Category Archives: pop culture

I am a loyal J. Crew customer. I get super excited when the new catalog comes, flipping through the pages lusting after the fashionable clothes. I found the Spring issue particularly adorable, because of the cute little boy getting his toenails painted by his mom, with pink Essie nail polish – my favorite!

This ad, which I was melting into a puddle of goo over, apparently made many people upset. Upset enough to air ridiculously ignorant stories on major news networks.

John Stewart put together some great clips of ridiculous pink toenail polish news stories, which can be seen in this amazing video: Toemageddon 2011 – This Little Piggy Went to Hell, which I highly suggest watching. You’ll laugh and possibly even cry.

I’m a life planner and I am fascinated with gender studies. Obviously I’ve already decided that I am going to actively try to raise my future children as gender neutral as possible. If my son’s favorite color is pink and he asks for an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas, you better fucking believe I’ll buy it for him. If my daughter wants a bug farm and a Creepy Crawler maker, she’ll get that too. There is an inexplicable and incessant need in U.S. society for clear gender boundaries and gender roles. They are learned behaviors, perpetuated by a patriarchal society that needs to separate out of fear of the possibility of equality.

Now I’ll discuss a couple of the most discouraging comments made about this ad. As reported on CCN, Erin Brown from the Media Research Center called the ad “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.” I see two major problems with this statement. 1) painting a 5-year-old boy’s toenails hot pink does not make him transgendered. 2) why the fuck shouldn’t transgendered children be celebrated?

Another excellent quote comes from Glenn Beck’s sidekick Keith Ablow, who is somehow an M.D. He states, “gender distinctions have a place in society. I think it is a message she meant to send – it’s an attack on masculinity.” Once again, two major issues. 1) gender distinctions in society function only to oppress and alienate. It creates a false binary. Yet Mr. Ablow would like to perpetuate gender stereotypes and roles. 2) This boy is FIVE. He is basically asexual at this point in his life. Yes, he identifies himself as a boy and pees standing up. He does not even understand what this mystique of masculinity that people like Ablow try so desperately to maintain. This myth that men need to be macho and powerful and can’t like the color pink or paint their toenails. I hope for this little boy’s sake that he doesn’t grow up to be one of those types of men. The world doesn’t need any more of those.

The controversy surrounding this ad makes me realize just how difficult it will be to raise children gender neutral. There is constant pressure from everywhere, especially from the media and pop culture, to adopt “gender appropriate” behavior. I am upset about the controversy surrounding this ad, too, but for incredibly different reasons.

Since moving to Boston mid-June, I have been working for a temp agency, which has placed me in some really interesting administrative roles. On the side, though, I work for third party marketing companies as a Promotional Model/Brand Ambassador/Spokesperson. It is actually a really fun/interesting gig, as I get to interact with lots of different people and learn about some cool products.

Most recently I was promoting a new men’s shaving product at a wholesale retailer. (I’m not sure how much info I’m allowed to divulge on the internet, so I am going to be as vague as possible.) I was responsible for telling people about the new product and also handing out samples of the same brand’s shaving cream. The shaving cream had the same name/branding as the blades themselves, and was marketed towards men to use to shave their face.

I was handing out 2.5 ounce samples of the shaving cream to customers at the store, which is pretty darn good for free. I was shocked at the amount of people, specifically women, who asked me if the product was for men/sort of got offended if I tried to offer it to them. WHAT? It is FREE shaving cream. Just because it is marketed towards men does not mean that it will not work for you, as a female, to shave whatever you want to shave with it. I couldn’t get over it. Do people honestly think that a product won’t work as well, or even at all, if you are the opposite gender of the marketing target?

It’s amazing/scary just how successful companies are at creating false binaries. For some reason, some people (I am definitely not included in this, as I’ve used tons of men’s products, even men’s deodorant!) truly believe that products “designed specially” for one gender cannot be used by the other gender. Mind blowing. Seriously. Shampoo works on all hair, male or female. So does shaving cream. Shavers, too. And I must admit that the five blade comfort blades that were created for “men” looked pretty awesome for shaving my legs.

