THE FUTURE IS FEMALE
Me, Myself and I
By Johanna Schwarzbeck
Ever since I was a young girl in Austria, I witnessed and experienced gender inequality, and wondered: “Why does society seek to control the feminine expression?” My latest exhibit sheds light on this question, through photography and paintings of audacious and free-spirited female nudity; it both critiques patriarchal dogma, and seeks to marry old and new feminine archetypes. For example, the dainty paper doilies with the em-powering feminist quotes are pinned on to pillowcases that are of a delicately woven brocade fabric — an indoor domestic activity reserved for women, such as crocheting, sewing, mending, wiping, cooking, and tending to others.
My immediate female role models–my mother and grandmother–and my environment at large, attempted
to restrain my feminine curiosity about myself and life. I was warned about staring at myself at length in the mirror, lest the devil would stare back, to not wear too much make-up, or I’d look like a prostitute, and I was criticized for drawing attention when I wore a shiny garment or a red lipstick. As I completed my master’s degree as a gilder and fine art restorer, my grandmother said: Why would you aspire such a high degree if one day you will marry anyway. Yet, I refused to succumb to their influence and was committed to exploring and expressing my creativity and my longing to succeed in all my endeavors; fueled by the source energy of my sexuality and its need to manifest.
The growing dissonance between my family’s conformity to puritanical beliefs and my desire to express my-self freely, lead me to rebel their oppression. I listened to protest music from 60’s musicians like Bob Dylan, Patty Smith, and Neil Young, who promoted tolerance, ethnic and cultural diversity, and a healthy questioning of authority. Driven by my conviction of free expression, and inspired by the music of the hippie movement, I arrived in New York in 1985. I felt that here, I could be whoever I wanted to be, unapologetically.
I discovered dance and movement and enjoyed modeling in the nude. Today, whether at the art studio or at the beach, my nudity is an expression of who I am. Although New York had met many of my expectations about gender equality, I was disappointed to learn that there is still a bias against, not only women but various marginalized demographics, specifically members of the LGBTQ community. My exhibit is thus both a critique of patriarchal institutions like the church and the government and is an expression of female strength. As a feminist, an artist and an activist, my art reflects my vision of equality for all and seeks to dismantle stereo-types and artificial distinctions between genders. ‘The Future is Female: Me, Myself and I’ chronicles the artistic expressions of my unabashed feminine power, in its vulnerable, creative and erotic manifestations.