Sweet nothings

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Sweet nothings
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Kahn, Jennifer
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Abstract:
Sweet Nothings, a collection of sculptures, offers a new context in which women can be viewed. Sweet Nothings uses traditionally disempowering gender roles found in figurines to reinforce the binary conflict between the power of femininity and its objectification through the male gaze. By destabilizing a male tradition of commodification and voyeurism, my project transforms subjugated femininity into a strategy for subversion. Embellishing human-like characteristics, Sweet Nothings accentuates the muted subtext frequently disregarded in figurines. The figurine is powerless because of her objectness; she was manufactured for display. In the sculptures, the figurine objectifies themselves so unabashedly that they reclaims control over themselves as a spectacle taking full advantage of the viewer by cultivating tension between naïveté and awareness. Embracing Laura Mulvey’s notion of male gaze and John Berger’s female Otherness, Sweet Nothings uses visual routine to change the tradition of power dynamics and gender observation. In my project, Sweet Nothings, the female is a constant “Other. Using this model of spectator and subject, my work addresses this conflict in femininity. Sweet Nothings evaluates the tension between something functioning as intended “bearer of meaning” and the decision to evolve into “maker of meaning.” Positioning artifice against itself allows for new definitions of femaleness. If women are commodities and figurines are commodities, then I want my work to change the meaning of these figurines and by extension redefine femininity. Building on Duchamp’s legacy, I create visual situations of appropriated objects that refuse the convention of commodification. Subverting the way these objects are visually consumed, my work complicates the notion of gender power. The figurines are still objectified, but on new terms.
General Note:
Painting and Drawing terminal project

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SWEET NOTHINGS


By



JENNIFER KAHN





A PROJECT IN LIEU OF THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF FINE ARTS



UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA



2010



































2010 Jennifer Kahn



























To the Women and Men who have supported me through this endeavor.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

LIST O F FIG U R ES ............................................................................................ . 5

A B S T R A C T ....................................................................... .................................. . 6

PRO JECT REPO RT ........................................................................................... . 8
Introduction ............................................................ 8
Pack of G rey Standing W olf ..................................................................................... 10
M u ltip lic ity .................................................................................................................. 1 3
C h a in s ....................................................................................................................... 1 6
Slick ...................................................... .. ............... 19
Mess (I) ..................................................... .. ............... 21
Mess (11) .................................................... .. ............... 23
C conclusion .............................................................................................. ............... 27

LIST O F R E FR E N C ES ................................................................................................ 28

BIO G RA PH ICA L SKETC H .......................................................................................... 29









TABLE OF FIGURES

Figure page
1. Pack of G rey Standing W olf................................................ ............... 11

2. 42nd Street Film Still .............................................................. 11

3. Pack of Grey Standing Wolf detail ..................................................... 12

4 M ultip licity ............................................................................................. 13

5. Series of M ultiplicity details ................................................ ............... 14

6. Multiplicity (Table view) ....................................................... ............... 17

7. Series of Chains details ...... ..................................................... 18

8 S lic k ................................................................................................... . 2 0

9. S series of M ess (I) view s...................................................... ............... 22

10. S series of M ess (II) view s..................................................... ............... 24

11. Viennese Dessert Service displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of
A rt ....................................................................................................... . 2 5









Abstract of Project in Lieu of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Masters of Fine Arts


SWEET NOTHINGS

By

Jennifer Kahn

May 2010

Chair: Julia Morrisroe
Major: Art


Sweet Nothings, a collection of sculptures, offers a new context in which women

can be viewed. Sweet Nothings uses traditionally disempowering gender roles found in

figurines to reinforce the binary conflict between the power of femininity and its

objectification through the male gaze. By destabilizing a male tradition of

commodification and voyeurism, my project transforms subjugated femininity into a

strategy for subversion.

Embellishing human-like characteristics, Sweet Nothings accentuates the muted

subtext frequently disregarded in figurines. The figurine is powerless because of her

objectness; she was manufactured for display. In the sculptures, the figurine objectifies

themselves so unabashedly that they reclaims control over themselves as a spectacle










taking full advantage of the viewer by cultivating tension between nafvete and

awareness. Embracing Laura Mulvey's notion of male gaze and John Berger's female

Otherness, Sweet Nothings uses visual routine to change the tradition of power

dynamics and gender observation.

In my project, Sweet Nothings, the female is a constant "Other. Using this model

of spectator and subject, my work addresses this conflict in femininity. Sweet Nothings

evaluates the tension between something functioning as intended "bearer of meaning"

and the decision to evolve into "maker of meaning." Positioning artifice against itself

allows for new definitions of femaleness. If women are commodities and figurines are

commodities, then I want my work to change the meaning of these figurines and by

extension redefine femininity. Building on Duchamp's legacy, I create visual situations of

appropriated objects that refuse the convention of commodification. Subverting the way

these objects are visually consumed, my work complicates the notion of gender power.

The figurines are still objectified, but on new terms.









PROJECT REPORT

Introduction


Sweet Nothings, my project in lieu of thesis, developed from my interest in

appropriation. As a girl I would sit in front of the television surrounded by stacks of

magazines. Piled high between Teen Beat and Seventeen, I would scan the pages

carefully maneuvering my scissors around the coveted image. Organizing the excess of

my selections, I built a visual archive of cute boys, landscapes, textiles, and women

posing for the camera. Nothing seemed strange about this obsessive behavior of filing

away for the visual database. In hindsight, it is much more bizarre that these were all

collected under the glow of Gone With the Wind, Sound of Music, and Mommy Dearest;

creating a very warped sense of female empowerment. A paper ritual I performed for at

least ten years, sorting and saving these magazine images has now evolved to include

intense digital image collecting and bookmarking.

While I'm grateful this collecting process never caused me to develop a poor

body image or an eating disorder, it did make me acutely aware of objects, goods, and

the ways they are displayed. I learned that I identify with these commodities and feel

bound to become one. I identify myself as an object to be looked at; thus, my

objectness determines my value. This realization has given me the authority to










manipulate gender roles and power dynamics. If I am an Other, then I need to redefine


these terms.


