Tag Archives: sculpture

Marisol and Her Sculpture


Laurie says:

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.

Georgia O’Keefe


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.


Women and Dog


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.

The Willendorf Project: Brenda Oelbaum Goes National with the Goddess at Her Back

Lynne Murray says:

In August of 2010, I posted here about feminist artist Brenda Oelbaum’s work turning diet books into papier mâché models of the Venus of Willendorf.

Postcard Image by Daphne Doerr

Now Brenda is bringing her vision to the larger stage with “a national ad campaign to take down $66 BILLION Diet Industry.” She calls her project “DUMP THE DIETS! a Fight for Freedom from self-loathing.”

Venuses Left to Right: Fonda, Last Chance, Scarsdale, Stop the Insanity, Simmons

As Brenda puts it:

Think about how many diet ads you see on a daily basis, and see for yourself how much the diet industry is really spending on making you feel bad about yourself.

It’s time to invest in some positive messages!

We are tired of measuring our worth on a bathroom scale! We are not a number and neither are our children. We are beautiful and can be healthy at our current size.

We are all unique and valuable.



Brenda plans to post her message by purchasing ads in national publications right beside the ads and articles with product placement to sell the diets.

She can’t do it on her own, of course, one artist versus a billion dollar propaganda machine is too much of an unequal contest. But Brenda is now mobilizing crowdsourcing to help fund her Dump the Diet ads where the general public can see them. She reports:

I have already placed ads in several magazines that will appear the first two weeks on May in honor of “No Diet Day,” May 6th. Now I need you to turn this grass roots effort into a movement.

Part of what resonates with me and many others about Brenda’s work is her brilliant use of the physical substance– the paper that composes diet books–to build a mental structure to help us heal the deep hole diet books have carved in our souls.

My wounds from years of diet go so deep and are so constantly vulnerable to re-infection that they need to heal from the inside, one layer of healthy tissue at a time, in a process remarkably similar to ripping out the pages of the diet book and pasting them onto a paper-mâché sculpture.

The cult surrounding diet books, ads and programs builds its strength upon the American dream of changing oneself through hard work. The desire for success via self-improvement strikes such a chord in our national consciousness that it can be easily echoed and then evoked to twist personal goals into impossible dreams of magical physical transformation.

But no matter how much money we spend chasing the dream, change can only work if it is based on actual possibility. Dieting does change our bodies, but not the way we wish and dream for. Instead the result is the opposite! Weight cycling and eating disorders are the predictable and proven results for the vast majority of those who follow any and every diet plan. Ragen at Dances with Fat defines it well:

[L]et’s talk about what “dieting” means (so that we can avoid the “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!” discussion.)  Dieting occurs when someone gives their body less food than it needs to survive in the hope that it will eat itself, thereby becoming smaller.  Call it a diet, call it a lifestyle change, if you are starving your body hoping that it will eat itself resulting in intentional weight loss, congratulations you are on a diet.  (You are completely and totally allowed to diet, I’m just saying let’s call it what it is.)

Turning a fat person into a permanently thin person is essentially impossible, which makes it the perfect scam for the con artist–a gold mine. Once the hook is set, the infinitely exploitable sucker will buy variations on one useless diet or another for decades if not for the rest of her/his lifetime. Those who engage in this Long Con have sold billions of copies of such “Create Your Own Eating Disorder” books, not to mention all the diet-oriented paraphernalia that accompany them.

Brenda’s use of the Venus of Willendorf as the sculpture made from diet books strikes at the very heart of fear and prejudice toward larger bodies. These statues once represented goddesses–abundance, fertility and largesse. Now they are objects of ridicule. And by extension, those of us whose bodies resemble the goddess have also become targets for abuse, commands that we starve ourselves (seriously, “just stop eating” is a popular insult often yelled at fat women), and sometimes even violence.

One of the beautiful subtexts and ironies in Brenda’s work is using the pages of diet books to create a fat figure, just as the dieting process itself is now proven to stimulate long-term weight gain–creating a fat or fatter figure.

Brenda’s work shows bravery worthy of a goddess–I adore the picture of her, resolute, nude, surrounded by towering walls of diet books. Passionate, committed individuals banding together can have a profound effect.

The Willendorf Project is a wise investment toward growing a wiser future.