Naked female statues

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Millennie Al
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Millennie Al » Mon Nov 16, 2020 4:10 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:28 pm
So I think in this particular case you might need to think about how to develop a design and commissioning process that was somehow more inclusive of the diversity of opinions within females, because clearly in this case the females that were involved have come up with something that some number of other females don't like or understand.
Why do you think there is anything that all women would agree on? That wouldn't be very diverse, would it?
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Tessa K » Mon Nov 16, 2020 9:13 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 4:10 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:28 pm
So I think in this particular case you might need to think about how to develop a design and commissioning process that was somehow more inclusive of the diversity of opinions within females, because clearly in this case the females that were involved have come up with something that some number of other females don't like or understand.
Why do you think there is anything that all women would agree on? That wouldn't be very diverse, would it?
BoaF isn't saying the statue should be something every woman would agree on because clearly that's impossible. I read this as saying the commissioning process should be more diverse and inclusive. That way there'd be a better chance of fewer women hating it.

This is an interesting article that covers and develops many of the points made here.
https://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/of-o ... tonecraft/
Wollstonecraft’s treatises on enlightenment thought famously argued that calling attention to the body impedes the liberation of women’s minds.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by sTeamTraen » Mon Nov 16, 2020 1:45 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 9:13 am
BoaF isn't saying the statue should be something every woman would agree on because clearly that's impossible. I read this as saying the commissioning process should be more diverse and inclusive. That way there'd be a better chance of fewer women hating it.
But should "fewer women hate it" be the criterion? Didn't many of what are now regarded as the greatest works of art throughout history piss people off immensely when they were first unveiled? If you asked for 20 proposals from artists and chose the one that got the fewest "God, no, anything but that" votes, you would very likely end up either with a statue that looks exactly like every other statue of a famous person (which I think the artist has been quoted as saying was exactly what she wanted to avoid), or just the inscribed black plinth on its own.

For what it's worth, I've just seen a picture of the whole statue for the first time. Assuming that there isn't something weird going on with perspective, it seems to me like the nude part has been emphasised, in the media coverage, way out of proportion to its place in the scale of the work. The woman at the top seems to emerge from, or be held aloft by, a collection of feminine shapes underneath. At least, that's how it appears to one old cis white hetero male who doesn't know much about art.


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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Millennie Al » Tue Nov 17, 2020 3:49 am

Tessa K wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 9:13 am
BoaF isn't saying the statue should be something every woman would agree on because clearly that's impossible. I read this as saying the commissioning process should be more diverse and inclusive. That way there'd be a better chance of fewer women hating it.
Ah! Design by committee. That famous source of excellence.
This is an interesting article that covers and develops many of the points made here.
https://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/of-o ... tonecraft/
Wollstonecraft’s treatises on enlightenment thought famously argued that calling attention to the body impedes the liberation of women’s minds.
It's rather ironic that for a statue to commemmorate a woman, made by a woman, and commissioned by women, so much discussion seems to assume that the most important aspect of it is what men will think of it.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Herainestold » Tue Nov 17, 2020 5:13 am

If enough women don't like it, it should be decommissioned. The question is 'how many is enough?', and which women's voices should prevail?

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Lydia Gwilt » Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:59 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:23 pm
Herainestold wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 9:58 pm
Woodchopper wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:23 am


Life expectancy at birth was about 38 back then.
What was it for males?
Oddly, life expectancy for women was a little longer than for men, even back then.

Some interesting reading at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expe ... ifferences and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_survival_paradox

I had thought that 38 was the mean life expectancy, taking into account the huge numbers that died before age 5, so that plenty of people lived to 65/70ish, provided they got to 5 and didn't die in childbirth, war, plague, famine or whatever. In the King James Bible it says threescore and ten, so presumably that was what was hoped for in the early 17th century (no idea how accurate the translations were from Latin, Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew etc, but presumably they reflected the usual expectations of the time, because if that's what regularly happened, then it must be God's plan obviously.).

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Woodchopper » Tue Nov 17, 2020 9:35 am

Lydia Gwilt wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:59 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:23 pm
Herainestold wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 9:58 pm


What was it for males?
Oddly, life expectancy for women was a little longer than for men, even back then.

Some interesting reading at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expe ... ifferences and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_survival_paradox

I had thought that 38 was the mean life expectancy, taking into account the huge numbers that died before age 5, so that plenty of people lived to 65/70ish, provided they got to 5 and didn't die in childbirth, war, plague, famine or whatever. In the King James Bible it says threescore and ten, so presumably that was what was hoped for in the early 17th century (no idea how accurate the translations were from Latin, Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew etc, but presumably they reflected the usual expectations of the time, because if that's what regularly happened, then it must be God's plan obviously.).
Yes, there's an important difference between life expectancy at birth and life expectancy at 30.