The creation and maintenance of false binaries is problematic and has led to the perpetuation of marginalization and oppression of certain groups based on race/class/gender. If products are separated dependent on gender, race, class, etc. it opens the door for value judgments. One product is more effective, better quality, etc. even though they are probably the exact same product in different packaging. Do you remember the old Secret deodorant slogan “strong enough for a man, but made for a woman?” Yeah, I think that pretty much says it all.

                In high school I was a self proclaimed anti-feminist. This was because the idea had been planted in my head that feminists were, by their very nature, man-hating women with radical politics who burned their bras. It wasn’t until college, graduate school really, that I finally realized that there is a reason why feminism has been branded this way towards the younger generation of young girls and women: it has the potential to be incredibly powerful.

                By making feminism something that you shouldn’t be excited to align yourself with, and my making feminist politics seem removed from the life of the average woman, feminism is contained. Once I finally, reluctantly decided to embrace feminism, I realized that there are many girls and women who are in the same boat as I was. I now feel obligated to share how feminism has changed the way I think and to try to make more women aware of what feminism can do for them and how they think about the world around them.

                My fundamental problem with feminism from the ages of 13 – 20 was that I incorrectly thought feminism was hypocritical. I wanted to know why, if women were calling for equality, they weren’t championing humanism. I thought it was ridiculous to even acknowledge that gender divide and instead call for equality for PEOPLE, not just women. This was because I was incredibly naïve and had not yet realized that it is impossible to disregard gender difference. Through feminist art historical practices I was able to finally understand the value of feminism: as a tool to illuminate the ways in which women are oppressed due to the constraints they are forced to work in, which are different from those of men. By acknowledging the ways in which women were/are oppressed by patriarchial power structures, it opened my eyes to the ways in which gender, race, and class play an important roles, not just in the case of women, but in all marginalized groups.

                I’m not really a girl power, “I am woman hear me roar,” type of gal, but I definitely do identify myself as a feminist. I think that I should be in charge of my sexual health and reproduction rights, I want to get paid as much as a man does for doing the same job, and I don’t want to support or perpetuate the normalization of domestic violence towards women. Are you with me on one…two… all three of these issues? Guess what, you’re probably a feminist, too! Embrace it!

If  I’ve sparked your interest at all, check out Jessica Valenti’s book: Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Women’s Guide to Feminism and Why it Matters (I have to thank Professor Kelly Dennis’s office door promoting for this book recommendation!)

                 I’m a weird person. People have been describing me as weird since I can remember, though I’ve always wondered if it was just because our elementary school vocabularies were so limited that no one could ever think of another word for the “W” in my last name when making those anagram projects. Even still, I’ve always been described as “weird,” though often followed up by a “but in a good way.” One of my weirder qualities is that I don’t really like television and movies. I rarely ever want to go to the movies, and I honestly cannot recall when I actually got excited about a movie that was coming out. I’d often get dragged to midnight showings, but I could have cared less whether or not I was actually there. I also feel asleep in the theater during the most recent Die Hard movie, and no, I wasn’t even tired before I got there. I just don’t care.

                I grew up with a father who was on the cutting edge of all technology. I was also an only child. We always had at least 300 more channels that the three of us could possibly watch, but they were there just in case we needed them. In middle school, my parents let me have a TV in my bedroom. What did I chose to watch? The Home Shopping Network and Nick at Nite. No joke. I was obsessed with I Love Lucy, Green Acres, and Mary Tyler Moore, which in my opinion didn’t hold a candle to Rugrats, Hey Dude, and Salute Your Shorts, which I watched with my friends during the day. I never watched a show regularly, except for maybe TGIF, which was a family affair. I couldn’t be bothered to have to sit in front of the TV at a certain time – and I definitely still can’t!

