 27) (see fig. 2) Prior to the event, announcements were posted on the ports walls and printed flyers were distributed among the workers, explaining the project, while the artist personally invited the port laborers and local women who lived in Ashdod to participate in creating the project. Participants were given items of clothing, prepared by the artist in advance clothes covered in mud and sand, which, according to Sharon, are suggestive of the earth and roots that we should return to and reconnect with. The locals, who joined spontaneously, were invited to act freely, move about in the space, and even dance and sing on the ports main dock. These men and women became an integral part of the project, as Sharon herself described:

 

through the items of clothing and the energy of our bodies, we transformed the static and alienated space of the port into a living site, with flexible, organic shapes. With the progression of the work I was stunned to see the transformation in the workers; from tough laborers to creative beings, artists and poets. They reported on a process of empowerment. Leon, one of the participants, said: When I was wearing the sand-clothes, I didnt want to take them off ever. What I did with them on, I couldnt ever have done without them A change has taken place: until now no one cared about the workers, about what we know and can do, what our working conditions are like. After participating [in the project] we felt different. That we really are a part of the country, not just labor and if the white collar people (professors and rich people) understand that they cant live without workers, the workers will feel more confident [in their place in society] (Sharon, 1989, 27).

 

 Additional workers reported similar feelings of empowerment as a result of participating in Sharons project (Sharon, 1980, n.p).

 

Another aspect of the Ashdoda project was ecological concern, with an emphasis on the feminine qualities of nature conservation, on womens natural abilities to understand and become one with nature, in contrast to mens inclination to build industrial enterprises and engage in development projects that destroy the planet. In the catalogue Sharon published on the occasion of the Ashdoda project, she wrote that towns like Ashdod are constructed in haste, to serve a number of predetermined industries. People are sent to be laborers in these factories, but they are neglected as human beings. The port of Ashdod is an industrial area, built by the hard and loyal toil of these workers (approximately 1,500 employees work at the port). Sharon claimed that her project reintroduced the lost spirit of woman/desert, into the modern port and its people, and so transformed the ports appearance (Sharon, 1980).

 

Thus, in the Ashdoda project the artist focused on three main issues: ecology and resistance to progress, ancient goddesses as bearers of empowering feminist meaning, and the belief in the need to enlist the participation of the community as leverage for social change. These themes immediately bring to mind the work of the New York artist Betsy Damon, who invoked the ancient goddess Diana as represented in the famous statue Diana of Ephesus from Asia Minor (see fig. 3). Damon used the image of this goddess in her 1977 performance entitled The 7,000 Year Old Woman, which she chose to hold in a prototypically urban space: Wall Street in New York City (see fig. 4). Like Sharon in Ashdoda, Damon was protesting in this performance against the covering of the earth with asphalt and concrete. In her performance she covered her entire body with hundreds of small sacks of colored flour, suggestive of the multiple-breasted Diana of Ephesus. In doing so, explains art historian Gloria Feman Orenstein, Damon wished to reclaim the feminine history that had been lost to human civilization in the course of the thousands of years since the Neolithic era. The artist related that during her childhood in Anatolia, Turkey (in 1944-1948) she had been deeply influenced by the myths of the goddess and had imbedded them in her own life (Orenstein, 1994, 185). She started her performance by slowly cutting and puncturing the sacks on her body, as she walked in a circle. The lengthy ceremony of emptying the sacks, one after another, invoked the gradual emptying of the sand in an hourglass, representing the special and different pace of feminine time (Gadon, 1989, 274).

 

This idea can be connected with the special time principle discussed by Julia Kristeva. Kristeva views the feminist identification with powerful ancient goddesses as being related to the different ways in which women and men perceive time. She claims that

 

time, as it is being experienced by women, retains repetition and eternity. There are cycles, gestation, the eternal recurrence of a biological rhythm which conforms to that of nature There is the massive presence of a monumental temporality which has so little to do with linear time (which passes) that the very word temporality hardly fits (Kristeva, 1986, 191).