In her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey wrote,


"Women stand in the patriarchal culture as a signifier of the male other, bound by


symbolic order in which men can live out [their] fantasies and obsessions. by


imposing them on the silent image of women, still tied to her place as bearer of


meaning, not maker of meaning."1 In my project, Sweet Nothings, the female is a


constant "Other."2 Using this model of spectator and subject, my work addresses this


conflict in femininity. Sweet Nothings evaluates the tension between something


functioning as intended "bearer of meaning"3 and the decision to evolve into "maker of


meaning."4 Positioning artifice against itself allows for new definitions of femaleness. If


women are commodities, and figurines are commodities, then I want my work to change


the meaning of these figurines; and by extension, redefine femininity. Building on


Duchamp's legacy, I create visual situations of appropriated objects that refuse the



1 Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory

Readings, Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (New York: Oxford UP, 1999) 833.
2 John Berger, Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series with John Berger (London: British

Broadcasting, 1972).
3 Mulvey 834.
4 Mulvey 834.










convention of commodification. Subverting the way these objects are visually

consumed, my work complicates the notion of gender power. The figurines are still

objectified, but on new terms.

Women have always been the subject of voyeurism and commodification. By

embracing the notion of male gaze and female Otherness, Sweet Nothings uses this

visual routine to change the tradition of power dynamics and gender observation.

Through the following discussion of individual works in the exhibition, I will explore more

fully the themes of commodification, voyeurism, and gender imbued in my sculptures.


Pack of Grey Standing Wolf

Pack of Grey Standing Wolf is a homogenized group of forty male, porcelain

wolves circling themselves. Moving around an empty center, the wolves are oblivious to

the small delicate fawn sitting on the cusp of the pack. The viewer approaches the work

as the voyeur, an outsider observing a display before them. The circular arrangement of

the wolves, pointed in continuous direction, focuses on a hollow center, an absent

subject.

In this way, Pack of Grey Standing Wolf engages notions of gender and subject.

Ceramic figurines exist in a traditionally feminine realm of collecting, display, and social

class. Yet, these figurine wolves are gendered male because of the animals' association










with ferocity. Even as fragile domestic objects, the ceramic wolves still pose a threat to

the fawn made from the same fragile material. The pack, focused on the empty center,

hunts something not present. The lack of the Other inside the circle creates a persistent

tension. The fawn, the sole female presence, rests on the outside of the group in the

background. She is the literal outsider, the Other. The blank space in the center

heightens the viewer's desire to make her the subject.














Figure 1. Pack of Grey Standing Wolf. Found object and table. 35 inches by 36 inches.
2010.


Figure 2. 42nd Street Film Still
























Figure 3. Pack of Grey Standing Wolf detail


The arrangement of figurines in this work is based on a kaleidoscope design


taken from Busby Berkeley films, such as Dames and 42nd Street, where dancers


formed complex geometric patterns. Berkeley's work used a large number of showgirls


and props as fantasy elements in spectacle-driven performances. The wolves perform


in the same manner. In Berkeley's films, this commodified spectacle produces a desire


for the homogenized mass.5 For the voyeur, the body parts become objects


indecipherable from each other.6 The display is a bounty of material ready to be


consumed. The subtle presence of the fawn interrupts this homogeneity of the mass-



5 "The spectacle subjugates living men to itself to the extent that the economy has totally subjugated
them. It is no more than the economy developing for itself. It is the true reflection of the production of
things, and the false objectification of the producers." Guy Deboard, "Society of the Spectacle, 1967,"
(Marxists Internet Archive, Web, 09 Mar. 2010.
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/debord/society.htm) Section 16.
6 Siegfried Kracauer and Thomas Y. Levin, "The Mass Ornament." The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays.
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1995) 75-86.










produced wolves. Rather than desiring the spectacle, the viewer is drawn to the Other,


or the absence of such. Simultaneously, Pack of Grey Standing Wolf subverts the


homogeneous and produces a desire for the Other.


Multiplicity

Multiplicity is a six-foot table layered with 600 tiny, mass-produced bunnies


posing a critique to the commodification of the individual. The organizational strategy for


the bunnies is based on display of collectibles common to flea markets or antique malls,


where endless tables filled with salable objects are arranged with no discernable


hierarchy. This display strategy makes the shopper's task overwhelming and


absorbing. While many of these figurines are differentiated from each other, the


amalgamation of goods makes their difference difficult to decipher.






Ir


g re ..tipliiy. P ue pte.








Figure 4. Multiplicity. Poured plastic, paint and table. 6 feet by 1 foot. 2010.









Individually, the bunny exists as a trinket. As a group, the bunnies form a greater

whole, allowing a change in the viewer's relationship to the original. Referencing back to

Berkeley's musical productions, we know that desire can be effectively cultivated

through commodification.7 In the dynamics of the spectacle, the object loses its

individual value because of larger shifts in scale and space. Because the individuality of

the bunnies is subsumed to the mass, the viewer's relationship to the male gaze

becomes re-complicated. In Pack of Grey Standing Wolf the viewer desires the Other; in

Multiplicity the viewer connects with the crowd of objects. This confusion elaborates the

complexity of female representation and identification.












A -B
Figure 5. Series of Multiplicity details. A) Group view. B) Individual view.


The bunnies in Multiplicity are non-threatening, alluring, and demure. The

addition of eyelashes and clothing amplifies their gender. Bunnies have always been a


7 Deboard "Society of the Spectacle, 1967."










part of popular culture yet, over time, there has been an inherently sexual shift from


Peter Rabbit and Velveteen Rabbit to Jessica Rabbit and the Playboy Bunny. I'm


interested in this popular idea of the sexy, reproducing rabbit. The title in itself is a play


on the animal's sexuality and the popular term "multiplying like rabbits" or the cruder


fuckingg like bunnies." Multiplicity becomes a double play on this idea of reproduction.


The final collection has a complicated origin: the 600 plastic bunnies in the


sculpture represent copies of copies of copies. Hagen Renaker, a porcelain miniatures


company, produced the original figurines that sold as a family set: "Flirty Rabbit,


Listening Rabbit, and Baby Rabbit." My original find was a plastic version of the


porcelain miniatures, discovered at the bottom of a junk box in the middle of a forty-acre


flea market. The version on display is a poured plastic sculpture made in multiples from


a silicon mold-a handmade plastic copy of a machine-produced plastic copy of a mass-


produced porcelain original. While the original form has been reproduced, to excess, it


retains and redefines the sculptural notion of authenticity.8


Reproducing these copies marries manufactured reproduction with sexual


reproduction and allows for a humorous analysis of the gendered commodity. Engaging



8 Walter Benjamin, "Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Illuminations. Ed. Hannah

Arendt (London: Pimlico, 1999).










with Susan Sontag's model of camp,9 this low-value, plastic object moves beyond pure


artifice and becomes something of meaning. In Notes on Camp, Sontag writes about


the intersection between high and low art, defining the essence of camp as the love of


artifice and exaggeration.10 "The whole point of camp is to dethrone the serious. More


precisely, camp involves a new, more complex relation to the serious."11 Each work in


Sweet Nothings references this anti-serious approach with the gender objectification of


figurines. The camp object disarms the viewer with its kitschy form, making the conflict


of male gaze more accessible. Sontag goes on to say, "Camp discloses innocence, but


also corrupts it."12 The sculptures exaggerate the personified behavior to address built-


in issues of social status and gender.