                In high school we got satellite TV, and my obsessions became the Game Show Network and the Food Network. Once again, not joking. To this day, I have never seen an episode of Dawson’s Creek, The OC, One Tree Hill, Laguna Beach, or The Hills. I didn’t care. At all. Despite the fact that I didn’t particularly enjoy TV, I still felt like I had to have it on. I think it was for the background noise, or just due to the fact that that seemed like the normal thing to do. Throughout my entire life it has been incredibly hard for me to JUST watch TV. I always have to be doing something else: surfing the internet, making dinner, knitting, eating… anything other than just sitting there. As a result, I barely even pay attention to the TV. It’s become rarely anything more than a box of colors and sounds that I instinctively tune out and don’t pay attention to.

                Now that I am living away from my family and with my pretty frugal boyfriend, we decided not to get cable. I think this was one of the best decisions ever, because I am not paying for lights and sounds that I don’t pay attention to anyway. I get the local channels if I want to catch up on the news or, on occasion, watch the few shows I really do enjoy: How I Met Your Mother, Jeopardy, and The Ellen Show.  The shows that I enjoy that are not on antenna TV are easily accessed on the internet, and we decided to get Verizon Fios for just that reason. Quality high speed internet > cable TV. Now I just waste my time on the computer instead of as a zombie in front of the TV, but I’d like to think that my time spent on the computer is exponentially more productive. Whatever helps me sleep at night, right?

I’ve noticed that art that makes commentary on the body/involves the body leaves the most lasting impression on me. I guess this post is about unpacking these images, films, occurrences, etc. and figuring out exactly why and how I have such a visceral response to them.

From previous blog posts, I’ve made it largely apparent that I am fascinated with the idea of the spectacle. In this instance, I will also be using the word “spectacle” as defined by the Situations and Letterists International, both examples here taken from Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle:

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“Though separated from what they produce, people nevertheless produce every detail of their world with ever-increasing power. They thus also find themselves increasingly separated from that world. The closer their life comes to being their own creation, the more they are excluded from that life.”

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“The fetishism of the commodity — the domination of society by “intangible as well as tangible things” — attains its ultimate fulfillment in the spectacle, where the real world is replaced by a selection of images which are projected above it, yet which at the same time succeed in making themselves regarded as the epitome of reality.”

I will also be expanding on the notion of spectacle with what it particularly means to me, which is a hybrid between the ideologies of the SI/LI and the dictionary definition of: “something exhibited to view as unusual, notable, or entertaining; especially : an eye-catching or dramatic public display.” For me, the spectacle, in relation to the body, involves using the body (with or without consent of the person) as something to be viewed or provide pleasure and/or entertainment. The two examples of the body as spectacle that come to my mind are “ethnographic” presentations of people and pornography. Yes, they seem pretty unrelated right now, but bear with me.

The practice of displaying people is centuries old. Particularly after the colonization of Oceania, the Americas, and Africa “indigenous” people were sent back to Europe for display at fairs as “ethnographic displays.” The most well known example of this is the Hottentot Venus, an African woman who was sent to Europe as a “specimen” due to her engorged secondary sexual characteristics and “odd” (not European) aesthetics. A brilliant commentary on this practice is Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez –Peña’s performance piece circa 1997, The Couple in the Cage. This piece, which is one of my favorite performance pieces, shows the injustice and continuance of these practices. We’d like to believe that these practices no longer exist, that humans are not turned into spectacles, but think back to the last time you visited your favorite art or natural history museum. Remember that Ancient Egyptian mummy? Yeah, that is a human body. I know; it’s easy to forget.

Now what do “ethnographic displays” and mummies in museums have to do with pornography? Well, in these adult videos bodies are on display – in this case, not really as specimens, but as objects of pleasure and enjoyment. I guess in some ways it is not THAT much different than the theater or cinema, in which actors and actresses use their bodies and talents to entertain. I think what, in my mind, connects pornography with the display of bodies is the degrading and careless way in which many of its subjects are treated. Discussing pornography also provides an excellent transition to my next topic: the body as commodity.

