By Karlee Robinson
Art is largely regarded as subjective in nature. Through its subjectivity, it has been forged into a tool, utilized in the representation of our universe’s multiple realities. It exemplifies the variation of personal experience. Consequent to this dynamic, art has the capacity to not only transcend emotions responsive to social conditions, but also the individual opinions of artists and the smaller communities they represent. Art’s essence encourages cultural progress, by challenging what has been accepted without question–what we have been taught to regard as social normalities. Through this questioning, art possesses the power to prompt cultural maturation.
Hope Gangloff, an American painter, studied Art at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and currently resides in New York City. Her work, having been displayed in both national and international exhibits, has a style similar to Austrian painter Egon Schiele, apart from a modern twist that ascribes social relevance to the content of her work. Her art promotes feminist ideals through confronting the cultural expectations of gender. Gangloff’s work showcases individuals whose gender identity is externally apparent (if referencing the traditional binary of gender and sex), but consistently positions both genders in a very androgynous manner.
Clothes Swap, 2008
Gangloff, though characterizing her subjects through alternate manners, frequently employs body canting. Canting is the action of tilting and/or sloping and is frequently exercised in the illustration of women. Women’s body canting limits their strength, as from a structural standpoint their sloped position rejects grounded stability. This position implies the necessity for outside support, culturally provided through the form of masculinity. It not only reflects physical weakness, but transitions over to the assumption of intellectual inadequacy. But Gangloff consistently illustrates both men and women in this manner. However one gender is characterized, she characterizes the other similarly, without modification. This exemplifies the growing fluidity of gender conception and establishes a ground of equality, as neither gender is characterized as inferior to the other. This passive characterization of men challenges the pressures for them to be masculine as well as challenging the passivity, both frequently and inaccurately, ascribed to women. Its implementation additionally advocates for gender equality, as it is not confrontational and exemplifies struggles derivative of being human, not of being male or female.
The challenges of life should not be consequent to one’s identity (whether that is in relation to gender, race, economic standing, body type, etc.), but should be consequent to the complications of simply being human. We are all unified through this single commonality, but we relentlessly manufacture competition from our variation in personal experience. Where we must recognize the inevitable differences between our peers, so as to compassionately listen and validate their perspective, opinions, and history, we must also recognize our ties to one another, so as to avoid drawing from these differences, to avoid alienating our peers. I feel like Hope Gangloff, through her work as an artist, supports this outlook.
(I realize that some may disagree with my interpretation of Gangloff’s work and that my interpretation may be one that entirely contradicts her objective, but I have nonetheless interpreted it in this manner.)
Gustav Klimt once said,
“I have the gift of neither the spoken nor the written word, especially if I have to say something about myself or my work. Whoever wants to know something about me—as an artist, the only notable thing—ought to look carefully at my pictures and try and see in them what I am and what I want to do.”
As artists, we are obliged to the responsibility of holding our work accountable to the messages its medium facilitates. Regardless of personal belief and the specifics of these messages, which naturally challenge others because of the previously recognized diversity of personal experience and subsequent opinions, we have to remain conscious of our initial objective to ensure that our work is interpreted in the manner which we intended.
Ben and Daisy, 2015
There is a relationship between the artist and the observer. Art’s essence is heavily derivative of this relationship. This make it impossible, as the creator, to monitor the interpretation of your work in its entirety. Being a conscious artist then requires a commitment to your message—establishing clear intentions behind your work—so that if there is discrepancy between your intentions and the interpretation by its observer, you can confidently and authentically defend your work. You can clarify any misconceptions. By being a conscious artist, you not only challenge your own values, especially those which are entirely derivative of cultural influence, the product of subconsciously conforming to what we’ve been taught to expect, but also the collective values of society. Through this, we have the potential to positively influence society, by encouraging critical cultural analysis of any and all subjects, not just those of gender, as seen in Hope Gangloff’s work.
Hickies and Beer, 2008