Chains

The Chains sculpture features an eight-foot trapezoidal table extending from the


corner of the room. At the smaller far end is an elaborately dressed female figurine. She


is embellished in pink and gold ruffles designed to match the two anthropomorphic,



9 "The Camp sensibility is one that is alive to a double sense... it is not the familiar split-level construction
of literal meaning and symbolic meaning. It is the difference between a thing meaning something,
anything and the thing as pure artifice." Susan Sontag, "Notes on Camp," Against Interpretation And
Other Essays (New York: Picador, 2001) 281.
10 Sontag 275.

11 Sontag 288.
12 Sontag 283.










spaghetti poodles at the opposite end of the table. Connected with two eight-foot sloped

chains, the figurine restrains the pets as they veer toward the edge of the table. By

embellishing human-like characteristics, Chains accentuates the muted subtext

frequently disregarded in figurines. The figurine is powerless because of her objectness;

she was manufactured for display. While the chain is gold, a material representative of

wealth and privilege, its existence as a restraining circumstance cannot be ignored. The

gold leash enacts the paradoxical tension between the powerless object and the

reclamation of feminine identity. Yet the leash becomes a futile exercise of control as

the disproportionate length gives the dogs the ability to reach quite beyond the normal

limit. The exaggerated scale of the chain enables the leash to signify gender limitations,

bound to domestic obligations and spatial margins.



















Figure 6. Multiplicity (table view). Altered found object. 8 feet by 2 feet. 2010.


17





I?

S..
A ~. r *; B


Figure 7. Series of Chains details. A) Lady detail. B) Tabletop detail.


Reminiscent of Baudelaire's flaneur, the woman is aware she may be bound to


her dogs, but she does not hesitate to parade with them.13 She is acutely aware of her


displayed behavior and decorative appearance and is not shy about the attention she


creates, walking her likewise decorative dogs with long golden chains. In the sculpture,


the woman objectifies herself so unabashedly that she reclaims control over herself as a


spectacle, taking full advantage of the viewer by cultivating tension between nafvete


and awareness. It is difficult to objectify someone so consciously objectifying herself


through display.


The large table also justifies her behavior, as she commands so much space in


the room. In contrast to their normal placement on tables, mantels, and curio cabinets,



13 Baudelaire's Flaneur has a double mission to exist in the public sphere as both objectifying observer

and objectified observed. Charles Baudelaire and Jonathan Mayne, "The Painter of Modern Life," The
Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (London: Phaid on, 2008).


18


p


W..










each display unit in Sweet Nothings was specifically designed to unify object and

display as an inseparable form, a strategy that removes the figurine from the traditional

role of commodified decoration in the home. In Chains, adding to the figurines'

command is the trapezoid shape of the table that plays with the idea of perspective.

Like the chain, the table dimension creates a dichotomy as it pushes and pulls between

flattened space and real space. The table dictates the viewer's behavior and redefines

the occupied space of the gallery. On one hand, the figurines are decorating a tabletop

as small, cute objects. On the other, they subvert that role by misbehaving: they leave

the domestic space for which they were intended, and enter a sterilized gallery space to

dominate this traditionally masculine zone.


Slick

Slick, the sculpture of a colonial woman surrounded by a tar-like substance, also

shows a woman asserting herself over her surroundings. The juxtaposition between

Chains and Slick elaborates that femininity is limited by gender roles and also by social

status. In place of the chains holding groomed dogs, the figurine in Slick drapes a

puddle of tar that circles her. Slick's provincial clothing, a signifier of social class, places

her in the countryside. The fashion distinction between the cosmopolitan dog walker










and regional woman playing with tar introduces a labor division.


Figure 8. Slick. Altered found object. 30 inches x 36 inches. 2010.


Slick's gesture (the position of the body and hands, and the angle of the head)


and the thick, black, sticky surfaces she holds, imply an event or performance


unavailable to the viewer. In researching the cultural significance of ceramic figurines


as a genre, I found that collectors use them as decoration and memento; a placeholder


for a time or place that can no longer be accessed. As Susan Stewart has astutely


observed:

The souvenir is to authenticate a past or otherwise remote experience,
and, at the same time to discredit the present. The nostalgia of the souvenir
plays in the distance between the present and an imagined, prelapsarian
experience. The location of authenticity becomes whatever is distant to the
present time and space; hence we can see the souvenir as attached to the
antique and exotic.14



14 Susan Stewart, On longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, and the Collection
(Durham: Duke UP, 1993) 139-140.










As a result, the collection of figurines becomes a hunt for a memento, a reminder of


something we can never experience again. The object is a keepsake and emotional


holder. The detachment arouses sympathy; we are less involved in these objects and


can enjoy them, rather than being frustrated by the emotions and nostalgia they


produce.15


The heart of Slick's tension occurs in the thinly draped line stretched from the


thick, black surface. The paint becomes an abstraction of femaleness. Sticky and in


motion, the materiality of the surface speaks about the conflict between messy and


clean, pure and infected; and the confusion of filling two roles at the same time. My


overall work in Sweet Nothings seeks to define the female experience and the duplicity


of being both "bearer and maker of meaning," while challenging these binary positions.16


Mess (I)

Mess (I) also uses the materiality of poured paint to address this clash. Hung


high on the wall is a small cherubic putto. His matte finish and creamy skin reinforces


his angelic nature in contrast to the flowing abyss of latex beneath him. Stretched


between his pudgy hands is a frail line connecting him to the draped paint beneath him.


This tension between figurine and plastic form is an anti-modernist gesture. The glossy

15 Stewart 140.
16 Mulvey 834.










material mocks its plasticity. Clement Greenberg's medium specificity suggests that a


medium needs to adhere to its inherent properties to be successful.17 Mess (I)


challenges that meaning with a figurine at the helm by juxtaposing the decorative object


against the fetishized paint.

















