We sat down with Fine Arts faculty Elsa Naude to discuss her upcoming summer course, "Deconstructing Gender through Printmaking":
What can we learn about gender norms by looking at them through an artistic lens?
An art lens contains a potential for change, and change will be necessary as long as people will suffer from the gender norms in place and their consequences. An art lens also brings imagination and creativity, which are two essential tools to invent new solutions. In my personal experience, when searching for what I most want to express as an artist, I always have to reach in my own story to expect reaching others through my work. So in this sense, art seems to be a very relevant gateway to question and deconstruct gender roles and assumptions we usually don’t perceive.
And what can we learn about art by looking through a gendered lens?
You mean through a gender-deconstruction lens? For me, a gendered lens is hard to describe as I wear those glasses pretty much every day at this point. By observing how different someone is treated based on their gender, we slowly enlarge our capacity to empathize. This lens gives us new questions, it helps us to see illusions. It engages us in a process of deconstruction, to find answers about oneself and to make sense of the world. The same is true about racism, ableism, fat/homo/transphobia to name but a few.
The gendered lens becomes very powerful when pointed at art history and the way it is taught in various cultures. Which artists are known worldwide? Which have been forgotten and why? When analyzing the context of creation—and then diffusion—of an artist’s works, we rapidly see the reasons for such an uneven treatment. And once again, it brings a new set of questions regarding the denomination of art movements and periods, the way we talk about art, the way we show it, the way we own it.
As for using this lens when one is making art themselves, it is a guide towards some crucial questions: Who is making this art? From which context and identity are they expressing themselves? In reaction to which situation? Who are they hoping will pay attention to it?
Tell us about your recent work. What inspires and motivates you that you hope to share with your students?
I’ve been trying to find ways to transcribe visually ideas and feelings I’m unable to put into words, needless to say I’ll be working on this for a while!
It’s very connected with the absence of words in our society around some taboos. How can we describe to ourselves and others something that no one taught us the language for? I’m curious to see if an image could fill that gap.
My motivation and determination as an artist both come from a certain candor. I strongly believe that art can change the world, and in this sense I always consider my activism and artistic practice tied together. If I can share a little bit of that candor and faith, and if I’m lucky enough to feel inspired in return, then I’ll consider this course successful!