All about Eve

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Burying Eve
found objects, popular culture,challenging perceptions, Dadaism, l’object trouve, cultural object, expression, marriage, fabricating new meaning, ambiguity, gender, viewer perception, juxtaposition, changing function of cultural object, function, form, sculpture female iconography, female icons, domestic, viewer as collaborator, juxtaposition, meaning in art, viewer subjectivity, interpretation, multiple interpretations, decoding artwork, functional meaning, signification, signifier, dialectical, binary opposition, choice of imagery, sites of discord, relations, feminist theory, ambiguity, found objects, shovel, gold ring, marriage, death
description

Townsend’s use of  foundAn image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouvé. (Artlex.com)  objects in her art making is in keeping with the work of Marcel Duchamp and the movement in art history known as Dadaism. In this  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  of working, artists selected objects and images from  popular cultureLow (as opposed to high) culture, parts of which are known as kitsch and camp. With the increasing economic power of the middle- and lower-income populace since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, artists created various new diversions to answer the needs of these groups. These have included pulp novels and comic books, film, television, advertising, "collectibles," and tract housing. These have taken the place among the bourgeois once taken among the aristocracy by literature, opera, theater, academic painting, sculpture, and architecture. But modernist artists rarely cultivated the popular success of these new cultural forms. Modernist works were little appreciated outside of a small elite. Life magazine's 1950s articles on the abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956), and the silkscreened paintings by Andy Warhol (American, 1928?-1987) of soup cans and celebrities signaled unprecedented fusions between high and low art and the transition to the postmodern age. (Artlex.com)  to shock and challenge the viewer’s perceptions of art and the ways of the world. Writer Monika Gagnon confirms Townsend’s place within this category by writing that Burying Eve, “…follows the  traditionTradition is the passing along of a culture from generation to generation, especially orally. Or, a custom or set of customs handed down in this way. The idea of heritage is related to that of tradition. Any activity — as a pattern of celebration, ritual, or other behaviour, etc. — is traditional once it is a precedent influencing comparable activities in the future. (Artlex.com)  of l’object trouve, changing the  functionRefers to the intended use or purpose of an object. The term is often applied to manufactured products, particularly crafts, and when discussing designs for architecture. Though sometimes said to be non-functional, art is expected to function in various ways, including: to beautify, to adorn, to express, to illustrate, to mediate, to persuade, to record, to redefine reality, to redefine art, to provide therapy, to give unselfconscious experience, to provide paradigms of order and/or chaos, and to train perception of reality. Anything that is not functional is called nonfunctional. Often the decorative qualities of a thing are considered nonfunctional. (Artlex.com)  of the cultural object while challenging the meaning of the art object by means of its formal execution and its evasion of ‘expression.’” (Gagnon, 1986)

Townsend - Shovel

Commenting on Townsend’s selection and combinations of objects writer Ted Fraser notes that, “Townsend selects object-forms for her sculptural works from different modes of production - domestic, agricultural,  aestheticPertaining to a sense of the beautiful or to the science of aesthetics.  – and converges them to formulate a new, female iconography." (Fraser, 1989) Renee Baert also comments about Townsend’s choices of juxtaposed objects, describing them as ”..evocative found objects placed in new and provocative relations.” (Baert, 1992)

Townsend’s juxtapositions are designed to challenge the viewer. Ted Fraser says, “[She] engages the viewer as a collaborator.” (Fraser, 1989) And, further to decoding her work, an article written in Diagonales Montreal, says, “The work’s meaning is difficult to grasp; because each viewer’s subjectivity is reactivated, possibilities for interpretation are multiple.” (Diagonales Montreal, 1992)

Townsend’s particular choice of  imageryAn image is a picture, idea, or impression of a person, thing, or idea; or a mental picture of a person, thing, or idea. The word imagery refers to a group or body of related images. (Artlex.com)  in the work shown here is described by Renee Baert “Burying Eve sets up a relationship between two discordant elements: a shining delicate circle of gold and the pedestrian shovel of base metal and rough wood: the ring made for a woman’s finger and the inverted shovel posed upright like a phallus. These relations are neither dialectical, in which the conflicting elements find resolution in a third term, nor are they binary oppositions, bound together as complements; rather they are the site of a clash and reverberation of meanings.” (Baert, 1992)