A B

Figure 9. Series of Mess (I) views. A) Mess (I). Found object and poured latex.
Dimensions vary. 2010. B) Mess (I) detail.


The porcelain putto is literally playing with the poured paint, and with the idea of


high and low material. In the canon of art history since antiquity, putti, or cherub figures,


have held high symbolic visual value, while this modern incarnation as decorative


ceramic ware has inverted this high value. Installed high on the wall, the figure in Mess


(I) suggests the religious image of the putto participating in a mythological scene.

17 Emma Bee Bernstein, "Medium Specificity," Theories of Media, Keywords Glossary (The University of

Chicago. Web. 09 Mar. 2010. http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/specificity.htm).


22










Traditionally, putti are associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and


accordingly with romance and eroticism; peace and prosperity; mirth and leisure. The


iconography of the putti is deliberately unfixed. so that they may have many


meanings and roles in the context of art. Later in history, the putti were used in


renaissance paintings in relationship to the image of a nude woman. In Ways of Seeing,


John Berger's book and film on voyeurism and commodification, the putti function as


stand-ins for the sexually suggestive. In the film, Berger says, "Most nude oil paintings


have been composed by the painters for the pleasure of their male owner"18 As a


pictorial symbol of passion, in the form of a small boy, the putto exists as a


nonthreatening, vulnerable form. The female subjects of Berger's discussion of oil


paintings passively look at the spectator, submissive and silent. They exist to feed an


appetite, not to have one of their own.


Mess (II)

The putto in Mess (I) is not a method by which to access the nude; but rather, a


dialogue about voyeurism and representation. Anti-modernist and anti-male gaze, the


sculpture uses the history of putti and the plasticity of paint to destabilize the popular


symbols represented.


18 Berger Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series with John Berger.


23










In the center of the gallery floor, Mess (II) presents a different putto challenged

with an overwhelming form. A putto mars a pyramidal pile of 450 pounds of sand coated

with fifty pounds of pink powered hand soap; he and his wheelbarrow skid out of control

down the slope of one side. The pink color and soft smell gender the sculpture feminine,

while the soap itself reintroduces elements of domesticity. The scale of the pile

contrasted against the tiny putto uses the aesthetics of camp to dethrone the serious

and engage the absurdity of the putto's situation. The putto's task, whatever it may be,

seems insurmountable.











A B

Figure 10. Series of Mess (II) views. A) Mess (II). 4501bs of pink powered hand soap
and found object. Dimensions vary. 2010. B) Detail of Mess (II).





















A "... B

Figure 11. Viennese Dessert Service displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A)
Side view of table. B) Detail of dessert service.


Unlike, other figurines in the exhibition this small putto and wheelbarrow are


actually the only objects with a literal function beyond decoration. Normally this object


would be placed on a dining table as a saltcellar. Guests would use the ceramic ware


for the condiment on the table.


The Meissen Factory was the first European factory to produce a complete


porcelain dinner service, which featured decorative figurines not unlike this putto


saltcellar. Originally modeled out of sugar-paste, figurine decorations were used in the


final Konfekt course, prepared by the pastry cook.19 Once the method of manufacturing


porcelain was discovered in Europe, sugar sculptures evolved into ceramic models,


which were then incorporated as part of the centerpiece for the table. These decorative


19 Coutts, Howard. "The Discovery of True Porcelain in Europe," The Art of Ceramics: European Ceramic

Design, 1500-1830. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. 95-96.


25










objects became a permanent substitute in the dessert service, and were crafted much


more finely than sugar.


As the commodity of Meissen porcelain ware became popularized, so did


porcelain figures, with their creative placement on the table. The molded figures were


created to embody the lighter ,more comic mood of dessert. Two figures were often


posed against each other, responding with animated expressions and mischievous


frivolity.20 With this whimsical use of ceramics and the differentiation of new types of


wares, the figurine became a standard item of tableware throughout eighteenth-century


Europe.21


Referencing the levity of the dessert service and proper etiquette, Mess (11) uses


the history of the figurine to alter its meaning as a decorative object. The large pink pile


and figurine merge to become one gracefully extended form, demanding much more


space and attention than its function as a small, precious decoration. As in all the


sculptures in Sweet Nothings, changing the figurine's meaning from passive to active


allows us to observe these forms differently. Quiet and docile, figurines serve a


gendered role because of their relationship to decoration and domesticity.


20 Coutts 96.
21 Coutts 99.









Conclusion

Sweet Nothings offers a new context in which to view women. As a young girl,

the notion of women tied to commodity shaped the way I viewed myself and the objects

around me. As a woman and an artist, this perspective has only intensified and

matured. The more aware I become of the male gaze and the culture of commodity, the

more I seek to manipulate these concepts for my own empowerment. Sweet Nothings

uses traditionally disempowering gender roles to reinforce the binary conflict between

the power of femininity and its objectification through the male gaze. By destabilizing a

male tradition of commodification and voyeurism, my project transforms subjugated

femininity into a strategy for subversion.









LIST OF REFERENCES


Baudelaire, Charles, and Jonathan Mayne. "The Painter of Modern Life." The Painter of
Modern Life and Other Essays. London: Phaidon, 2008.

Benjamin, Walter. "Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Illuminations.
Ed. Hannah Arendt. London: Pimlico, 1999.

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series with John Berger.
London: British Broadcasting, 1972.

Bernstein, Emma Bee. "Medium Specificity." Theories of Media, Keywords Glossary.
The University of Chicago. Web. 09 Mar. 2010.
.

Coutts, Howard. "The Discovery of True Porcelain in Europe," The Art of Ceramics:
European Ceramic Design, 1500-1830. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.
95.

Deboard, Guy. "Society of the Spectacle, 1967." Marxists Internet Archive. Web. 09
Mar. 2010.

Kracauer, Siegfried, and Thomas Y. Levin. "The Mass Ornament." The Mass Ornament:
Weimar Essays. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1995. 75-86.

Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Film Theory and Criticism:
Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford
UP, 1999. 833-44.

Sontag, Susan. "Notes on Camp," Against Interpretation And Other Essays. New York:
Picador, 2001. 288.

Stewart, Susan. On longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, and
the Collection. Durham: Duke UP, 1993. 139-140.









BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH


Jennifer Kahn is a sculptor addressing the social conflicts fashioned through

materialism and identity. She was selected as an emerging artist by the Atlantic Center

for the Arts, was a two-time recipient of both the Dennis and Collette Campay

Scholarship, and the Albert K. Murray Fine Arts Grant. In the past, Jennifer has interned

at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center as the marketing and gallery assistant. This summer

she was selected to work at the Chianti Foundation, a contemporary art collection in

Marfa, Texas.

Jennifer attended Florida State University (Tallahassee, Florida) where she earned

her Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art and a Bachelor of Art in English studies. In May

2010 she completed her Master of Fine Arts degree, in the School of Art and Art History

at the University of Florida (Gainesville, Florida).




Full Text

PAGE 1

SWEET NOTHINGS By JENNIFER KAHN A PROJECT IN LIEU OF THESIS PRE SENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORID A IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF FINE ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2010

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2010 Jennifer Kahn

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To the Women and Men who have supported me through this endeavor.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS page LIST OF FI GURES .......................................................................................................... 5 ABSTRACT ..................................................................................................................... 6 PROJECT REPORT ........................................................................................................ 8 Introduc tion .................................................................................................................. 8 Pack of Grey St anding Wo lf ....................................................................................... 10 Multiplic ity .................................................................................................................. 13 Chains ....................................................................................................................... 16 Slick ......................................................................................................................... .. 19 Mess (I) ...................................................................................................................... 21 Mess (II) ..................................................................................................................... 23 Conclusi on ................................................................................................................. 27 LIST OF REFRENCES .................................................................................................. 28 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................................................................ 29

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TABLE OF FIGURES Figure page 1. Pack of Grey Standing Wolf ..................................................................... 11 2. 42nd Street Film St ill ............................................................................... 11 3. Pack of Grey Standing Wolf detail ........................................................... 12 4. Multiplicity ................................................................................................ 13 5. Series of Multiplicity details ..................................................................... 14 6. Multiplicity (Table view) ............................................................................ 17 7. Series of Chains details .......................................................................... 18 8. Slick ......................................................................................................... 20 9. Series of Mess (I) views ........................................................................... 22 10. Series of Mess (II) views .......................................................................... 24 11. Viennese Dessert Service displa yed at the Metropo litan Museum of Art ............................................................................................................ 25

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Abstract of Project in Lieu of Thes is Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulf illment of the Requirements for t he Degree of Masters of Fine Arts SWEET NOTHINGS By Jennifer Kahn May 2010 Chair: Julia Morrisroe Major: Art Sweet Nothings, a collection of sculptures, offers a new context in which women can be viewed. Sweet Nothings uses traditionally disempowering gender roles found in figurines to reinforce the binary conflic t between the power of femininity and its objectification through the male gaze. By destabilizing a male tradition of commodification and voyeurism, my project transforms subju gated femininity into a strategy for subversion. Embellishing human-like characteristics, Sweet Nothings accentuates the muted subtext frequently disregarded in figurines. T he figurine is powerless because of her objectness; she was manufactured for display. In the sculptures, th e figurine objectifies themselves so unabashedly that they reclaims control over themselves as a spectacle

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taking full advantage of the viewer by cultivating tension between navet and awareness. Embracing Laura Mulvey’s notion of male gaze and John Berger’s female Otherness, Sweet Nothings uses visual routine to change the tradition of power dynamics and gender observation. In my project, Sweet Nothings the female is a constant “Other. Using this model of spectator and subject, my work addr esses this conflict in femininity. Sweet Nothings evaluates the tension between something f unctioning as intended “bearer of meaning” and the decision to evolve into “maker of m eaning.” Positioning artifice against itself allows for new definitions of femaleness. If women are commodities and figurines are commodities, then I want my work to change the meaning of these figurines and by extension redefine femininity. Building on Ducham p’s legacy, I create visual situations of appropriated objects that refu se the convention of commodi fication. Subverting the way these objects are visually consumed, my wo rk complicates the notion of gender power. The figurines are still objec tified, but on new terms.

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PROJECT REPORT Introduction Sweet Nothings my project in lieu of thesis, developed from my interest in appropriation. As a girl I would sit in front of the television surrounded by stacks of magazines. Piled high between Teen Beat and Seventeen, I would scan the pages carefully maneuvering my scissors around the coveted image. Organizing the excess of my selections, I built a visual archive of cute boys, landscapes, textiles, and women posing for the camera. Nothing seemed stra nge about this obsessive behavior of filing away for the visual database. In hindsight, it is much more bizarre that these were all collected under the glow of Gone With the Wind, Sound of Music, and Mommy Dearest ; creating a very warped sense of female em powerment. A paper ritual I performed for at least ten years, sorting and saving these ma gazine images has now evolved to include intense digital image colle cting and bookmarking. While I’m grateful this collecting pr ocess never caused me to develop a poor body image or an eating disorder, it did ma ke me acutely aware of objects, goods, and the ways they are displayed. I learned that I identify with these commodities and feel bound to become one. I identify myself as an object to be looked at; thus, my objectness determines my value. This realiz ation has given me the authority to

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manipulate gender roles and power dynamics. If I am an Other then I need to redefine these terms. In her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema Laura Mulvey wrote, “Women stand in the patriarchal culture as a signifier of the male other, bound by symbolic order in which men can live out [their] fantasies and obsessions. by imposing them on the silent image of wom en, still tied to her pl ace as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.”1 In my project, Sweet Nothings the female is a constant “Other.”2 Using this model of spectator and subject, my work addresses this conflict in femininity. Sweet Nothings evaluates the tension between something functioning as intende d “bearer of meaning”3 and the decision to evolve into “maker of meaning.”4 Positioning artifice against itself allows for new definitions of femaleness. If women are commodities, and figurines are comm odities, then I want my work to change the meaning of these figurines; and by ex tension, redefine femi ninity. Building on Duchamp’s legacy, I create visual situations of appropriated objects that refuse the 1 Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (New York: Oxford UP, 1999) 833. 2 John Berger, Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series with John Berger (London: British Broadcasting, 1972). 3 Mulvey 834. 4 Mulvey 834.

