I was recently knocked out by Marisol’s portrait of Magritte. I saw a photo of the sculpture without reference to the artist. I tried to check it out but couldn’t find who the artist was. Fortunately Deb, who is much better at this than I am, discovered it was Marisol. I read an excellent article about her in Wikipedia and several other discussions about her work. Many of the faces on her sculptures are her own.
The combination of cleverness, depth and reflection impressed me immediately in seeing just the one piece. I am normally not a fan of cleverness – I think that for me, it wears very quickly and is mostly superficial. It’s why I’m not a fan of Pop Art. And in reading about Marisol, I found she had been removed from the pantheon of Art because she was complex and not merely clever. (Her gender, of course, had a great deal to do with the ways that she is remarkable in her reflections, and why she did not until very recently receive the acknowledgement that she deserves.) I featured her sculptures in this post, but her oeuvre was a lot bigger. Read the whole Wikipedia article. Marisol led a remarkable, fascinating and complex life. Her full name was Marisol Escobar, but the artist was named only Marisol.
Quotes are from Wikipedia:
During the Postwar period, there was a return of traditional values that reinstated social roles, conforming race and gender within the public sphere. Marisol’s sculptural works toyed with the prescribed social roles and restraints faced by women during this period through her depiction of the complexities of femininity as a perceived truth.
Marisol’s practice demonstrated a dynamic combination of folk art, dada, and surrealism – ultimately illustrating a keen psychological insight on contemporary life. By displaying the essential aspects of femininity within an assemblage of makeshift construction, Marisol was able to comment on the social construct of ‘woman’ as an unstable entity. Using an assemblage of plaster casts, wooden blocks, woodcarving, drawings, photography, paint, and pieces of contemporary clothing, Marisol effectively recognized their physical discontinuities. Through a crude combination of materials, Marisol symbolized the artist’s denial of any consistent existence of ‘essential’ femininity.’Femininity’ being defined as a fabricated identity made through representational parts.An identity which was most commonly determined by the male onlooker, as either mother, seductress, or partner.
Using a feminist technique, Marisol disrupted the patriarchal values of society through forms of mimicry. She imitated and exaggerated the behaviors of the popular public.Through a parody of women, fashion, and television, she attempted to ignite social change.
Marisol mimicked the imaginary construct of what it means to be a woman, as well as the role of the ‘artist’. She accomplished this through combining sensibilities of both Action painting and Pop Art Marisol utilized the spontaneous gesture of expression within Action painting along with the cool and collected artistic intent of Pop art. Marisol’s sculptures questioned the authenticity of the constructed self, suggesting it was instead contrived from representational parts.
Art was used not as a platform of personal expression, but as an opportunity to expose the self as an imagined creation. By juxtaposing different signifiers of femininity, Marisol explained the way in which ‘femininity’ is culturally produced But, by incorporating casts of her own hands and expressional strokes in her work, Marisol combined symbols of the ‘artist’ identity celebrated throughout art history.
This approach destabilized the idea of artistic virtue as a rhetorical construct of masculine logic. Therefore, “Collapsing the distance between the role of woman and that of artist by treating the signs of artistic masculinity as no less contingent, no less the product of representation, than are the signs of femininity. Marisol exposed the merit of an artist as a fictional identity that must be enacted through the repetition of representational parts.
Marisol’s artistic practice has often been excluded from art history, both by art critics and early feminists. For feminists her work was often perceived as reproducing tropes of femininity from an uncritical standpoint, therefore repeating modes of valorization they hoped to move past. Although, Pop art critics would use her “femininity” as the conceptual framework to distinguish the difference between her sentimentality and that of her male associates objectivity. Marisol produced satiric social commentaries in concern to gender and race, which being a woman of color is a circumstance she lives in.Instead of omitting her subjectivity, she used her ‘femininity’ as a mode of deconstructing and redefining the ideas of ‘woman’ and ‘artist’, giving herself control of her own representation.