Title

WHO IS SHE?

Date of Award

5-2021

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts

Author's Program

Art

Degree Name

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

Restricted/Unrestricted

Unrestricted

Abstract

I grew up in observant Jewish spaces with liberal, open-minded parents. Looking back, I feel like I received competing messages about womanhood. The role of women in religious spaces of Orthodox Judaism is very traditional. On the other hand, liberal feminism seeks to deconstruct those very traditional ideals of womanhood. I began reckoning with the question of the extent to which I have to disavow my tradition in order to be a good feminist? Is there a way to reconcile these two elements within me? I chose to address these questions by exploring the relationship between hair and identity. I am interested in how these strands that stick out of my head are so integral to my image, so beautiful, yet once they fall off, they are rendered disgusting and disconnected.

My thesis work interrogates the idea of hair as an abject substance. Decontextualized from the body, hair becomes an uncanny reference to the power of the corporeal feminine. I combine feminine long hair together with masculine Jewish ritual objects to create genderless beings that challenge the idea of gender as two distinct categories. I use a feminist lens to reclaim Jewish prayer and ritual, inserting a female voice where it has previously been absent. I use images of myself in my work to reclaim the Jewish woman as an unreadable, shapeshifting being. I see printmaking as an allegory for how culture is inscribed on the surface of the body. I use this to explore the internal versus external dichotomy of personhood, what appears on the surface, and what is hidden beneath. The body is both a site of personhood and a reflection of society’s expectations of gender, religion, race, class, etc. Our bodies are encoded with the cultures and environments we come from. It is for this reason that I see the body as an important vehicle for reclamation. In my work, I use language and my body to create work that seeks to reclaim the feminine as something to be celebrated. I will never state, feminism is right or tradition is wrong, rather I present how the intersection of these two challenge each other. Although at times seemingly contradictory on the surface, I demonstrate how deep within the intersection, the complementary beauty of each is revealed.

Mentor/Primary Advisor

Michael Byron

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