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convention of commodification. Subverti ng the way these objects are visually consumed, my work complicates the noti on of gender power. The figurines are still objectified, but on new terms. Women have always been the subject of voyeurism and commodification. By embracing the notion of male gaze and female Otherness, Sweet Nothings uses this visual routine to change the tradition of power dynamics and gender observation. Through the following discussion of individual wo rks in the exhibition, I will explore more fully the themes of commodification, voyeur ism, and gender imbued in my sculptures. Pack of Grey Standing Wolf Pack of Grey Standing Wolf is a homogenized group of forty male, porcelain wolves circling themselves. Moving around an em pty center, the wolves are oblivious to the small delicate fawn sitting on the cusp of the pack. The viewer approaches the work as the voyeur, an outsider observing a displa y before them. The circular arrangement of the wolves, pointed in continuous directi on, focuses on a hollow center, an absent subject. In this way, Pack of Grey Standing Wolf engages notions of gender and subject. Ceramic figurines exist in a traditionally femi nine realm of collecting, display, and social class. Yet, these figurine wolves are gendered ma le because of the an imals’ association

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with fer o the faw n hunts s o tension. backgro heighte n Figure 1 Figure 2 o city. Even n made fro m o mething n o The fawn, und. She i s n s the view Pack of G 2010. 2 42nd S as fragile d m the sam e o t present. the sole fe s the literal er’s desire G rey Stan d S treet Film d omestic o b e fragile m a The lack o f male pres e outsider, t h to make h e d ing Wolf. F Still b jects, the c a terial. The f the Other e nce, rests h e Other. T e r the subj e F ound obje c c eramic w o pack, focu s inside the on the out s T he blank s p e ct. c t and tabl e o lves still p o s ed on the circle crea t s ide of the g p ace in the e 35 inche s o se a threa t empty cen t t es a persi s g roup in th e center s by 36 inc h t to t er, s tent e h es.

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Figure 3. Pack of Grey Standing Wolf detail The arrangement of figurines in this work is based on a kaleidoscope design taken from Busby Berkeley films, such as Dames and 42nd Street, where dancers formed complex geometric patterns. Berkeley ’s work used a large number of showgirls and props as fantasy elements in spectacl e-driven performances. The wolves perform in the same manner. In Berkeley’s films, this commodified spectacle produces a desire for the homogenized mass.5 For the voyeur, the body parts become objects indecipherable from each other.6 The display is a bounty of material ready to be consumed. The subtle presenc e of the fawn interrupts th is homogeneity of the mass5 “The spectacle subjugates living men to itself to the extent that the economy has totally subjugated them. It is no more than the economy developing for it self. It is the true reflection of the production of things, and the false objectification of the producers .” Guy Deboard, "Society of the Spectacle, 1967," (Marxists Internet Archive, Web, 09 Mar. 2010. http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/debord/society.htm ) Section 16. 6 Siegfried Kracauer and Thomas Y. Levin, "The Mass Ornament." The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1995) 75-86.

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produced wolves. Rather than desi ring the spectacle, the view er is drawn to the Other, or the absence of such. Simultaneously, Pack of Grey Standing Wolf subverts the homogeneous and produces a desire for the Other. Multiplicity Multiplicity is a six-foot table layered wit h 600 tiny, mass-produced bunnies posing a critique to the commodification of th e individual. The organizational strategy for the bunnies is based on display of collectible s common to flea markets or antique malls, where endless tables filled with salable objects are arranged with no discernable hierarchy. This displa y strategy makes the shopper’s task overwhelming and absorbing. While many of these figurines are differentiated from each other, the amalgamation of goods makes their di fference difficult to decipher. Figure 4. Multiplicity. Poured plastic, paint and tabl e. 6 feet by 1 foot. 2010.

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Individually, the bunny exists as a trinke t. As a group, the bunnies form a greater whole, allowing a change in the viewer’s rela tionship to the original. Referencing back to Berkeley’s musical productions, we know that desire can be effectively cultivated through commodification.7 In the dynamics of the spec tacle, the object loses its individual value because of larger shifts in scale and space. Because the individuality of the bunnies is subsumed to the mass, the vi ewer’s relationship to the male gaze becomes re-complicated. In Pack of Grey Standing Wolf the viewer desires the Other; in Multiplicity the viewer connects with the crowd of objects. This confusion elaborates the complexity of female representation and identification. A B Figure 5. Series of Multiplicity details. A) Group view. B) Individual view. The bunnies in Multiplicity are non-threatening, a lluring, and demure. The addition of eyelashes and clothing amplif ies their gender. Bunnies have always been a 7 Deboard "Society of the Spectacle, 1967."

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part of popular culture yet, over time, t here has been an inherently sexual shift from Peter Rabbit and Velveteen Rabbit to Je ssica Rabbit and the Playboy Bunny. I’m interested in this popular idea of the sexy, repr oducing rabbit. The title in itself is a play on the animal’s sexuality and the popular term “multiplying like rabbits” or the cruder “fucking like bunnies.” Multiplicity becomes a double play on this idea of reproduction. The final collection has a complicated origin: the 600 plastic bunnies in the sculpture represent copies of copies of copies. Hagen Renaker, a porcelain miniatures company, produced the original figurines that sold as a family set: “Flirty Rabbit, Listening Rabbit, and Baby Rabbit.” My orig inal find was a plastic version of the porcelain miniatures, discovered at the bottom of a junk box in the mi ddle of a forty-acre flea market. The version on display is a poured plastic sculpture made in multiples from a silicon mold-a handmade plastic copy of a machine-produced plastic copy of a massproduced porcelain original. While the origin al form has been reproduced, to excess, it retains and redefines the scu lptural notion of authenticity.8 Reproducing these copies marries manufactured reproduction with sexual reproduction and allows for a humorous anal ysis of the gendered commodity. Engaging 8 Walter Benjamin, "Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Illuminations Ed. Hannah Arendt (London: Pimlico, 1999).

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with Susan Sontag’s model of camp,9 this low-value, plastic object moves beyond pure artifice and becomes something of meaning. In Notes on Camp Sontag writes about the intersection between high and low art, defini ng the essence of camp as the love of artifice and exaggeration.10 “The whole point of camp is to dethrone the serious. More precisely, camp involves a new, more complex relation to the serious."11 Each work in Sweet Nothings references this anti-serious approac h with the gender objectification of figurines. The camp object disarms the viewer with its kitschy form, making the conflict of male gaze more accessible. Sontag goes on to say, “Camp discloses innocence, but also corrupts it.”12 The sculptures exaggerate the per sonified behavior to address builtin issues of social status and gender. Chains The Chains sculpture features an eight-foot tr apezoidal table extending from the corner of the room. At the smaller far end is an elaboratel y dressed female figurine. She is embellished in pink and gold ruffles des igned to match the two anthropomorphic, 9 “The Camp sensibility is one that is alive to a double se nse… it is not the familiar split-level construction of literal meaning and symbolic meaning. It is t he difference between a thing meaning something, anything and the thing as pure artifice.” Susan Sontag, "Notes on Camp," Against Interpretation And Other Essays (New York: Picador, 2001) 281. 10 Sontag 275. 11 Sontag 288. 12 Sontag 283.