When discussing the body as commodity, all that I can think of is prostitution and sex slavery. Once again, two very different things, though they are really only differentiated by one, rather important aspect: consent. My first experience unpacking the body as commodity and commentary on prostitution was exploring Picasso’s Demoiselles D’Avignon. In Picasso’s fragmented cubist painting, he is making a harsh commentary on the barbarous nature of selling one’s body for money. Particularly commenting on the crude behavior of seemingly sophisticated Parisian life in the early 20th century, which was rampant with prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases, Picasso uses the notion of primitivism to criticize the Western world, rather than the common practice of using primitivism to denigrate non-European (and therefore inferior) cultures. Though the female subjects of Picasso’s painting, as prostitutes, are choosing to be commodities, their bodies are shattered, their faces are ugly; they are far from beautiful or inviting, which was (and still is) the common glamorization of sex for sale.

I’ve had many debates over whether or not prostitution is a symbol of barbarism for a culture, of whether or not prostitution as an economic function of society, as an unsightly byproduct of capitalism somehow justifies its existence. To me, the body used as spectacle, but particularly turned into commodity can only be explained by this quote by Walter Benjamin: “there is no document of civilization that is not simultaneously a document of barbarism.” In my mind, prostitution is as disturbing as sex trafficking and it is the physical manifestation of a culture’s barbarity. It is the underbelly of a culture that is in denial of its own primitivism.

In a public lecture discussing the conclusion of his work on the Rwanda Series currently displayed at the UConn Contemporary Art Gallery, Alfredo Jaar (Chilean born “architect that makes art”) stated that his two main objectives when making art are exploring: 1) public desensitization to images and 2) the limitation of art when trying to express/manifest genocide (trauma) and its effects. Discussing his involvement in three arenas” 1) the “privileged” museum/gallery space (art world) 2) public interventions including the community, and 3) teaching and learning from the new generations, I noticed a common theme – the spectacle used for accountability.

Jaar uses the spectacle to create a sense of shame and shock in order to make its viewers accountable for their (in)actions. His works – which will be discussed later – provide possible and temporary solutions/answers to societal problems. His pieces are active, creating experiences that require the viewer to engage in a tremendous amount of self reflection. In this way, Jaar uses the spectacle in an unconventional way that makes people aware of their humanity.

In regard to art/art history, “the spectacle” refers to the ideological concepts of Guy Debord and the Situationists International. In Debord’s 1967 publication of The Society of the Spectacle, he states:

#5: “The Spectacle cannot be understood as a mere visual deception produced by mass-media technologies. It is a world-view that has actually been materialized, a view of the world that has become objective.”

Here, Debord explains that the spectacle is not merely a creation of the media, but that it is actually the manifestation of the dominant world view of the society in which it is created.

#18: “When the real world is transformed into mere images, mere images become dynamic beings – dynamic figments that provide the direct motivation for a hypnotic behavior. Since the spectacle’s job is to use various specialized mediations in order to show us a world that can no longer be directly grasped, it naturally elevates the sense of sight to the special pre-eminence once occupied by touch: the most abstract and easily deceived sense is the most readily adaptable to the generalized abstraction of present day society. But the spectacle is not merely a matter of images plus sounds. It is whatever escapes people’s activity, whatever eludes their practical reconsideration and correction. Wherever representation becomes independent, the spectacle regenerates itself.”

In this statement, Debord emphasizes the way in which the bombardment of images (the spectacle) of mass media has created a separation between reality and how people experience reality. All human experience is now mediated by images – representations of “a world that can no longer be directly grasped” in other words, directly experienced.

Debord’s ideas in The Society of the Spectacle mixing Marxist and Situationist ideologies, is relevant to and manifested in Jaar’s work. Jaar’s interest in “the public desensitization to images” is an interest in a societal phenomenon many years in the making. Due to the fact that images are simply mediations of reality – not reality – they are easy to dismiss, regardless of subject matter.

The invention of photography started this desensitization. When the first photos of exotic animals, people, and places were disseminated they shocked and entertained. The first ever motion picture caused people to scream and shout in the theatre due to the shocking “realism” of the crudely constructed scenes. With rapid industrialization, technology advanced at an alarming rate, and within a century these novel, impressive advancements became commonplace, banal, boring. Today we can sit in a 3-D IMAX motive theatre watching the latest blockbuster action movie without even blinking an eye. No shock, no awe. If anything, we are underwhelmed, under enthused.