 

In other words, Kristeva claims that women experience the passing of time in a fundamentally different way from the western, masculine, concept of time measured by units composed of seconds, minutes, hours, 24-hour days and so forth, moving from the past into the distant future.

 

The "Great Goddess" Movement

The source of this artistic trend, known as Great Goddesses art, can be traced to new research in the fields of history, social sciences and archeology, along with the widening acceptance of Jungian theory on collective archetypes. This research led the way to what Gloria Orenstein has described as a renewed outburst of feminine energy through dreams a side that had been suppressed in womens collective subconscious almost throughout history (Orenstein, 1994, 176). Indeed, during the 1970s one sees an increasing interest in the myths of divine women, such as the great mother-goddess and the goddesses of wisdom and fertility, and of life and death.  Orenstein claims that feminist artists were greatly inspired by these mythical sources and in many cases even elaborated on them. One of the central texts that reintroduced awareness to this topic during the 1970s was Merlin Stones When God Was a Woman, which summarizes research on dominant women of the pre-patriarchal period, such as the Paleolithic goddess Venus of Villendorf (Stone, 1976) (see fig. 5). Another pivotal text to have influenced the formation of the Great Goddesses movement was Erich Neumanns The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype, published in 1955. Based on Jungs theory, Neumanns book claims that the great mother represents the feminine side of the human psyche and that archetypes are internal images, existing in the collective subconscious and operating on the psyche in every situation and at all times (Neumann, 1955, 311). It is this wider intellectual context that evidently inspired the themes of this artistic trend (2).

 

This artistic movement should be understood within the wider context of the efforts to reclaim her-story, that is, the critique of the history of women in patriarchal society and the attempt to study and narrate that history in a pre-patriarchal context.  The feminist artists drew inspiration from the figures of powerful women in ancient tradition. At the time of the Womens Liberation Movement, when American feminist activists and writers were demanding the liberation and equality of women, this group of artists chose to apply and express the liberation of women through identification with the bodies, the heritage and the spirituality of the ancient goddesses of human civilization. Artists of this group, such as Mary-Beth  Edelson, Ana Mendieta, Monica Sjoo and Betsy Damon, described the goddess as the creator of the universe and the source of all life (for example the mother-goddess, the fertility goddess, the goddess of plants), or as a feminine character in charge of life, death and resurrection (like the moon goddess and other divine beings responsible for the cycles of light and darkness).  They adopted symbols associated with feminine contributions to human culture, as in weaving, cooking, pottery, agriculture, medicine and the arts (Orenstein, 1994, 181).

 

The work of both Stone and Neumann provided a basis for elevating the awareness of feminist women, of those who sought channels to empowerment and powerful reference figures. In their work, these women laid the foundation for their positive relations with nature and civilization as creators, not only of life but also of culture and art. In the works of the group of Great Goddesses artists the goddesses represent strong women who control functions that are usually not associated with the feminine stereotypes in western culture in which women are mothers or perform other domestic functions. The Great Goddesses artists always portray women in key functions: in religion, as great priestesses; in mystical traditions, as cosmic creators or in social contexts, as athletes and warriors (Orenstein, 184).

 

"The Goddess Tent" and other Projects

In Israel too, Miriam Sharon was attempting to create according to these feminist notions. She began conceptualizing the project called The Goddess Ttent in 1979 and it materialized between March and June of 1980 (see fig. 6). In her catalog of the project, Sharon explains:

 

The project started with the first blossom of spring and ended in early summer with the harvest I found a hill that had a flat platform at the top, capable of accommodating the tent. It looked like the swollen belly of a pregnant woman in March, the time we started the project, stormy winds and mud made the tent collapse, but we [the artist and women from the community] rebuilt it in May, when the moon was full. We felt as if a number of seasons were compressed into those few days we were there With the passing of time our identities changed: from distinct and individual beings to collective entities, we became one with the hill, we altered its identity Through this project we saw ourselves as women who are ever changing with the passing of time and of the seasons. The women who came to the hill became the midwives of a new myth, They became the bearers of the message of the past moving into the future (Sharon, 1980, n.p).