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spaghetti poodles at the opposite end of the t able. Connected with two eight-foot sloped chains, the figurine restrains the pets as t hey veer toward the edge of the table. By embellishing human-like characteristics, Chains accentuates the muted subtext frequently disregarded in figurines The figurine is powerless because of her objectness; she was manufactured for display. While the c hain is gold, a material representative of wealth and privilege, its existence as a rest raining circumstance cannot be ignored. The gold leash enacts the parado xical tension between t he powerless object and the reclamation of feminine identity. Yet the leash becomes a futile exercise of control as the disproportionate length gives the dogs t he ability to reach quite beyond the normal limit. The exaggerated scale of the chain en ables the leash to signify gender limitations, bound to domestic obligations and spatial margins. Figure 6. Multiplicity (table view) Altered found object. 8 feet by 2 feet. 2010.

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Figure 7 R her dog s display e creates, the wo m spectac l and aw a through T the roo m 13 Baudel a and obje c Painter o f 7 Series o f R eminiscen t s but she d e d behavio r walking h e m an objecti f l e, taking f u a reness. It i display. T he large t a m In contr a a ire’s Flaneu r c tified observ e f Modern Life f Chains d e t of Baudel a d oes not h e r and deco r e r likewise d f ies herself u ll advanta g i s difficult t o ble also ju s a st to their n r has a doubl e e d. Charles B and Other E s A e tails. A) L a a ire’s flane e sitate to p a r ative appe a d ecorative so unabas g e of the vi e o objectify s s tifies her b n ormal pla c e mission to e B audelaire an d s says (Lond o a dy detail. B ur the wo m a rade with t a rance an d dogs with l hedly that s e wer by cu s omeone s o b ehavior, a s c ement on t e xist in the p u d Jonathan M o n: Phaidon, 2 B ) Tableto p m an is awa r t hem.13 Sh e d is not shy ong golde n s he reclai m ltivating te n o consciou s s she com m t ables, ma n u blic sphere a M ayne, "The P 2 008). p detail. r e she ma y e is acutel y about the a n chains. I n m s control o n sion betw e s ly objectif y m ands so m n tels, and c a s both objec t P ainter of Mo d B y be bound y aware of h a ttention s h n the sculp t ver herself e en navet y ing hersel f m uch space urio cabin e t ifying obser v d ern Life," T h to h er h e t ure, as a f in e ts, v er h e

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each display unit in Sweet Nothings was specifically designed to unify object and display as an inseparable form, a strategy t hat removes the figuri ne from the traditional role of commodified decoration in the home. In Chains adding to the figurines’ command is the trapezoid shape of the table t hat plays with the idea of perspective. Like the chain, the table di mension creates a dichotomy as it pushes and pulls between flattened space and real space. The table dict ates the viewer’s be havior and redefines the occupied space of the gallery. On one hand, the figurines are decorating a tabletop as small, cute objects. On the other, they su bvert that role by misbehaving: they leave the domestic space for which they were int ended, and enter a sterilized gallery space to dominate this traditionally masculine zone. Slick Slick, the sculpture of a colonial wom an surrounded by a tar-like substance, also shows a woman asserting herself over her surroundings. The juxtaposition between Chains and Slick elaborates that femininity is limit ed by gender roles and also by social status. In place of the chains ho lding groomed dogs, the figurine in Slick drapes a puddle of tar that circles her. Slick’s provincial clothing, a signifier of social class, places her in the countryside. The fashion distin ction between the cosmopolitan dog walker

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and regional woman playing with ta r introduces a labor division. Figure 8. Slick. Altered found obj ect. 30 inches x 36 inches. 2010. Slick’s gesture (the position of the body and hands, and the angle of the head) and the thick, black, sticky surfaces she holds, imply an event or performance unavailable to the viewer. In researching the cultural signi ficance of ceramic figurines as a genre, I found that colle ctors use them as decorati on and memento; a placeholder for a time or place that can no longer be accessed. As Susan Stewart has astutely observed: The souvenir is to authenticate a pas t or otherwise remote experience, and, at the same time to discredit the present. The nostalgia of the souvenir plays in the distance between the present and an imagined, prelapsarian experience. The location of authenticity becomes whatever is distant to the present time and space; hence we can see the souvenir as attached to the antique and exotic.14 14 Susan Stewart, On longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, and the Collection (Durham: Duke UP, 1993) 139-140.

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As a result, the collection of figurines bec omes a hunt for a memento, a reminder of something we can never experience again. The object is a keepsake and emotional holder. The detachment arouses sympathy; we are less involved in these objects and can enjoy them, rather than being frustr ated by the emotions and nostalgia they produce.15 The heart of Slick’s tension occurs in the thinly draped line stretched from the thick, black surface. The paint becomes an abstraction of femaleness. Sticky and in motion, the materiality of the surfac e speaks about the conflict between messy and clean, pure and infected; and the confusion of filling two roles at the same time. My overall work in Sweet Nothings seeks to define the female experience and the duplicity of being both “bearer and make r of meaning,” while challe nging these binary positions.16 Mess (I) Mess (I) also uses the materiality of pour ed paint to address this clash. Hung high on the wall is a small cherubic putto. His matte finish and crea my skin reinforces his angelic nature in contrast to the fl owing abyss of latex beneath him. Stretched between his pudgy hands is a frail line connec ting him to the draped paint beneath him. This tension between figurine and plastic fo rm is an anti-modernist gesture. The glossy 15 Stewart 140. 16 Mulvey 834.

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material mocks its plasticity. Clement Greenber g’s medium specificity suggests that a medium needs to adhere to its inher ent properties to be successful.17 Mess (I ) challenges that meaning with a figurine at the helm by juxt aposing the decorative object against the fetishized paint. A B Figure 9. Series of Mess (I) views. A) Mess (I). Found object and poured latex. Dimensions vary. 2010. B) Mess (I) detail. The porcelain putto is literally playi ng with the poured paint, and with the idea of high and low material. In the canon of art histor y since antiquity, putti, or cherub figures, have held high symbolic visual value, whil e this modern incarnation as decorative ceramic ware has inverted this high value. Installed high on the wall, the figure in Mess (I) suggests the religious image of the putto participating in a mythological scene. 17 Emma Bee Bernstein, "Medium Specificity," Theories of Media, Keywords Glossary (The University of Chicago. Web. 09 Mar. 2010. http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/specificity.htm ).

