Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Sword and a Mop

From the art building at St. Catherine University in St. Paul:

The accompanying card reads:

Patricia L. Olson
Feminist Revisioning, 2004

This self-portrait shows the artist in a stance that mimics a figure found in a European heroic painting. In art history, only a handful of paintings have shown women brandishing a sword, two of them being Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People and Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Decapitating Holofernes. In these paintings, the posture, along with the sword, imply power and righteous action. Olson feels that both are qualities feminism embodies at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and the sword becomes not a symbol of violence, but a metaphor of feminism.

…the artist [also] uses a domestic instrument, the mop… After a person’s head has been lopped off (metaphorically and righteously), someone needs to stick around to clean up the mess. So even as the world changes for the better, there will be real human suffering to attend to, and therefore the mop in this painting is the equal of the sword. The mop head visually resurrects Medusa, whose serpent-hair symbolizes ancient feminine wisdom. Olson feels that the mop, and women’s knowledge of how to use it, is what makes feminism different from all the other “isms” of history.
None of which explains the cowboy boots, I must point out.

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