Threescore and ten years was too long though. People in old testament Judea were likely more healthy than people living in late-18th Century London. Cities in Britain during the early part of the industrial revolution were really unhealthy - big increases in population density, very poor sanitation, poor diet and bad air pollution.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Lydia Gwilt » Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:59 am

By that argument, early 17th century pre-industrial, ie KJB era, would also have been healthier than urban late 18th century so 70 might have been a reasonable hope.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Tessa K » Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:14 pm

Millennie Al wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 3:49 am
Tessa K wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 9:13 am
BoaF isn't saying the statue should be something every woman would agree on because clearly that's impossible. I read this as saying the commissioning process should be more diverse and inclusive. That way there'd be a better chance of fewer women hating it.
Ah! Design by committee. That famous source of excellence.
Not what I meant. I was referring to having a more diverse and inclusive commissioning process. You can please all of the people some of the time.... etc.

The difference between public statues like this and the bulk of art throughout history is that the latter wasn't commissioned for public enjoyment. Most public commemorative statues say more about the people who put them there than the person represented, for good or bad.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by EACLucifer » Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:19 pm

Lydia Gwilt wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:59 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:23 pm
Herainestold wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 9:58 pm


What was it for males?
Oddly, life expectancy for women was a little longer than for men, even back then.

Some interesting reading at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expe ... ifferences and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_survival_paradox

I had thought that 38 was the mean life expectancy, taking into account the huge numbers that died before age 5, so that plenty of people lived to 65/70ish, provided they got to 5 and didn't die in childbirth, war, plague, famine or whatever. In the King James Bible it says threescore and ten, so presumably that was what was hoped for in the early 17th century (no idea how accurate the translations were from Latin, Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew etc, but presumably they reflected the usual expectations of the time, because if that's what regularly happened, then it must be God's plan obviously.).
Indeed. IIRC, life expectancy in ancient Rome was between 20 and 30, yet a 20yo would have an average of 30 more years ahead of them.

Prior to the modern era, childbirth was sufficiently dangerous that women of childbearing age could have greater mortality than men of the same age, yet women had greater life expectancy overall due to higher death rates among boys and older men.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Tessa K » Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:26 pm

EACLucifer wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:19 pm
Lydia Gwilt wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:59 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:23 pm


Oddly, life expectancy for women was a little longer than for men, even back then.

Some interesting reading at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expe ... ifferences and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_survival_paradox

I had thought that 38 was the mean life expectancy, taking into account the huge numbers that died before age 5, so that plenty of people lived to 65/70ish, provided they got to 5 and didn't die in childbirth, war, plague, famine or whatever. In the King James Bible it says threescore and ten, so presumably that was what was hoped for in the early 17th century (no idea how accurate the translations were from Latin, Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew etc, but presumably they reflected the usual expectations of the time, because if that's what regularly happened, then it must be God's plan obviously.).
Indeed. IIRC, life expectancy in ancient Rome was between 20 and 30, yet a 20yo would have an average of 30 more years ahead of them.

Prior to the modern era, childbirth was sufficiently dangerous that women of childbearing age could have greater mortality than men of the same age, yet women had greater life expectancy overall due to higher death rates among boys and older men.
You can see why women chose to go into a convent rather than marry, especially wealthy ones.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by sTeamTraen » Tue Nov 17, 2020 1:31 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:14 pm
The difference between public statues like this and the bulk of art throughout history is that the latter wasn't commissioned for public enjoyment. Most public commemorative statues say more about the people who put them there than the person represented, for good or bad.
I'm not sure about the "public" status of this statue. It seems to be an entirely private initiative, although it is displayed in public. Presumably the council had to give permission on elf 'n' safety grounds (I can't immediately tell from the map whether Newington Green comes under Islington or Hackney council), but I think there would be genuine slippery slopes involved if they were to refuse permission for any other reason, unless it was deemed sufficiently obscene or offensive that it was a threat to public order, which I don't think is what's being argued.

I imagine that when the collection to build it was launched, hardly anybody except a few knuckledragging misogynists would have objected; indeed, I presume that the vast majority of feminists who heard about the project thought it was a great idea. What we're now seeing, I think, is some fraction of those people realising that they meant it was a great idea assuming that they found the design acceptable (which is fair enough; I think most people would probably have assumed it would look like the image that I've pasted below, which comes from the charity's own web site), and they probably didn't consider the possibility that it might be something that a lot of feminists would find unacceptable. I'm kind of torn because I quite like the statue as a work of art, but I think the controversy over the design has spoiled the message about Mary.