townsend Shovel 2

In her commentary, Monika Gagnon gives further insights into Burying Eve and the messages communicated in the work: “An old shovel is hung upside down with a gold wedding band embedded in the concave of the spade. While each object carries a particular  functionalRefers to the intended use or purpose of an object. The term is often applied to manufactured products, particularly crafts, and when discussing designs for architecture. Though sometimes said to be non-functional, art is expected to function in various ways, including: to beautify, to adorn, to express, to illustrate, to mediate, to persuade, to record, to redefine reality, to redefine art, to provide therapy, to give unselfconscious experience, to provide paradigms of order and/or chaos, and to train perception of reality. Anything that is not functional is called nonfunctional. Often the decorative qualities of a thing are considered nonfunctional. (Artlex.com)  meaning in itself, the intercourse of these objects induces a succession of differential relations created by the tumbling of their cultural significations. The two objects, the spade used for digging (specially for burying as the title suggests), and the ring as a  symbolVisual image that represents something else.  of marriage become engaged in tragic dialogues; of love and labour, marriage and death, burial and bondage. New meanings are  fabricatedIn general, to make; to create. Often more specifically, to construct or assemble something. (Artlex.com)  which would otherwise remain unexplored by the object itself.” (Gagnon 1986)

Continuing her commentary, Gagnon notes that: “The title references Eve, ascribing a sexualized reading insofar as the burden of the Original Sin that falls on Woman is alluded to as being ‘buried’ or covered by the movement of the work. In this, the problematic construction of  mythA traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society. (Artlex.com)  and the issue of ownership in relation to the mythical female body are fore-grounded as layers of meaning to be read in this work.” (Gagnon, 1986)

contextual-23.jpg

Renee Baert provides a different perspective:  “The title of this work adds to its ambiguity: is Eve, the first woman, being buried anew, or is she, in this  feministFeminism essentially comprises a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and philosophies concerned with gender inequalities, and equal rights for people of all genders. Especially since the late 1960s, when the feminist art movement can be said to have emerged, women have been particularly interested in what makes them different from males — what makes women artists and their art different from male artists and their art. This has been most prominent in the United States, Britain, and Germany, although there are numerous precursors to the movement, and it has spread to many other cultures since the 1970s. Feminists point out that throughout most of recorded history males have imposed patriarchal (father-centered) social systems (in which they have dominated females). Although it is not the goal of this article to recount the development of feminist theory in full, the history of feminist art cannot be understood apart from it. Feminist theory must take into account the circumstances of most women's lives as mothers, household workers, and caregivers, in addition to the pervasive misconception that women are genetically inferior to men. Feminist art notes that significant in the dominant (meaning especially Western) culture's patriarchal heritage is the preponderance of art made by males, and for male audiences, sometimes transgressing against females. Men have maintained a studio system which has excluded women from training as artists, a gallery system that has kept them from exhibiting and selling their work, as well as from being collected by museums — albeit somewhat less in recent years than before. (Artlex.com)  piece, being unearthed?” Baert goes to say, “Throughout her career, Townsend’s work has resonated with such paradoxes.” (Baert, 1992)
 
While directly referencing sexuality and male/female relationships this work is not speaking for a specific gender. Renee Baert’s interpretation is that, “.. while Townsend’s sculptures offer speculation on male sexuality, they can not be tied to a specific reading; they are declaratively sexual but by no means declaratively gendered.”  She quotes Townsend as saying, “I am looking for something that’s elusive.”  (Baert, 1992)

additional resources Things to Think About
  • Look at Ryan Arnott’s Untitled (Eggbeater/Screwdriver) #2 in the ARTSask theme Technobabble. How is it similar to Burying Eve?  How do these two works differ?
Arnott
  • Do you think Townsend’s work explores a place between presence and absence? Is there a connection to life and death?
  • What are the hidden meanings beneath the surfaces of the objects in Burying Eve? How does the viewer’s imagination and the subconscious factor into the work?
  • Could this work take the viewer to the dark side of the human psyche?
  • “[Townsend’s] sculptures probe the masculine perspective of transformation and myth to expose veiled socio-political power and sexual repression.” (Fraser, 1989) Do you see this in her work?
  • “Myth is not sacrosanct and timeless; it is alive, carnal, unjust, tragic and comic.” (Fraser, 1989) Are myths just stories from the past? Can they be alive and timeless?
  • Renee Baert states, “The work of Martha Townsend is poised at the edge of memory and the brink of language. This position, at once conceptual and political, is one she has been mapping for nearly a decade with a succession of works of subtle power, rigorous process and elegant play.” (Baert, 1992) Would you agree with this statement in relation to Burying Eve? In her work, do you find the presentation of subtle power, see the effects of the use of rigorous artistic process, and enjoy the possibilities for elegant play?
Online Activity
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First, using the shovel image below as a base,  juxtaposeCombining two or more objects that don’t usually go together to cause the viewer to consider both objects differently.  different images (using the "Images" tool) on top of it to evoke different meanings.  Click on the Shapes  button and the Select Shape button to select your objects to juxtapose.

Then, go to Razzle Dazzle and make jewellery!

