6. März 2011
Contemporary Culture From A Feminist Perspective
Gottfried Helnwein
I recently went to Crocker Art Museum here in Sacramento to visit the Gottfried Helnwein exhibit that is currently on display. Titled Disasters of War, Helnwein bases much of the artwork in the exhibit around the theme of children. The exhibit is very dark, moody and provocative. Many of the pieces involve children covered in blood, bandages, or are just psychologically intense poses. It is amazing how quickly one is forced to open their eyes and see the ugliness that can be caused by humanity. Truly, Helnwein jolts his viewers out of complacency.
About the artist:
Helnwein is a painter, draftsman, photographer, muralist, sculptor, installation and performance artist. Raised in postwar Vienna, he studied at that city's Akademie der Bildenden Kunste, Wien. His work addresses difficult topics, past or present, political or social. Many of his paintings, photographs , and mixed-media works range from the bluntly provocative to the seductively beautiful. (From Crocker Art Museum.)
This first piece puts me in a bit of a crisis. For the sake of brevity I am only going to talk about one issue that this image raises for me. While there is an undeniable loss of innocence here, that bothers me less then guns and violence. But also, I do think that women have every right to be able to join the military and fight on the front lines if they so wish. And so, what if this young girl is simply exhibiting her potential for future adulthood badassery? I do not want to crush any dreams she may have, and I certainly would not want to tell her that she should not do certain things. I would never want a young girl to feel like she was unable to express herself, or to fight for the things she wants to fight for. But, you know, I am not a fan of guns or violence.
What do these two images above make you think about? I can not help but think of the symbolism of a military coat on a young girl. War and fighting affects more than one generation. To what extent is the weight of violence carried on by following generations? What if we substitute a young Latina, or any other girl of color here? How would that affect the way we think about these images?
And finally, I like the idea of juxtaposing these last two against each other:
I have seen different reactions to his modern inclusion of anime to such a real issue such as war. Most people look confused. Some laugh. Personally, I think it is brilliant. I think in the U.S. we are not forced to look at war, because we fight them in other countries. It is not fought on our soil, so it is an unexperienced issue for many of us. I think the anime does a good job of expressing that it is something that we know about, but not everyone of us is familiar with. In contrast to the last image however, just because we are not familiar with it does not mean we are not affected by it. Many, obviously, to a greater extent than others.

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