When I heard “At the Museum of Woman, paintings aren’t just two dimensional beauties — here, they talk back!,” I imagined a less chaotic, feminist version of “Night at the Museum.” As part of her senior honors thesis regarding the nature of representation in visual art through performance ethnography, fourth-year theater major Monica Trausch, created and directed the performance exhibition “The Museum of Woman.”
The performance begins with three beautiful women, all of different races and sizes, poised and frozen in their poses (they are the paintings) in an imaginary museum. The three women were portraying the women displayed in Charles Garabedian’s “The Spring for Which I Longed,” Aristide Maillol’s “Study for Action in Chains” and Marc Chagall’s “Horse-Woman.”
Then an irritated, whiny girl on a school field trip walks into the museum. She goes on ranting about how disinterested she is and how “stupid” it is to come to museums. An ethnographer (played by Trausch) approaches the girl, asking if she could observe her reacting to the artwork.
As the girl continues to express her anger, the paintings come to life. They simultaneously chant: “We were created by men, but here we have a voice.” The women from the paintings tell the girl how women are highly misrepresented in society, and when you see women through a male’s point of view, women are stripped of their voice.
Growing up in the “Girl Power” age with the Spice Girls, TLC and Britney Spears, and living in a society where men still get paid more than women for doing the same job, I believe myself to have a considerable amount of feminist values. I was surprised to learn how many things I didn’t know or hadn’t thought about while I watched the performance.
Most of the famous art pieces hung in museums across the world are creations made by men. The lack of representation and point of view from female artists is just pathetic and sad.
When the question “How is gender equality supposed to be if we are only to see the male point of view?” was asked, I wanted to jump out of my seat and hug the girls.
Art and media are now integrated into our society. Everything we watch or listen to has a different message. We all know it, but how many of us have actually sat there and thought about the effects that they have on us and our ideologies?
“I strive to invoke change in my theatrical work,” Trausch said. “I hope to demonstrate how the visual representation of women in visual art affects gender relations on a day-to-day basis.”
Trausch sure did an amazing job doing so. Honestly, I have never been that interested in visual art, but this performance inspired me to learn more. I highly suggest that everyone, especially all the ladies, go and check out “The Museum of Woman.”
The next series of performances is from 5 to 8 p.m. today, outside the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
Admission is free, so before you sacrifice some brain cells downtown for “Thirsty Thursday,” indulge your mind in some thought-provoking, relevant art.