What Is Art? And Who Decides?

Article posted by Afterglow on


There’s been a flurry of interesting posts on my Facebook timeline over the last couple of days. Two in particular caught my attention, due not only to their content but also to the journalism of the articles.

They can both be found in the Huffington Post and side by side they ask the question, what is art?

The first is an article about artist Gracie Hagen and her photographic project Illusions of the Body. It explores our ideals of what we find attractive, with particular reference to photo-shopped images in the media. Each piece in the series consists of two nude photographs of the same person. In the first, they are poised in a conventionally ‘sexy’ stance, and in the second, an unflattering one. This is great and the project is fantastic in so many ways. The journalist of the article where I first spotted this project is also clearly impressed and seems compassionate about the subject of ‘attractiveness’, giving the post the title of,  Stunning Nude Photo Series Challenges What It Means To Be ‘Attractive’ and speaks positively throughout the article, even stating about future projects, “We’re excited to see how the work unfolds.”

Good stuff I thought.

Then I clicked on another link on my timeline. Again, this led me to Huffington Post, and I was shocked by what I saw.

The article is about a performance art piece by Casey Jenkins entitled, Casting Off My Womb. For 28 days, Jenkins sat within the Darwin Visual Arts Association (DVAA) gallery and knitted from a skein of wool that had been inserted into her vagina. It’s a personal exploration for the artist and it highlights feelings of intimacy and the desire to learn and understand your body. The art critic in me is also tempted to reflect the notion that from within one skin, she is creating a second. An inspiring and perhaps brave experience for any young woman to put on public display.

So, what shocked me about the article? Well, unlike the previous one which was full of positive comments about how we should view, understand and accept our body, the title for Casey Jenkins’ article read, ‘Vaginal Knitting’ Is Here To Make Everyone Afraid Of Performance Art Once Again. It did not damn the performance piece as such but there is definitely a negative and mocking undertone to the text which I found shameful in relation to what Jenkins’ work represents.

You can find both posts here;

Stunning Nude Photo Series Challenges What It Means To Be ‘Attractive’ (NSFW)

‘Vaginal Knitting’ Is Here To Make Everyone Afraid Of Performance Art Once Again (NSFW)

The video interview of Casey Jenkins is below. Do take a moment to view (it is safe for work).

What differentiates the artworks of Gracie Hagen and Casey Jenkins to receive such contrasting articles? Is the media simply jumping on the bandwagon of public opinion? Or is the world just not ready for art exploring female genitalia?

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