 

This project therefore demonstrated the themes of the great goddesses principle: the bonding of women with the earth an ancient connection as well as a modern renewed connection; the seasons of the year as an expression of feminine time; and also the idea of cooperation between women as leverage for empowerment.

 

Many similarities can be found between Miriam Sharons The Goddess Tent and various projects created by American feminist artist Donna Henes, who defined herself as an Urban Shaman (Withers, 1994, 163). During the 1970s Henes dealt with a number of ongoing environmental projects, mostly works that were based on the myth of creation as manifested in the character of the Navajo spider woman, as seen in Pocono Web (see fig. 7). In her view, the spiders webs she spun between the trees represented feminine symbols that were part of a whole array of universal and spiritual symbols adopted by artists of the Great Goddesses movement, replacing prevailing masculine symbols such as the cross. For many years Henes aspired to create performances that integrated the audience, just as believers gathered around the shaman to perform spiritual rituals. Here we see the similarity between the works of Donna Henes and Miriam Sharon: they both elected to focus on the materials of the local environment the local earth in which they lived, and to incorporate other women in their projects in order to effect change and empowerment.

In this respect it should be noted that with the rise of feminism in the United States, cooperation between women in art projects became a method of political activism. American feminist women, as Julia Kristeva has described, were seeking:

 

(for ways) to avoid the centralization of power, to understand how to detach women from it and how then to proceed, through their critical, differential and autonomous interventions, to render decision making institutions more flexible. These radical feminists, refuse homologation to any role of identification with existing power no matter what the power may be, so they make the second sex a counter-society. A female society is then constituted as a sort of alter ego of the official society in which all real or fantasized possibilities for jouissance take refuge this counter-society is imagined as harmonious, without prohibitions, free and fulfilling (Kristeva, 1986, 202).

 

During those years, feminist cooperation took many shapes. Some groups formed to create art together, sometimes even living in kinds of communes. Such work included joint murals, as well as performances and other kinds of cooperation. This small community of artists sought to link their actions, mostly political, with society at large (Stein, 1994, 233). Sometimes they were successful in involving people from the local community who initially did not identify with the goals of the communal group. Other cooperative groups that were defined during the 1970s, such as eco-feminists, created projects of art in nature, combining earth and vegetation, mostly on a very large scale, as in open fields, deep canyons, caves or creeks.

 

The feminist notion of cooperation drew on the writings of American feminist Mary Daly in her Beyond God the Father, where she presented her ambition to abolish patriarchys oppression of women. Daly believed that the oppression could be stopped if women started a revolution. She advocated an end to the gender-based structure leading to this oppression, but at the same time she supported and encouraged the preservation of certain feminine values such as love, sharing, cooperation and compassion, which she perceived to be essential components in any society (Tong, 1989, 102-103). She believed that these values, which may be viewed as negative attributes within the patriarchy such as the misperception of a loving and nurturing women as a victim could be perceived as positive and empowering values in a machismo-free context. Daly thought that constant application of principles such as love, nurturing and cooperation would eventually filter into the mixed society so that feminine values would become the values of all humanity, men and women alike (Daly, 1973, 105). Indeed, the cooperative community artists emphasized the feminine values in their communities and focused on the values of sharing and cooperation between women, just as Miriam Sharon incorporated this principle in all the projects she created in Israel during the 1970s.

 

Suzanne Lacy, highly recognized for her artistic work and also as a lecturer in the Feminist Studio Workshop, created many performances during the 1970s, all of which clearly demonstrate the principle of sharing. Projects like In Mourning and in Rage (1977) (see fig. 8) strove to strengthen the connection between groups of women artists and the society as a whole. The performances were seen as being the most effective strategy for advancing political objectives and enhancing awareness of feminist issues in the wider community, in particular of crimes against women. Lacy created events and activities throughout the Los Angeles region, all dealing with the sexual offences so frequently committed against women. Like Miriam Sharon, she aspired to bring about change through large-scale performances.

 

An additional form of cooperative art that existed during that decade was murals, which exhibited one of the most distinct forms of protest by feminist artists in the 1970s. It was these artists who encouraged local communities to participate in joint mural projects. A prominent figure in this creative medium was Judith Baca, who decorated many walls in Los Angeles, along with members of the community (see fig. 9). Baca did a great deal of work with gang youths in the city, promoting rival groups to jointly create wall paintings that helped bring the feuding parties closer together. In one of the projects she had approximately 450 youths from different neighborhoods and races cooperating in the creation of a huge wall painting (Stein, 1994, 241).

 

These feminist wall paintings, which were public and cooperative in nature, gained recognition during the 1970s and flourished in the United States during the 1980s as well, mainly in California. Many municipalities began to understand the importance of involving their citizens in issues relating to the community and improving its quality of life. Unlike the case of Miriam Sharon, whose sincere attempts at raising awareness and change for the betterment of Israeli society were ignored by local establishments, both political and artistic (Teicher, 1998, 27), in the United States the establishments gradually realized that one of the more powerful promoters of improvement within the community was participation in joint artistic projects, which encouraged dialogue between different groups in the society.

 

Another project created by American artist Donna Henes, which resembles Miriam Sharons The Goddess Tent, was a conceptual celebration of the changing seasons, entitled Reverence to Her: A Chant to Evoke the Female Force of the Universe in all People. The project took the form of a ritual performed by Henes, concerned with the longest and shortest days of the year, reminiscent of the ceremonies that many cultures in the northern hemisphere used to perform on the shortest day of the year in celebration of the return of light after the darkest days of winter. During the early hours of December 22, 1974, Henes, accompanied by a group of women who lived in the region, came to the shore of Long Beach, New York (Withers, 1994, 163). The women played on drums and sang songs of Buddhist-Tibetan origin celebrating the return of light, as people used to do in earlier days. During several months Henes continued to publicly celebrate the change of seasons. Her performances gradually became colorful and popular events that were joined by more and more women celebrators from the community. Similarly, Miriam Sharons project The Goddess Tent also invoked the change of seasons and womens relations to the earth and the natural cycle, as she herself wrote in the passage I cited above: The project started with the first blossom of spring and ended in early summer with the harvest

 

The feminist aspiration to restore the bond between modern women and nature was also influenced by Marilyn French, who in her Beyond Power: On Women, Men and Morals examined the sources of patriarchy and concluded that ancient humans had lived in harmony with nature and that early civilizations had most likely been matriarchal societies, in which women/mothers had tended to emphasize activities of cooperation, sharing and human bonding. French particularly highlighted the harmony of these women/mothers with nature. She believes that nature should be perceived in our culture as a friend, as the generator of life, while the woman should be perceived as a friend of nature and as operating in complete cooperation with it (French, 1985, 25-66). According to French, various developments have led humans to disconnect themselves from nature and to attempt to control it, while she, in this essay, urges women to reunite with nature, discover their true being and remain connected with it through this renewed bond with nature. Frenchs idea is very much in line with the performances of Donna Henes in particular and with the undertaking of the whole group of American artists known as the Great Goddesses Artists. This concept was also clearly adopted by Miriam Sharon.

 

Ana Mendieta was fascinated throughout her life by the image of the Great Goddess, mother of the earth, and she created mainly earth works within a feminist context. Most of her works, which were created in a number of series, were rituals performed in nature, in which she would draw her own silhouette on the ground, and trace the contour with fire, water, mud, branches and so forth. In one of the works in the silhouette series, Silueta de Anima (1976), Mendieta set fire to the figure of a crucified goddess, traced according to the contour of the artists body (see fig.10). The figure naturally resembled the crucifix, but in this case the figure of the goddess represented female tradition and history her story: it is she who is crucified and sacrificed, not Jesus, the son of God. Even the ashes that remained after the fire had deep meaning for the artist, who perceived the remnants of the incinerated figure mixed with the clods of soil as symbolizing the reunion with mother earth (Orenstein, 1994, 184). Mendietas work resembles the art projects done by Miriam Sharon during the 1970s in Sinai, in southern Israel, such as her project Black Earth, performed in 1979. In this performance, and several similar ones, Sharon used earth and sand on sheets of fabric, from which she then made clothes that blended into the surrounding desert (see fig. 11), trying to explain Bedouin women's experience and way of life. This initial influence of Mendieta's art on Sharon was stated by her: after meeting Mendieta in New York in 1976, she indeed became a close friend of her and has worked and exchanged ideas with her throughout the decade (3). 

 

There is an evident connection between Mendietas work, as well as that of other feminist artists who were concerned with the centrality of the earth, and the writings of radical feminist thinker Susan Griffin, who claimed that patriarchal society oppressed women because it identified women with nature (4). Griffin however, rejected the notion that this age-old identification had a negative effect on women, and maintained that women possessed a deep understanding of nature, more than men, who were denied this connection by social and cultural norms. She urged women to reunite with nature, with the cycles of life and with mother earth: My grandmother is now a part of this soil we know that the earth is made up of our bodies. Because we see ourselves. We are nature itself (Griffin, 1978, 76). By connecting the cyclical nature of life with a fresh view of female identity, Griffin paved the way for feminist thinkers of the next generation, that of Ecofeminism.

 

Another artist who can be directly connected to Griffins theories and writings, as to Sharon's works, is New Yorker Mary Beth Edelson. Art researcher Peggy Phelan believes that Edelson and similar women artists promoted Ecofeminism by linking femininity, the earth and ancient fertility goddesses (Phelan, 2000, 32). Edelsons work was connected to the ceremonies of ancient goddesses through complex rituals which were documented in photographs (see fig. 12). Edelson posed in various positions, with her hands elevated in a circular motion, as if embracing the women who wish to receive divine energies from the universe. This gesture was soon to become one of the most popular feminist symbols of blessing and the recharging of spiritual feminist powers (Orenstein, 1994, 181).

 

This gesture was derived from figurines of ancient goddesses such as the Egyptian snake goddess with a birds head and the Cretan goddess of Minoan culture (see fig. 13).  The work of Edelson in this artistic sphere related to cosmic feminist energy, but also the cycle of life, death and resurrection. Her 1977 performance in a New York gallery, entitled Memorial to the 9,000,000 Women Burned as Witches in the Christian Era, commemorated those women who worshiped the goddesses throughout history and were tortured and executed for their beliefs. By forming circles and ladders of fire the artist aimed at transforming this performance, and many others like it, into rituals of expelling the patriarchic history of pain and suffering, aspiring to enlighten the hidden circles of feminine power, which women can retrieve from those civilizations that worshiped ancient goddesses. Edelson hoped that her work would empower contemporary women in the audience to reclaim the powers of those magnificent goddesses from the distant past (Orenstein, 181).

 

Conclusion

As we have seen, Miriam Sharons performances in Israel reflect many of the themes in the work of American women artists who were active in America during the 1970s, such as Mary-Beth Edelson, Ana Mendieta and Betsy Damon, including the invocation of images of the ancient goddesses, and the emphasis on the need for modern women to re-establish the bond with the matriarchal past and the earth. Moreover, many of the projects performed by Sharon, such as Ashdoda, The Goddess Tent, The Space of Earth People and others, exhibited feminist principles of cooperation between women and the incorporation of local communities in the artistic creation, very much like the work of American artists Donna Henes, Suzann Lacy and Judith Baca. From the early 1970s and throughout that decade, Sharon kept abreast of the thriving feminist theories and feminist art in the United States through correspondence with various artists overseas; was active in making them known in Israel; and even initiated visits of prominent feminist artists and critics from abroad, such as Mary Beth Edelson (5).

 

I do not, however, claim that Sharon made a simple act of copying from the American artists mentioned and discussed in this article, but suggest that her close relations with some of the prominent ones, along side her wide knowledge and understanding of the feminist ideology and art, enabled her to explore some notions of it  in her local-peripherial context.

 

In the Western European art worlds, women of the "periphery" and their work has been largely invisible, or in the better case, ghettoized into "special" discourses of local contexts. But traditional concepts of art history, artistic practice, and cultural expression are now breaking down under critical analysis from both inside and outside the field, and are hastened by the constant challenge of the newly recognized global world. There is an increasing awareness that everyone is gendered subject, created within and defined by the hierarchies of power.  As the critic and philosopher Gayatri Spivak constantly reminds us, we must always acknowledge not only who we are, but where we are, that is, where we are positioned in relation to these hierarchies and the power-centers, and to questions of authority and privilege. Sharon, in my eyes, produced knowledge and understandings about local Israeli life of women (both Jewish and Bedouin), stated interesting notions about center-periphery relations, and in inspirational ways showed us the ways in which her personal and political experiences structure her identity. Her performances are not just a mirror to the life and work of an Israeli woman artist, but a way to approach questions of substance, such as politics, culture, gender and space. In her work, she manufactured an act of dis-armoring the monolithic term "Israeli art", and exposed the unstable boundaries of the notion "local art language". I believe that Sharon, in her various performances, exposed and undermined the supposedly "natural" link between the locus of an artist's homeland or place of work, and a pre-determined "local" art language of the hegemonic art, by turning to the Unites States for inspiration.  But unlike her American colleagues, Miriam Sharons art was never accepted in Israel and was marginalized by the mainstream art scene, to the point that in 1991, with a sense of failure and despair, she left Israel. She now lives and works in a small village in the South of France.

____________________________________________________________________

(1) Statement of the artist Miriam Sharon in an interview with Tal Dekel, August 31, 2004, Tel Aviv.

(2) See, for example, Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor, 1999, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth. San Francisco: Harper & Row; and Buffie Johnson, 1988, Ancient Images of the Goddess and Her Sacred Animals. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

(3) Statement of the artist Miriam Sharon in an interview with Tal Dekel, August 31, 2004, Tel Aviv.

(4) The identification of women with nature, and of men with culture, is an old paradigm that many feminists rejected as being one of the main causes of women's oppression and inferior position, See, foe example, Simone de Beauvoir, 1974, The Second Sex. New York: Vintage Books; Sherry Ortner, 1974, Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture? In Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo and Louis Lamphere (eds.), Women, Culture and Society, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

(5) For example, in October 1977 Sharon organized an international women artist's show at "Studio 11" in Tel Aviv, which included works by famous American artists such as Mary Beth Edelson, Carolee Schneemann and Agnes Denes, alongside works by Israeli artists and Sharon herself.

 

Bibliography

- de Beauvoir, Simone, 1974, The Second Sex, New York: Vintage Books.

- Breitberg -Semel, Sara, 1979, "Women's Art in Israel", Ariel  49, 48-56 [Hebrew].

- Daly, Mary, 1973, Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation, Boston: Beacon Press.

- French, Merlin, 1985, Beyond Power: On Women, Men and Morals, New York: Summit Books.

- Friedman, Ariella, 1999, 'On Feminism, Femininity and Power of Women in Israel', Sex, Gender and Politics: Women in Israel, Tel Aviv: Hakibutz Hameuhad Press [Hebrew].

- Gadon, Elinor, 1989, The Once and the Future Goddess: A Symbol of Our Time, New York: Harper Collins Press.

- Ginton, Ellen, 1990, Feminine Presence: Israeli Women Artists in the 1970s and 1980s (cat.), Tel Aviv: The Tel Aviv Museum of Art [Hebrew].

- Kristeva, Julia, 1986, 'Women's Time', The Kristeva Reader, New York: Columbia University Press.

- Nave, Hannah (ed.), 2002, 'Women's Time', The Journal of Israeli History, 21:1-2.

- Neumann, Erich, 1955, The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

- Orenstein Feman, Gloria, 1994, 'Recovering Her Story: Feminist Artists Reclaim the Great Goddess', The Power of Feminist Art: The American Movement, History and Impact, New York: Harry Abrams Press.  

- Ortner, Sherry, 1974, 'Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?', Women, Culture and Society, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

- Phelan, Peggie, 2000, 'Survey', Art and Feminism, London: Phaidon.

- Rubin, Ruthi, 1987, Because I'm a Feminist, Hadashot, 20 March 1987 [Hebrew].

- Sasson-Levi, Orna, 2001, 'Subversive within Oppression: Women Soldiers Building Gender Identities in 'Masculine Jobs'. Will You Listen to My Voice? Representations of Women in Israeli Culture, Tel Aviv: Hakibutz Hameuhad Press [Hebrew].

- Sharon, Miriam, 1980, Art Projects, 1973-1980, Tel Aviv: Independent Press.

- Sharon, Miriam, 1989, Alternative Museum: Artist Book, Miriam Sharon, Tel Aviv: Independent Press.

- Stein, Judith, 1994, 'Collaboration', The Power of Feminist Art: The Americam Movement, History and Impact, New York: Harry Abrams Press.  

- Stone, Merlin, 1976, When God Was A Woman, New York: Dial Press.

- Teicher, Ilana (ed.), 1998, Women Artists in Israeli Art (cat.). Haifa: The Haifa Museum [Hebrew].

- Tong, Rosemarie, 1989, Feminist Thought: A Comprehensive Introduction, London: Routledge.

- Withers, Josephine, 1994, 'Feminist Performance Art', The Power of Feminist Art: The American Movement, History and Impact, New York: Harry Abrams Press.  

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1. Miriam Sharon, The Ashdoda Project ,1978, Black-and-white photograph. Documentation of a performance. Collection of the artist.

 

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 2 Ashdoda figurine of a Goddess, from the Canaanit period. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel.  

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 3. Diana of Ephesus (Artemis). Second century B.C. Archeological Museum, Ephesus, Turkey.

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 4.Betsy Damon, as The Seven Thousand Year Old Woman, 1977. Documentation of a performance, New York, March 1977. Courtesy of the artist.

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 5. Venus of Villendorf, ca. 25,000 B.C., Limestone, Austria.

 

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 6.Miriam Sharon, The Tent of the Goddess, 1979-1980, Black-and white photograph. Documentation of the project. Collection of the artist. 

 

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 7.Donna Henes, Pocono Web (Spider Woman Series), 1976, 8X8X8, Site installation, California. Photograph by the artist.

 

 

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 8.Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz (in collaboration with local womens groups), In Mourning and in Rage, 1977, Performance at Los Angeles, Black-and white photograph documentation of the project. Courtesy of the Artists.


 

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 9.Judy Baca, Mi Abuelita, 1970, Mural (Collaborative work), Los Angeles, California. Courtesy SPARC, Venice California.

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 10.Ana Mendieta, Anima (Alma/Soul) from the Fireworks Silhouette Series, 1976, color photograph. Documentation of the project. Courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York.

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 11.Miriam Sharon, Black Earth Project, 1979, performance at Sinai desert, color photograph. Documentation of the project. Collection of the artist.

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 12.Mary Beth Edelson, Goddess Head (Calling Series), 1975, black-and-white photograph and collage. Documentation of a performance at Long Island. Collection of the artist.

 

 

 

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 13. Snake Goddess, ca. 1,600 B.C., from the Temple of Repositories, Palace of Knossos, Crete.

 

 

 

Remark: Follow the 70's Art Projects on the Websit's Home Page.

