Meet Cindy Nemser - art critic, theatre critic, novelist, humorist, journalist, and ardent feminist.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

8:36 PM Posted by Cindy Nemser No comments
Dear Cindy,
First, thank you for your thoughtful response to my letter. I still stand in defense of the Dinner party as a pivotal feminist work worthy of a place of honor in a major museum. I am familiar with Miainardi's writing but it is one thing to write of neglected feminist artistic traditions in a journal geared to a specific cognoscenti and quite another to shape and push these ideas (with whatever ego it takes) out into the world at large to be seen and judged alongside other great works of art. Like Rubens' Apotheosis...
Granted, Rubens was a great artist and a master of voluptuous flesh but the Apotheosis of Marie de Medici is a grotesque monument to baroque excess and if there were any women among his apprentices, they were shunted over to flowers and still lifes and denied any of the big historical commissions. Speaking of big commissions, Rubens was also a political operative, acting as a diplomat among European royalty, and had lucrative access to an incredibly wealthy and powerful clientele. Do we ever trash him for this? Should we? And where are all the slaves of Judy Chicago? I am sure there are some women who felt used but from what I understand there were many who gave willingly of their time and talents for what was at the time a great cause. Who built Chartres Cathedral? The faithful. Where are their names? I am a lapsed Catholic (anti Catholic actually) so don't get me started on the church's use of nuns and others as slave labor but when it comes to matters of the spirit like art and religion, there are those who willingly sacrifice their egos for what they see as a holy cause. Even after a loss of faith, one cannot dismiss Chartres Cathedral. If Chicago used and abused her work force as much as you say, what has happened to them since? Did she bury them in her back yard? I'm pretty sure she didn't rape their sons or deny them access to birth control.
I feel very strongly that we need to defend our sister artists in what is still a very inhospitable environment. We tear each other apart for a relatively small piece of real estate in the Brooklyn Museum. What about the rest of the museum? What about other museums and collections all over the world?
Glad you mentioned Betty Dodson. She truly is a feminist icon with a pretty overt Cock and Cunt show of her own. However, I feel her contribution is in the field of therapy and scientific illustration unless you classify her art with that of Jon Gnagy or Bob Ross. No disrespect intended. Gnagy and Ross showed people how to make their own art just as Dodson shows women how to have their own orgasms.
In the spirit of open dialogue, I remain
Nancy Lunsford
On May 11, 2007, at 12:46 PM, Cindy Nemser wrote:
Dear Nancy,

I too appreciate the creative marvelous works by women who quilted, stitched, crocheted, loved fine china and set a beautiful table. In fact the Feminist Art Journal was the first to print an article about quilts by the famous Red Stocking feminist writer Patrica Mainardi who wrote the classic “Politics of House Work” before Judy did her Cock and Cunt show.. It was called "Quilts: the Great American Art" and it is in the Winter, 1973 issue of the magazine. The writer declares the women didn't want to anonymous it was forced on them the society they lived in. We also published an article celebrating crocheting, lace making and other forms of needle work by women in FAJ, Winter, 1974- 75 called Fancy Work: the Archaeology of Lives”. In that piece by Rachel Maines the names of the women who sewed the work are mentioned whenever possible.

I am amazed that you could compare the “Dinner Party” with it's ill conceived. Poorly-executed ceramic vaginas to Rubin's masterpiece. It may have been an homage to an egotistical woman, but the artist made something magnificent out of it. He also painted chubby women beautifully for which, I for one, will always be thankful..

At that time that the artists of the period in which he worked there was a guild system and apprentices were not paid, but they were often given room and board, they had the chance to learn from a master. It was like art school but they didn’t have to cough up tuition. Later when they became journeymen they were given pay and credit

And for everyone who doesn’t know it Judy Chicago was not the first women artist to depict vaginas. The credit goes to Betty Dodson who published a book of realistically drawn vaginas stressing the unique patterning of each one. She also held classes in which she taught women who had never had organisms how to pleasure themselves. Dodson’s purpose was to enrich women’s lives not to force na├»ve women to slave for her and turn herself into a “feminist Icon.” Chicago is more like the pharaohs who forced slave to build their great tombs.

Cindy Nemser


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