It also seems to me that this discussion reveals a question about the legitimacy of the MaryOnTheGreen.org people to represent Mary Wollstonecraft and her memory. If she had been dead for only 20 years then presumably her descendants or other close relatives would have been involved (and objected if they hadn't), whereas since she's been gone for two centuries, she mostly only "exists" through her ideas, like any other person from that period; and what "her ideas" means is subject to our interpretation, given 200 years of elapsed time and social change since then. But for someone to have said, back in 2010, "Hold on, who are you lot to decide what the design of this statue should be?" could have appeared rather churlish.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Fishnut » Tue Nov 17, 2020 5:14 pm

There's been some interesting stuff written about the statue since it's unveiling. This article is by someone who likes it. This piece, in contrast, objects to the statue and specifically its claim to represent an 'everywoman'. And The Observer has some quotes from Maggi Hambling as well as those who like and dislike the statue.

I still don't like the piece. I have 4 main objections that I've finally been able to summarise:
1) part of the aim of the Mary on the Green campaign was to redress the current imbalance that means that most of the statues to individuals are of men. By making this statue "for" Mary Wollstonecraft rather than "of' her they have done nothing to shift that imbalance.

2) the contradiction in being an 'everywoman' and being 'more or less the shape we’d all like to be'. There is so much to unpack in those two statements. I think the second piece I linked to does a great job of unpicking some of the problems but suffice it to say it suggests a very narrow view of womanhood and what women are aspiring to be.

3) the size - it's f.cking tiny. As I said in my first post in this thread "It feels like a symbolic minimising of women, of our achievements, of our impact".

4) the nudity - it feels like cheap provocation. As others have pointed out, there are ways of doing nudity that doesn't pander to a male gaze, and there are ways of clothing people that doesn't tie them to a particular period. Representing the birth of feminism in Britain as a nude, young, slender and athletic woman was a lazy choice that doesn't do anything to challenge ideas of women in art or society.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Sciolus » Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:16 pm

If the figure were clothed, that would presumably mean a long skirt, since trousers would make her look like a man to a casual glance given the figure's size (as well as being anachronistic to the extent it's supposed to represent Wollstonecraft). But that wouldn't work with the composition of the figure emerging whole from the mass of bodies below, as then she would blur in to the mass and just be a torso. So for that practical reason, the nakedness is integral to the composition.

Whether that's a good reason, I'm saying nothing.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by EACLucifer » Tue Nov 17, 2020 9:56 pm

I can't help but find myself not liking some the execution, either. I agree with Fishnut's points 1-3, don't have a very strong opinion about point 4 in terms of this specific statue, but I really don't like the neck and shoulders. They don't suggest strength, they suggest tension, but that tension isn't matched anywhere else, and so she looks like she's trying to sh.t out a pinecone.

But then I don't really like much of what I've seen of Hambling's work. It all seems to be sloppily executed takes on concepts that might seem profound to a GCSE art student.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by sTeamTraen » Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:54 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 5:14 pm
3) the size - it's f.cking tiny. As I said in my first post in this thread "It feels like a symbolic minimising of women, of our achievements, of our impact".
The overall statue (see my photo a few posts back) looks like its about 1.50 metres tall, based on what I assume is the size of the lettering. And this piece --- seemingly quoting the chair of the campaign --- says that "the bronze cast sculpture depicts a naked female figure rising to heights". If you scaled it up so that the (15cm?) nude woman was full-size, the whole thing would be 15 metres tall - great heights indeed.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Woodchopper » Wed Nov 18, 2020 8:14 am

sTeamTraen wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:54 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 5:14 pm
3) the size - it's f.cking tiny. As I said in my first post in this thread "It feels like a symbolic minimising of women, of our achievements, of our impact".
The overall statue (see my photo a few posts back) looks like its about 1.50 metres tall, based on what I assume is the size of the lettering. And this piece --- seemingly quoting the chair of the campaign --- says that "the bronze cast sculpture depicts a naked female figure rising to heights". If you scaled it up so that the (15cm?) nude woman was full-size, the whole thing would be 15 metres tall - great heights indeed.
Yes, I think maybe the suggestion is that the overall concept could have been different.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Fishnut » Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:06 am

sTeamTraen wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:54 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 5:14 pm
3) the size - it's f.cking tiny. As I said in my first post in this thread "It feels like a symbolic minimising of women, of our achievements, of our impact".
The overall statue (see my photo a few posts back) looks like its about 1.50 metres tall, based on what I assume is the size of the lettering. And this piece --- seemingly quoting the chair of the campaign --- says that "the bronze cast sculpture depicts a naked female figure rising to heights". If you scaled it up so that the (15cm?) nude woman was full-size, the whole thing would be 15 metres tall - great heights indeed.
I wasn't clear - the woman in the statue is f.cking tiny. She is dwarfed by the amorphous mass from which she rises.