This is the very reason why we (the Western viewer) can see photographs, watch videos of heinous scenes – genocide, war, famine – happening a world away and say “oh, that’s so sad,” think about it for a few minutes, push it out of our minds, and move on with our lives. Despite “seeing it with our own eyes” these images are not real too us – they’re merely another mediation of reality – of a world we cannot, will not, do not want to experience, which is, therefore, not real.

Jaar’s work is so effective because indifference is not an option. His works are connected to real people and real situations that are too important and too personal to ignore. If for only a moment, his works overcome the public’s general desensitization through their poignant yet shocking messages. His Rwanda project from 1994 to 2000, makes people acknowledge the devastating genocide that the Western world tried to ignore. In his final installment of this series, a 26 minute video now on view in UConn’s Contemporary Art Gallery, Jaar points the finger and finally calls the world out for its collective delinquency.

In early 1994, Dallaire (a Canadian UN Ambassador in Rwanda) discovered from an informant that they were planning to exterminate the Tutsi. Despite Dallaire’s best efforts, after the deaths of 10 Belgian soldiers, Western governments began pulling their troops from Rwanda, stating that it was merely a “tribal conflict” and that they did not want to lose and more of their soldiers. Once Western troops were evacuated, over 800,000 Tutsis were murdered in three short, terrifying months. This genocide could’ve been stopped, but instead of sending more troops, troops were evacuated. Africa didn’t matter – it was nothing more than what the Eurocentric media depicted it as: poor, unhealthy, insignificant.

Regardless of the amount of images and videos depicting the situation in Rwanda or direct pleas from Rwandan Tutsis, it was all too easy for the world to turn its back and ignore the devastating genocide taking place in this “far away,” out of sight out of mind, place. To this day, the guilty parties that removed troops and ignored the cries for help will not admit to their mistakes and injustices. Jaar’s work makes the viewer, simply as a human being, feel like a responsible party – which is essential to ensuring that this type of delinquency does not happen again.

Jaar’s work is not “art for art’s sake.” It is an art of purpose. It’s thoughtful, calculated, and it purposely puts the viewer in an uncomfortable position, where he/she has to come to terms with his/her accountability as a human. His works have important social purposes which focus on the societal phenomenon of public desensitization to images and he uses “the spectacle” as a way of making images powerful again by forcing the viewer to have a reaction that is difficult to forget.

Welcome to my Art/Art History blog! I am a second year master’s student at the University of Connecticut, and I am looking to start a museum career upon graduation in May! I would describe myself as tech savvy, quirky, intelligent, fun, helpful, and insightful. I am interested in engaging with and utilizing social media tools to make a memorable and lasting impression on possible employers.

I am an incredibly driven and motivated person. I graduated an entire year early at the age of 20 from UMass Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in Art History with a minor in Classics. From there I dove straight into the Art History master’s program at UConn, Storrs.

I have had awesome work/internship experiences in the midst of all the schoolwork. I am currently a Graduate Teaching Assistant at UConn, teaching two sections of 20 students and assisting with the survey courses: Ancient to Medieval and Renaissance to Present. I also coach long, high, and triple jump at my high school alma mater for the Indoor and Outdoor Track seasons. I have also been interning in the American Painting and American Dec Arts Departments at the Wadsworth Atheneum for over a year. The project that I am most proud of was my work obtaining copyrights and rights/reproduction permission for the exhibition catalogue American Moderns on Paper: Masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art which is currently on display at the Amon Carter Museum.

At UMass I worked in the Image Collection Library, maintaining the slide collection as well as helping create a new, online image database using Luna Insight and Inscribe. I absolutely loved this job, and it left me with a passion for slide libraries and fascination with catalouging cultural objects. I also worked as an executive assistant at a local bank, as well as a gallery guard and docent.

My combination of teaching experience, museum experience, library/meta data experience, paired with my enthusiastic outlook and unwavering motivation make me an excellent addition to any museum staff.

In this blog I will write about my experiences while teaching, working with, and thinking about ART! I hope you enjoy!