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Monday, November 22, 2010

The Truth about Rozsika Parker

FEMINIST ART HISTORY - British psychotherapist and feminist art historian Rozsika Parker has died... which means it is now an opportunity to bring her work to the younger generation and anyone interested in feminism, art, and women artists. Rozsika Parker was a pioneer... She was a feminist art theorist and activist from the 1970s and was active well into the 1990s, often collaborating with famed feminist / art historian Griselda Pollock.

Take the book "Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology" as an example, which Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock wrote together, one of the most important books of feminist art theory and history that you may ever read.

Parker and Pollock examined how art history as a discipline had misogyny at its core... like how most male art historians focus on male artists and give only token attention to women artists, and how art history as a discipline has a tendency to push women down and "smack down" anything that was remotely feminine.

In order words male art historians were basically b***h-slapping women artists down for being too uppity, but doing in such a way that it looked like they were just ignoring them because "women artists aren't important enough". Which they are, but when all the male art historians say you're not important it becomes a vicious cycle. Basically its a glass ceiling for female artists.

Parker and Pollock's second collaboration, "Framing Feminism: Art and the Women's Movement 1970-1985" was and still is a great source of information about the feminist art movement in Britain (which often got overwhelmed by the American Women's Liberation Movement).

Parker's "The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine" is also a very good book, informative and relevant. Its not like embroidery changes much in the last couple decades. You might take it for granted that knitting or embroidering or weaving were not previously accepted forms of high art, but read this book and you might change your mind. There is a lot of work and detail that goes into embroidery.

Parker's personal life was a bit of a mystery. She was a bit of a mysterious figure for who was largely unknown in the USA and even in Britain where she was still into feminist activism and working as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist.

Its difficult to say what she was like as a person. In her books you don't really know where Griselda Pollock left off and where Rozsika Parker began. Many of their beliefs evidently coincided.

She liked had a fierce feminism, was compassionate, very focused on her work and wanted to make the world a better place through both activism and writing. It was a very different era when she began writing in the 1970s, back when women were born instead of culturally constructed (a concept which grew in the 1980s).

"Old Mistresses" and "Framing Feminism" have long been out of print. Maybe in the future they can be re-issued.

Or maybe someone sneaky and intelligent could archive her writings online... for all the world to see and learn from.

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