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Traditionally, putti are associated with Aphrodite, t he Greek goddess of love, and accordingly with romance and eroticism; peac e and prosperity; mirth and leisure. The iconography of the putti is deliberately unf ixed. so that they may have many meanings and roles in the context of art. Later in history, the putti were used in renaissance paintings in relationshi p to the image of a nude woman. In Ways of Seeing, John Berger’s book and film on voyeurism and commodification, the putti function as stand-ins for the sexually suggestive. In t he film, Berger says, “Most nude oil paintings have been composed by the painters for the pleasure of their male owner”18 As a pictorial symbol of passion, in the form of a small boy, the putto exists as a nonthreatening, vulnerable form. The female subjects of Berger’s discussion of oil paintings passively look at the spectator, submissive and silent. They exist to feed an appetite, not to have one of their own. Mess (II) The putto in Mess (I) is not a method by which to access the nude; but rather, a dialogue about voyeurism and re presentation. Anti-modernist and anti-male gaze, the sculpture uses the history of putti and the plas ticity of paint to des tabilize the popular symbols represented. 18 Berger Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series with John Berger

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In the center of the gallery floor, Mess (II) presents a different putto challenged with an overwhelming form. A putto mars a pyramidal pile of 450 pounds of sand coated with fifty pounds of pink powered hand soap; he and his wheelbarrow skid out of control down the slope of one side. The pink color an d soft smell gender the sculpture feminine, while the soap itself reintroduces elements of domesticity. The scale of the pile contrasted against the tiny putto uses the aes thetics of camp to dethrone the serious and engage the absurdity of the pu tto’s situation. The putto’s task, whatever it may be, seems insurmountable. A B Figure 10. Series of Mess (II) views. A) Mess (II). 450lbs of pink powered hand soap and found object. Dimensions va ry. 2010. B) Detail of Mess (II).

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A B Figure 11. Viennese Dessert Se rvice displayed at the Metr opolitan Museum of Art. A) Side view of table. B) De tail of dessert service. Unlike, other figurines in the exhibi tion this small putto and wheelbarrow are actually the only objects with a literal func tion beyond decoration. Normally this object would be placed on a dining table as a saltce llar. Guests would use the ceramic ware for the condiment on the table. The Meissen Factory was the first European factory to produce a complete porcelain dinner service, which featured dec orative figurines not unlike this putto saltcellar. Originally modeled out of sugar-paste, figurine decorations were used in the final Konfekt course, prepared by the pastry cook.19 Once the method of manufacturing porcelain was discovered in Europe, sugar sculptures evolved into ceramic models, which were then incorporated as part of the centerpiece for the table. These decorative 19 Coutts, Howard. “The Discovery of True Porcelain in Europe,” The Art of Ceramics: European Ceramic Design, 1500-1830. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. 95-96.

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objects became a permanent substitute in t he dessert service, and were crafted much more finely than sugar. As the commodity of Meissen porc elain ware became popularized, so did porcelain figures, with their creative placem ent on the table. The molded figures were created to embody the lighter ,more comic mood of desser t. Two figures were often posed against each other, responding with animated expressions and mischievous frivolity.20 With this whimsical use of ceramics and the differentiation of new types of wares, the figurine became a standard item of tableware throughout eighteenth-century Europe.21 Referencing the levity of the dessert service and proper etiquette, Mess (II) uses the history of the figurine to alter its meaning as a decorative object. The large pink pile and figurine merge to become one gracefully extended form, demanding much more space and attention than its function as a sma ll, precious decoration. As in all the sculptures in Sweet Nothings, changing the figurine’s meaning from passive to active allows us to observe these forms differ ently. Quiet and docile, figurines serve a gendered role because of their relationshi p to decoration and domesticity. 20 Coutts 96. 21 Coutts 99.

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Conclusion Sweet Nothings offers a new context in which to view women. As a young girl, the notion of women tied to commodity shaped the way I viewed myself and the objects around me. As a woman and an artist, this perspective has only intensified and matured. The more aware I become of the male gaze and the culture of commodity, the more I seek to manipulate these concepts for my own empowerment. Sweet Nothings uses traditionally disempowering gender role s to reinforce the binary conflict between the power of femininity and its objectificati on through the male gaze. By destabilizing a male tradition of commodification and voyeur ism, my project tr ansforms subjugated femininity into a st rategy for subversion.

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LIST OF REFERENCES Baudelaire, Charles, and Jonatha n Mayne. "The Painter of M odern Life." The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. London: Phaidon, 2008. Benjamin, Walter. "Work of Art in the A ge of Mechanical Reproduc tion." Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. London: Pimlico, 1999. Berger, John. Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series with John Berger. London: British Broadcasting, 1972. Bernstein, Emma Bee. "Medium Specificity." Theories of Media, Keywords Glossary. The University of Chic ago. Web. 09 Mar. 2010. . Coutts, Howard. “The Discovery of True Porcelain in Europe,” The Art of Ceramics: European Ceramic De sign, 1500-1830. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. 95. Deboard, Guy. "Society of the Spectacle, 1967." Marxists Internet Archive. Web. 09 Mar. 2010. Kracauer, Siegfried, and Thomas Y. Levin "The Mass Ornament." The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays. Cambridge, Ma ss.: Harvard UP, 1995. 75-86. Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. 833-44. Sontag, Susan. "Notes on Camp," Against Interpretation And Other Essays New York: Picador, 2001. 288. Stewart, Susan. On longing: Narratives of the Miniat ure, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, and the Collection. Durham: Duke UP, 1993. 139-140.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Jennifer Kahn is a sculptor addressing t he social conflicts fashioned through materialism and identity. She was selected as an emerging artist by the Atlantic Center for the Arts, was a two-time recipient of both the Dennis and Collette Campay Scholarship, and the Albert K. Murray Fine Arts Grant. In the past, Jennifer has interned at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center as the marketing and gallery assistant. This summer she was selected to work at the Chianti Foundati on, a contemporary art collection in Marfa, Texas. Jennifer attended Florida State University (Tallahassee, Florida) where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art and a Bachelor of Ar t in English studies. In May 2010 she completed her Master of Fine Arts degree, in the School of Art and Art History at the University of Flor ida (Gainesville, Florida).