It’s no secret that women artists are underrepresented in the art world, while their image, painted by the brushes of men, is one of the oldest artistic tropes. An upcoming show at Untitled Space challenges that unfair truth by presenting the work of 20 female artists depicting the female nude in an empowered, autonomous, and non-sexualised way. In the Raw: The Female Gaze on the Nude was co-curated by feminist artists Coco Dolle and Indira Cesarine.
Cesarine, founder of Untitled Space and editor-in-chief of Untitled Magazine, uses her curatorial position to give platforms to female artists and feminist art. With In the Raw, she wanted to bring together multi-generational and international female artists of varying sexual orientations, working around the central theme of the female nude.
“The fact that female artists throughout history have been sidelined and represented by a very small percentage in galleries and museums is something that I feel strongly about changing,” Cesarine tells The Creators Project.
The show’s title is a play on “the male gaze,” a first-wave feminist term coined by feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey in 1975. It refers to the tendency of images of women in film to be mediated by a masculine eye. The term also comes up in art historical discourse, where it is often discussed in terms of female nude images from the renaissance, through modernity, and into the contemporary, when artists and curators are now working to dismantle its dominance.
“I think it is extremely important for women to be liberated from perceiving themselves only via the eyes of men. When you look at the history of art, television, advertising, and media in general—the image of women has always been how men wanted them to look. The imagery often presents women as a sexual object, rather than an individual with their own unique experiences, desires, feelings and emotions,” she adds.
Works in the show explore various facets of female identity, in order to help destabilise current ideas of how female bodies are represented. A key aspect, though, is the number of artists exhibited; In the Raw shows that “the female nude” means different things to different artists.
“Their visual narratives are inspired by challenging notions of beauty, body image, rites of passage, female sexual desire—of how women are supposed to look and feel versus how they do look and feel inside and out,” says Cesarine. “A one-sided vision of the world is not reality.”