Studio Activity

Jewellery designing

RingsA golden wedding band is an  abstractImagery which departs from representational accuracy, to a variable range of possible degrees. Abstract artists select and then exaggerate or simplify the forms suggested by the world around them.  (Artlex.com)  representation of eternity and steadfast devotion. It has no beginning and no end and the hole in the center is like a gateway to things in the future. It has been adopted for use in the hope it will help to make a romantic union strong and lasting. In the past, it signalled that a woman was the property of a man and it was placed on the third finger of the left hand because it was believed to be touching a direct artery to the heart.

Many kinds of rings have been worn as a wedding ring. Some people like the simplicity of the gold band while others have sparkling diamonds and gems, multiple joined bands or even go so far as to tattoo a  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  on their ring finger.

EarringJewellery, in general, is used to decorate the body and is sometimes thought to have spiritual and mystical powers. Early forms of jewellery were feathers, bones, teeth and human hair. The Sioux in North America decorated themselves with feathers as a sign of bravery and courage. To the Chinese, jade is considered more valuable than gold and silver. In South America gold is called ‘the sweat of the sun’ and silver is called ‘the tears of the moon.’

Look (online or in a library) at jewellery design from around the world and  figure1.  The form of a human, an animal or a thing; most often referring to an entire human form.  2.  A person of note (i.e., an important figure in history...)  out what your taste in jewellery is. Is there a favourite gem or  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  in your traditions?

  • Use your sketches as a starting point to work out your design for your jewellery project.
  • Make a number of sketches and designs until you have one that you would like to wear yourself.
  • Whatever choice you make you will have your own uniquely designed jewellery that says something about you as a person.

You can try to make other kinds of jewellery by using the following methods:

  • For more information on jewellery go to:

 

Male and female relationships

Artists draw on all kinds of ideas in their art-making. Emotional relationships between people, including conflict, is one example of an idea that an artist might draw on.

Since the time of the Garden of Eden, conflict has occurred between the sexes. According to narratives passed down through the ages, Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Humankind has suffered for these sins ever since. Learn more about this story at Adam and Eve at Wikipedia.

  • Think about relationships you have with your family and friends. All interactions among people have the possibility of causing some kind of conflict as well as pleasure.
  • Focus on a relationship that you have with another person that is particularly strong and try to determine what has formed this bond.
  • In an artwork, visually convey ideas about personal relationships using images and symbols to communicate your meaning. 

Rainbow

 

Earth works

Earth works are large sculptural outdoor art works made by moving earth with a shovel or machinery. Look at art made by renown artists at the following sites:

As a group try to make your own large outdoor  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  using materials you can find in your community.

Nature

Beneath the  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  appearance

You may wish to create a smaller, temporary outdoor sculptural installation, take a photograph of your completed artwork, and restore the  spaceSpace can be the area around, within or between images or elements. Space can be created on a two-dimensional surface by using such techniques as overlapping, object size, placement, colour intensity and value, detail and diagonal lines.  to its pristine state, leaving no trace of you.

 

A spade is a spade?

SpadeUse the image of a shovel or some other common tool to create art. Artist Victor Cicansky, whose work can be seen in the ARTSask theme CommonPlace, often works with ideas related to his garden in his art work. He uses gardening tools and garden produce as the main components of many of his sculptures. In Cicansky’s hands, shovels can become trees and the blade can become a bowl for vegetables. How would you use a shovel or some other common tool in your artistic process? Find out more about Victor Cicansky at his website.

Identity

Dreaming about a spade can mean that you are seeking to understand your inner self, mind and identity. Make an artwork that reflects the pursuit of identity and understanding of self.
 

Inspiration from the other arts

MetronomeIn another work by Townsend, she combines art forms by using a metronome and an Egyptian mummy-like  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  in a sculptural assemblage. A metronome is used in music to maintain a steady beat or tempo and a mummy is a preserved or embalmed body which is usually placed within a coffin-like container.

The modern-day blockbuster movie The Lord of the Rings, directed by Peter Jackson, was based on a novel by J. R. R. Tolkien. A magical gold ring was the object of power, adventure and fortune in the storyline.

Another example of artists  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (Artlex.com)  inspiration from another art form can be observed in the song “Golden Ring” made famous by Tammy Wynette and George Jones in 1976. The song was written by Bobby Braddock and he was inspired to write the song after viewing a film about the ‘life’ of a handgun.

Combine ideas gleaned from other art forms to create a new and original work of art.