According to the BBC, Hambling has said,
"Most male historic statues are way over life-size. My point was that the female figure doesn't need to dominate to be powerful"
I understand the sentiment but again call back to the point made by the Mary on the Green campaign that they wanted to help redress the balance that currently weighs so heavily in favour of male statues. Size may not be everything (as I'm sure many women will attest ;) ) but when it comes to public art there's something to be said for making it big enough to be seen by the public from at least a small distance. From a normal passing distance this looks like a piece of abstract art that has no wider statement than that privately intended by the artist. It's only when you get up close that you realise the point (literally and figuratively) of the statue is the tiny woman, and it's only when you read the inscription that you realise it's supposed to be for Mary Wollstonecraft. It says nothing about her work, her life, her impact on feminism.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Lydia Gwilt » Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:31 am

I'm interested to know how well it will weather, and how it will weather - I am not massively enamoured of the whole thing but I really don't like the shiny - I'll bet it's not London pigeonshit-proof (those birds eat some strange stuff) and to be honest I think it it looks a bit cheap while being expensive - like the life-sized silver panthers to enhance your sitting room that Harrods used to sell (Yes I am being snobbish)

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by sTeamTraen » Wed Nov 18, 2020 1:06 pm

Lydia Gwilt wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:31 am
I'm interested to know how well it will weather, and how it will weather - I am not massively enamoured of the whole thing but I really don't like the shiny - I'll bet it's not London pigeonshit-proof (those birds eat some strange stuff) and to be honest I think it it looks a bit cheap while being expensive - like the life-sized silver panthers to enhance your sitting room that Harrods used to sell (Yes I am being snobbish)
For £143,000 I would hope that even after the artist has been rewarded for a year of her time, there was some money left over for decent materials (aluminium?) and solid installation. Maybe even a few quid for periodic preventive maintenance, which worth initiatives of all scales (up to and including the Olympics) often overlook.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Tessa K » Wed Nov 18, 2020 2:43 pm

sTeamTraen wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 1:06 pm
Lydia Gwilt wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:31 am
I'm interested to know how well it will weather, and how it will weather - I am not massively enamoured of the whole thing but I really don't like the shiny - I'll bet it's not London pigeonshit-proof (those birds eat some strange stuff) and to be honest I think it it looks a bit cheap while being expensive - like the life-sized silver panthers to enhance your sitting room that Harrods used to sell (Yes I am being snobbish)
For £143,000 I would hope that even after the artist has been rewarded for a year of her time, there was some money left over for decent materials (aluminium?) and solid installation. Maybe even a few quid for periodic preventive maintenance, which worth initiatives of all scales (up to and including the Olympics) often overlook.
It's made of bronze and granite. With any luck the pigeon poo will give her a nice patterned frock before too long.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Millennie Al » Fri Nov 20, 2020 3:16 am

The moral of this is that we need more statues of women, so maybe we should put up a 10m statue of someone called Margaret Roberts in a white lab coat holding an ice cream.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Herainestold » Fri Nov 20, 2020 5:48 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Fri Nov 20, 2020 3:16 am
The moral of this is that we need more statues of women, so maybe we should put up a 10m statue of someone called Margaret Roberts in a white lab coat holding an ice cream.
lol:

As long as she is wearing that lab coat and not naked :)

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Martin_B » Fri Nov 20, 2020 6:57 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Fri Nov 20, 2020 3:16 am
The moral of this is that we need more statues of women, so maybe we should put up a 10m statue of someone called Margaret Roberts in a white lab coat holding an ice cream.
You do realise that this is one of those old-wives tales? Soft serve ice cream was invented in the US a decade before Roberts joined Lyons.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Woodchopper » Fri Nov 20, 2020 7:11 am

Herainestold wrote:
Fri Nov 20, 2020 5:48 am
Millennie Al wrote:
Fri Nov 20, 2020 3:16 am
The moral of this is that we need more statues of women, so maybe we should put up a 10m statue of someone called Margaret Roberts in a white lab coat holding an ice cream.
lol:

As long as she is wearing that lab coat and not naked :)
Erecting a naked statue of Margaret Roberts would cause mass erections in the Tory Party.

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