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Artist Information
Dissecting The Western Woman Artist; An Artist's Dialogue By Amy E. Fraser


Part 1. The Autopsy
- External Examination -
Chapter 1. Skin
The Truth and Power behind Female Nudity
Chapter 2. Muscle
Feminine Strength
Chapter 3. Vagina
Creativity and Feminine Multiplicity
Chapter 4. Breasts
Beauty, Power and Desire

- Internal Examination -

Chapter 5. Lungs
Breathing From the Artistís Soul
Chapter 6. Heart
The Female Artistís Emotional Center
Chapter 7. Intestines
The Primordial Being
Chapter 8. Stomach
Eating and Self Identity
Chapter 9. Uterus
Sacred Sexuality And Feminine Symbolism
Chapter 10. Menstrual Blood
A Womanís Ancient Magic
Chapter 11. Skeleton
The Matrilineal Legacy of Feminine Knowledge

- Final Examination -

Chapter 12. Brain
Gendered Thought, Female Intellect and Feminine Consciousness

Dissecting The Western Woman Artist; An Artist's Dialogue

by Amy E. Fraser

The desire to take things apart is a primary component to the behavior of curious and intelligent beings. Perhaps the artistís quest to create and obtain beauty is driven by desire for the power to deconstruct it. One needs to discover what something is made of and how it works before one can improve upon it or recreate it. A drive for new knowledge is the key to imagination, creativity, invention, evolution, art and technology.

In my opinion, a metaphorical dissection is an unusual but thorough approach to a phenomenological explication of my art. To physically dissect something is to cut it apart and examine the structure and the relationship of the parts. To psychologically dissect something, one must examine it minutely, part by part, and analyze it. As the artist, it would appear logical to interpret and analyze my art by taking apart the pieces in order to better understand the whole. This dissection will reveal an extremely intimate look into the life experiences and spiritual beliefs that have shaped and influenced the creation of my art.

I felt it appropriate to use the concept of the body to organize this discussion because Western culture bases so many observations on both the metaphor and relationships of the human body. We believe our hearts can perceive truth. We use the word stomach to refer to preference, disposition or pleasure. We believe our guts are the location for our instincts and intuition. We may state someone is a brain when we refer to intelligence. We refer to body parts to describe locations. Our furniture has arms and legs and our homes have windows for eyes. We measure in hands, heads and feet. Things are placed at eye level. Art, automobiles and architecture are based on human scale and proportions. Science, medicine and technology derived from the need to improve the human condition. Everything we know, we understand from a human bodily perspective. The body is the way we directly experience the world.

In each chapter, I provide a physiological description of the organ as well as an overview of Western cultureís concepts and metaphorical relationships to that particular body part. These specific organs were chosen on the basis of their cultural significance and symbolic meaning in my works. Within each organ, I have located the less tangible aspects of humanity that are most commonly associated with the part. Aspects considered intangible are concepts such as femininity, beauty, ego, unconscious, instinct, intuition, intelligence, sexuality, creativity, spirituality and emotion.

This dissection is also an opportunity to view the female body from a combined artistic, anatomical, physiological, psychological, philosophical, anthropological, feminist and historical perspective. I believe analyzing our embodiment from a creative interdisciplinary approach can aid in reinvisioning, rethinking, reconstructing and redefining Western femininity.

Through metaphorical autopsy, I attempt to determine the root and nature of diseases still effecting women in Western culture. A critical analysis of those body parts that appear to be primary causes for oppression, objectification and misogyny will be provided. I will attempt to reinterpret and revitalize these aspects of our embodiment to give them new positive meanings. Body parts of women that have been objectified in the past can become sacred symbols of our strength, beauty, power, sexuality and femininity in the enlightened future.

I prefer not to label myself or my art. However, I would like the reader to keep in mind certain concepts that strongly apply to this discussion, though they are not formally introduced into the Thesis.

One theme that predominates the upcoming discussion is Humanism. This is an "educational and philosophical outlook that emphasizes the personal worth of the individual and the central importance of human values as opposed to religious belief, developed in Europe during the Renaissance." The American Humanist Association States; "Humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion. Affirming the dignity of each human being, it supports the maximization of individual liberty and opportunity consonant with social and planetary responsibility. It advocates the extension of participatory democracy and the expansion of the open society, standing for human rights and social justice. Free of supernaturalism, it recognizes human beings as a part of nature and holds that values--be they religious, ethical, social, or political--have their source in human experience and culture. Humanism thus derives the goals of life from human need and interest rather than from theological or ideological abstractions, and asserts that humanity must take responsibility for its own destiny."

In addition to traditional feminist thought, many of the concepts in this discussion are approached from a Womanist perspective. A Womanist is usually a black feminist or feminist of color. Although I am white, my work and issues concern women of all races and follows a Womanist ethic. The word Womanist derives from the word womanish. This word refers to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful female behavior. Someone who is womanish is one who is in charge, serious or responsible. In addition, it is a woman who loves women sexually and/or non sexually. She appreciates woman's culture, woman's emotional flexibility and strength. She sometimes loves individual men, sexually or non sexually. She is committed to the survival of entire people, male and female. She is traditionally a universalist. She loves music, dance, the moon, the Spirit, love, food, roundness and struggle.

The psychology behind my art tends to lean toward Humanistic psychology. "Humanistic psychology is a value orientation that holds a hopeful, constructive view of human beings and of their substantial capacity to be self-determining. It is guided by a conviction that intentionality and ethical values are strong psychological forces, among the basic determinants of human behavior. This conviction leads to an effort to enhance such distinctly human qualities as choice, creativity, the interaction of the body, mind and spirit, and the capacity to become more aware, free, responsible, life-affirming and trustworthy."

Dissection is appropriate for a discussion of my art on many levels. In a literal sense, the dissection relates to the use of medically informed images of internal organs in my works. On a conceptual level and from a Humanist/Womanist perspective, my ideas about the world, environment, nature, religion and society have their origins in my body rather than from mystical or external forces. Because my art and issues are concerned with humanity, individuality, creativity, intelligence, empowerment and feminine identity, I feel they are best depicted, analyzed, discussed and organized within the metaphorical body structure of the Western woman artist.

Since this is a creative work I have taken the liberty of playing every role. I act as the Medical Examiner performing the autopsy and determining which body parts need to be investigated as possible causes of art. The Medical Examinerís commentary (shown in italics) will serve as a prelude to each chapter. The main body of the Thesis is told from my perspective as the Artist. The Ďsubjectí, the woman being autopsied, serves as an extension of myself, my ideals and as the primary symbol in my works.



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