Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Aloha - and all that stuff

I am, for three weeks, on a fellowship from the Freeman Institute. I am part of a group of faculty staying at Tokai University on Kapiolani Street in Honolulu, not too far from Waikiki.

The purpose of this trip is offer information and a structured learning wherein faculty can infuse Japanese studies into undergraduate curriculum. I was excited to apply for this fellowship and, given that there are only 19 faculty here, I am more than thrilled to learn from the scholars who are assembled as our panelists and to have been offered such a prestigious opportunity.

So, what do I hope to accomplish in these three weeks? I am not qualified to teach an entire course on Japanese Art. However, my current research project is on globalism. My goal in teaching is to move beyond the introductory treatment in our
textbooks and provide the students with a fuller understanding of all cultures through examination of the visual arts as a reflection of the cultures under study.

Returning to the definition of "decollage" given earlier, I hope, throughout this process to peel away new meanings of the East and West.

Aloha...and all that stuff....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What "femimen"?

Exams and Commencement have now passed and so I am ready to take up blogging again. . . to the question of what "femimen" means, I will explain.

As the last assignment before the comprehensive final exam in my women and art class recently, I gave the students what I thought was an exciting assignment. We had been discussing the important role that women play in the art world. We looked at an essay on "artopia", John Perreault's art diary, which proclaimed the need for an art strike. I quote part of his article here:
"If 60% of the students in art schools are now women, then 60% of the artists in galleries, art magazines, and museums must also be women. Do only men have artistic talent? Can we afford to cut off the vision of more than half the human race? For one day, women artists, dealers, curators, critics, collectors, art gallery receptionists, auction-house staffers, tour guides, art historians, teachers, and students must refuse to participate in an art world dedicated to promoting the work of male artists. Don't show up for work; don't visit any gallery or museum. Don't buy any art. Most of the artists in galleries and museums may be male, but a big percentage of the backup is female - as is the audience, if not the customer base. Male supporters of women artists should also join in, but I fear that among critics it will only be Saltz and yours truly.Could a Women's Art Strike shut down the art world? You bet." taken from

I asked the students, in groups of three, to come up with their own "art strike" on the local, regional, and national or international levels. Students actually complained about this assignment stating that it would be impossible to do. A few groups, however, took right to it and I was pleased that they were interested in this assignment, as it pushes thinking in a different direction.

A group of three upperclassmen were working together and seemed to be coming along on the project. They were trying to locate references that would be relevant to our local culture...we are, after all in the heart of the bluegrass. As their project planning came to a close, they disclosed that they had no catchy title for their group. Offhandedly, I dubbed them "femimen", as in "men who are feminists." The name stuck and when it came time for the students to present their strike plan the following day in class, FEMIMEN won the competition among all of the groups in the class. This was tough competition demanding a finalist vote to break the tie. The runner up was the group who adopted the theme song "Love Can Build A Bridge" with spokespersons Dolly Parton and Ashley Judd.

Yes, I love my job as both an art historian and feminist.