 

Using synectics as an approach to creative thinking

Synectics is a process that is used to help artists combine ideas by using  metaphorUsed in art as in speech. A term, regularly used for one object, is used for another and suggests a likeness between to the two.  or  analogyA comparison between things based upon observations of a significant similarity between them, while acknowledging that they are otherwise dissimilar. Makers of analogies generally infer that if these things are so similar then they are probably alike in other ways. Analogies are usually made to illustrate or explain complex or unfamiliar ideas. Any things similar or alike in such a way as to permit the drawing of an analogy may be called analogous. Analogy is a basic component of symbolism. (Artlex.com)  (in other words, it helps you to think about something/some object by relating it to other concepts and objects). You can find out more about synectics at:

Synectics does this by showing you how to:

  1. Examine seemingly unrelated images or bits of information and making relevant connections.
  2. Use  analogyA comparison between things based upon observations of a significant similarity between them, while acknowledging that they are otherwise dissimilar. Makers of analogies generally infer that if these things are so similar then they are probably alike in other ways. Analogies are usually made to illustrate or explain complex or unfamiliar ideas. Any things similar or alike in such a way as to permit the drawing of an analogy may be called analogous. Analogy is a basic component of symbolism. (Artlex.com)  to make the connections.
  3. Use  metaphorUsed in art as in speech. A term, regularly used for one object, is used for another and suggests a likeness between to the two.  to make the connections.

Here are some steps to follow if you want to try the synectics process with a visual project. To apply synectics, you might begin this way:

  1. Choose any random word, several words, a theme, or a  conceptAn idea, thought, or notion conceived through mental activity. The words concept and conception are applied to mental formulations on a broad scale. (Artlex.com)  that interests you or is on your mind.

  2. Define words.

  3. Create direct analogies.

    • Separately consider each page you have prepared with definitions for your word. As you do this, look for other words with similar meaning.

      • by using what you know
      • by referring to a thesaurus
      • by trying other dictionaries
      • by referring to a book of synonyms

  4. Find images.

  5. Make personal connections. Think about:

  6. Search for and describe what lies beneath the surface.

    • Consider words with the opposite meaning or images with reverse characteristics.

  7. Deepen your looking

  8. Interconnect.

    • Consider the work you have done on each of your papers. Search for connections, shared meanings, images, ideas, opposites, themes… You get the idea…
    • Record these as words or images or symbols.

  9. Develop a synthesis draft of your idea.

  10. CREATE! Paint, Draw, Sculpt, Photograph, Build, Install, Write!

 

Games

Background information

Another word to describe the shovel in Burying Eve is a spade. Spades are also a  symbolVisual image that represents something else.  used in playing cards. Learn more about the origins of the symbols used in suits of cards. Discover other interesting information like why the ace of spades is larger that the other aces, or who the original characters were that are used in the face cards – Queen, King, Jack.

At the following websites you can learn about the  symbolVisual image that represents something else.  for each card:

ChessChess is a game that is built on the idea of war (conflict, battle) and protecting the king of  medievalRefers to the Middle Ages.  The period in European history between the collapse of Rome and the Renaissance, from 476 CE to about 1450. Also known as the medieval period, and as the Dark Ages.  (Artlex.com)  times. Chess is a very old game for two players and one that requires strategic thinking, patience and prudence to outwit the enemy and save the king. The game has eight pawns or surf/labourers, two rooks (or castles), two knights (or professional soldiers), two bishops (representing the church), a king (who is the object of capture) and a queen, ironically a woman, who has the most power of any character in the game. In reality, a  medievalRefers to the Middle Ages.  The period in European history between the collapse of Rome and the Renaissance, from 476 CE to about 1450. Also known as the medieval period, and as the Dark Ages.  (Artlex.com)  queen, while commanding a lot of power in those times, had to be careful to maintain her position and favour with her king or she could lose it all. Learn more about chess at the following web sites:

 

Games Activity

As with the previously described games think about how Townsend uses  symbolVisual image that represents something else.  and strategic planning to communicate her ideas.

  • Invent your own game, based on the premise of a recent game you have played but, with your own original take or focus.
References

Author unknown.  First Person Plural.  Symposium announcement.  Winniped Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Retrieved from the Internet on May 7, 2008 from:  http://www.mawa.ca/archives/Firstpp/firstper.html

Baert, Renee.  ‘Objects in Advance of the Concept.’  Canadian Art, 1992.

Black, Anthea (Director).  20 Years of Contemporary Art, Gossip and Lies: 1985- 2005 at Stride.  Exhibition catalogue.  Stride Gallery, Calgary, Alberta. 2005.

Diagonales Montreal.  ‘Martha Townsend.’  Parachute, Montreal, 1992.

Fraser, Ted.  Artifact: Memory and Desire.  Exhibition catalogue.  The Gallery Stratford, Stratford, Ontario, 1989.

Gagnon, Monika.  ‘From the Silence of Noise, Plural, to The Silence of Order.’  C Magazine, Spring 1986 #9.

Grenville, Bruce.  Toward a History of the Found Object.  Exhibition catalogue.  Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1990.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning