Friday, 31 July 2015

Feminist Archive North (Volunteer Life)

A new section about my different experiences as a volunteer for museums or cultural institutions. This time it is about Feminist Archive North, in Leeds.

For several months, I volunteered as an archivist for Feminist Archive North, a collection of feminist archives created in the 1980s and now located at the University of Leeds.

I first came across FAN while working for the Community Curator at Leeds Art Gallery who mentioned that one of her previous volunteers worked for the FAN. To be honest, I did not know much when I first started, I did study Feminism at uni (for a semester and just an introduction!) but I wasn't sure what I would find in a feminist archive.
I was really surprised by the variety of archive materials, from administrative paperwork to magazines and pictures. Coming from an art history background, I was fascinated by both the story of Feminism and the pictures, especially how funny and inventive they are. My personal project was to work on a charity archive, by sorting out the paperwork and classify each document. It was a really interesting project because I was able to do my own little enquiry, I was in charge of this archive, it was my territory! 

On the other hand, I managed to get involved in the display the FAN was organising for a conference held at the Library of the University of Leeds. The conference, "Engaging the Archive: Women, Gender & Sexuality" (October 2014) organised by Dr Kate Dossett, aimed to share stories, knowledge, and professional practice about women’s history archives in Leeds. The conference gave an overview of how archives could/should engage with women history and could develop new ideas to engage the community with their archives. I was particularly interested by the talk of Fiona Philip about the Pararchive Project which is an online platform in which community groups can create their own archives, either by downloading their archive materials or by using online database and archives.

Let's go back to the display! The material picked by Jalna Hammer (the director of the Feminist Archive North) were mainly magazines and posters, showing the diversity of material hold by the FAN. Some are funny others are more serious but they all use our common history (either Pop culture or recognisable era/events of British history) to highlight women's lives. Feminism should not be perceived as only for well educated women, like it sometimes seems to be, but for everyone. A lot of the magazines were created by working class women, from nurses from the NHS to factory workers both fighting for women rights and a fairer society. Therefore, the images used by women in their magazines are really easy to understand and could speak to a wild audience while having high artistic standard, especially for the covers of "Rib".  

Here are my favourites magazines from the display:

Hope you enjoyed this little tour/personal experience of the FAN. I strongly recommend you to visit the FAN and to engage with their archives, either in your research or with your community group. For more information here are some useful contacts: 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Queering Artworks: a Definition (?)

Here is a text I wrote about Queering and its definition in an art context. As a volunteer for the Queer Eye Group at Leeds Art Gallery, I learnt a lot about Queer visual culture and was fascinated by the process of queering artworks. Also, I added a text wrote by Jude Woods, Community Curator, about her definition of queering and published in the leaflet of the PomoGaze festival, hold at Leeds Art Gallery last July. Please feel free to share your definition of queering!

Queering could be defined as an active way of questioning genders and identities. For instance, what makes someone or something male or female? Is it its natural characteristic or its social construction? Queering is also there to question the heteronormativity of the society, how the society revolves around the idea of a man and a woman being in a relationship. Queering is opening doors to others and letting them question the world we all live in. 
Asking questions is the basis of queering, when artworks new questions emerged. Queering an art collection starts by asking questions about how genders are represented in arts, either among the artworks or among the artists themselves. Why are women mostly represented naked and men in a powerful position? 

As part of the Queer Eye Group, volunteers raised questions about the collection at Leeds Art Gallery, and how different communities were represented or not in the collection. Along with other activities, volunteers selected 8 artworks which they thought were queer, the list is not set in stone and everyone can have their own list (and is encouraged to!). These artworks presented by the volunteers revolve around several issues: sexuality, normativity, gender …  

Here a short selection of books: 

Catherine Lorde (ed.), Richard Meyer (ed.), Art and Queer Culture, London, Phaidon Press, 2013. 

Renate Lorenz, Queer Art, London, Transaction Publishers, 2012. 

Michael Warner, The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life, Cambridge (USA), Harvard University Press, 2000. 

PomoGaze festival's leaflet (Leeds, 11th July 2015) 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Kuehne Beveridge (American sculptor)

Not a decorative arts post but I love this artist and I am really excited to share her story! I wrote this biography while I was volunteering for the Queer Eye Group, as a group we looked at her work exhibited at Leeds Art Gallery. This biography comes from several sources, if you have more information on her please let me know! (More to follow on The Veiled Venus) 

Kuehne Beveridge was born in 1877 in Springfield, Illinois, USA, from a wealthy American family. Her father was from a respected Republican family and her mother Ella von Wrede (1860-1904) was also an artist. She had a sister, Ray Beveridge, who was a nurse during First World War.

In 1893, she married Charles Coghlan (1842-1899), a French-born British actor who had some success on Broadway. At the time of his wedding with Kuehne, he was supposed to be Louisa Elizabeth Thorn's husband and father of her daughter, Gertrude. Charles claimed that they never got married and that he only adopted her daughter. He finally married Kuehne but in 1894 he divorced her to go back with Louisa.

Then, she moved to New York to be a student of the American sculptor William Rudolph O'Donovan (1844-1900) where she started her education as a sculptor. A few years later, she moved to Paris to study with Auguste Rodin. In 1900, while living in Paris she exhibited two sculptures at the American section of the Universal Exhibition of Paris, a bust of William A. Chandler and The Veiled Venus (with her mother, Ella von Wrede) which is now at Leeds Art Gallery. For The Veiled Venus she received an "honourable mention" at the Universal Exhibition.  At the time, Ella von Wrede had moved to Cologne, to marry the Baron von Wrede.

The Veiled Venus, Kuehne Beveridge and Ella von Wrede, 1900. 

At the time of her mother's death in 1904, Kuehne was married to William B. Brandon and had moved to Johannesburg, South Africa.

In 1910, she was working in Berlin and exhibited her artwork The Vampire in Leipzig. This sculpture was described as the boldest of her career in which she depicted a man and a woman (could not find a picture of the artwork). Kuehne wrote the entry for the catalogue, here is an extract:

"My group is not meant to be symbolical, unless it symbolizes love, showing that man takes all always; that woman gives everything. I have tried to portray, not idealized being beautified by art, but two humans, a man and a woman. I have tried to show man's desire to hurt the things he loves.
I have essayed to show the real human vampire with man's desire for woman's love, and the woman who gives all, as if the bien ĂȘtre of hashish pervades her and she is lost in man."
(New York Times, February 13, 1910)

She also exhibited at the National Academy, in New York, at the Royal Academy, in London, and at the Salon du Champs de Mars, in Paris.

Kuehne Beveridge was a recognised artist who is now unknown and forgotten. In a future post, I will talk more about her work and her feminist approach because she was not a merely classic artist but had real social values and fights.

Kuehne Beveridge, photo by Bain News Service (1898)  

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

First post! How to start?

How to start a blog? How to start an art blog? How to start an academic blog?

These are the three questions I googled twenty minutes ago. 

It did not take me long to start this blog because I have been thinking about it for a while! BUT I did not know how to start and how to make it interesting to readers (still a work in progress). 

Basically, this blog has three aims:

- talking about art
- sharing the LOVE for decorative arts 
- giving me a platform to share my research

I would like this blog to be a platform for young researchers and young artists to share their views either on their work or on their passion. For instance, I love wallpapers from the 19th century but also contemporary quilts. So, expect a bit of everything!  

For a more formal presentation: 

Hi! I am A., an art history graduate who lives in England (originally from the continent!) and who is passionate about decorative arts, from wallpapers to pots (explaining the name of the blog!). I would like to share with others my different interests and research while promoting young artists.

Thanks for reading my first blogpost (I might have had a fashion blog for two months when I was 16 but it doesn't count, does it?)