 

Multimediale Kunst von Miriam Sharon in der Buergerschaft

Multimediale Kunst von Miriam Sharon in der Buergerschaft In der Bremischen Buergerschaft sind bis Ende Februar 2007 Arbeiten von Miriam Sharon zu sehen. Die israelische Kuenstlerin, noch bis Ende Monat in der Hansestadt zu Gast, profitiert vom Bremer Kunststipendium, das die Bremische Buergerschaft und die Bremer Heimstiftung regelmaessig vergeben. Miriam Sharon hat zunaechst Malerei am College of Art in London und danach in den 70er Jahren Kunst und Kunstgeschichte an der Universitaet von Jerusalem studiert. Ihr Werk ist sehr komplex, ihre Arbeitsweise sehr vielseitig. Sie malt, fotografiert, macht Videos und Filme, fuegt unterschiedlichste Materialien zu raumlichen Gebilden zusammen und realisiert damit Installationen. Sie arbeitet situativ, sie bezieht sich also gerne auf einen bestimmten Ort, an dem eine bestimmte, dafuer konzipierte Arbeit entsteht. So auch in Bremen. Miriam Sharon schafft in erster Linie vielfaeltige und vielschichtige, teils begehbare Installationen, dreidimensionale Gebilde aus unterschiedlichen Materialien. Diese 3-D-Gefuege (Multimedia Installation Works) bestehen aus zahlreichen, ganz unterschiedlichen Materialien und Einzelteilen, die Miriam Sharon in langer Vorbereitung formt und dann montageartig zu einer grossen Arbeit zusammenf?gt. Ihre multimedialen Rauminstallationen bisher sind ungefaehr 17 entstanden bestehen aus vielen Materialien wie Draht, Glasperlen, transparente Folien, Stoff, etc. und aus vielen Elementen Fotos, Gemaelden, kleine Skulpturen, Texten, Fotokopien, Videofilmen die sie selbst gestaltet. Ihr Werk begreift Miriam Sharon als umfassendes Work in Progress, ein lebenslang andauerndes kuenstlerisches Projekt, das allmaehlich waechst und dessen Gestalt immer gleichzeitig endgueltig und provisorisch ist. In Bremen arbeitet Miriam Sharon intensiv an einem weiteren Kapitel ihrer Arbeit, das das Bremer Projekt sein wird. Darin enthalten sind mehrere Bilder und Fotos von Stadt- und Parklandschaften, sowie von dem Umfeld, in dem sie wohnt. K.Vastella, Kunstzeitung, Bremen, March 07

 

Nov 03 THE SEVENTIES IFC by M. Sharon - RECONSIDERING the PAST

Parallel to the social movements of the early seventies, some women artists refused to follow the mainstream of male oriented art movements. Even though, in style, some of the avant-garde women artists were working within familiar codes, such as concept, environmental, or narrative art, the content has changed (1). Feminist artists, used those medias in order to convey their message; to challenge the visual existing codes of visual art, as portrayed throughout art history; the media, advertisement with its beauty business, etc. Taking back Herstory to the times when the ancient Mother, the Goddess ruled; the female body, the muse in male language, became the issue, the subject matter, embodied in the subjects handled in their various bodies of work; performance, protest; environmental works; done outside mainstream art or galleries, while using new technologies, such as video art, photography etc. to document their work. These women artists of the seventies were culturally interconnected, organized shows; published magazines, created art spaces to show their works, in such different cities as New York; Los Angeles; Paris; Koeln or Tel-Aviv, among others; while they communicated via post-cards; posters & publications issued by themselves, a fusion (interconnection) became inevitable such as was known between Picasso & Braque

Some of those a.m. artists were working, as mentioned, outside the system, in factories, communities, villages, etc., others used communities to protest such social plagues as rape, sexism or racism, as works of art, or portraying the exploitation of minority workers in affluent societies, as well as challenging the classical roles of women & home
Those women artists have, at the end of the seventies created a group, the ITC; Suzan Lacy; Ulrike Rosenbach, Nil Yalter, Mary Beth Edelson & Miriam Sharon or a feminist FLUXUS.

Some of that documentation will be shown retrospectively, in November, December, 03, at the Moka Museum in Vienna.

 

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