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Senior Art Show: Combating the Male Gaze

By Lydia McGee
On April 11, 2018

"The Femme Gaze" challenges the common perception of women in art.
Photo Courtesy of Amy Ahern

 

On April 10, Concord senior Sumer Cave presented her final photography project in the Memorial Gallery of the Alexander Fine Arts Center.
 
Titled “The Femme Gaze,”  her digital photo display features partially nude women surrounded and covered by flowers and staring in different ways at the viewer. These photos, Cave revealed, have a deeper feminist narrative running behind them.
 
The idea for the photo shoot came to Cave while she was experimenting with different ideas with a friend. “The other project I was working on for my senior show I didn’t feel as confident about, I felt like it didn’t flow very well together and I didn’t have the resources that I needed to pull it off the way that I wanted to. [This] started off as a little fun thing I did with my friend. She’s someone that I shoot with frequently. She said ‘Why don’t we try this’? We went out and got some food coloring and flowers and just went balls to the walls with it. I shot 17 people in one month. It was stressful and I lost my mind at several points. It just felt strong.”
 
Cave shot the pictures using a variety of props, including milk to simulate the water and dye to create the wide range of colors. Cave used color psychology to determine the combinations. These colors correlate with emotions she has felt in the past, she said.
 
During her college career, Cave has been interested in feminism and women’s issues, and largely looks up to artists that incorporate social justice messages into their work. “As long as I’ve been in college I’ve been interested in feminism. I kind of wanted to bridge what I was passionate about into something that I could physically produce,” says Cave. 
 
“When I took art history, [I encountered] this pre-Raphaelite era, which pretty much broke away from Victorian moralism. It was a totally new style of art that focused on women in natural settings and them being free, and that’s what I wanted to do with my photography project was to express that.”
McKayla Philips, Concord sophomore, was inspired by the project. “The bold colors and tones she used, the unique feminist approach that she took...I was inspired by her whole show.”
 
“I feel like in art throughout thousands of years women have been second-class citizens,” Cave states. “In the Rococo era, which was pretty much pornographic, women were just these sexual objects that were just supposed to be pleasing to look at and nothing to be taken seriously. So I want to combat that by making a female gaze but instead of objectifying men, I wanted women to take back what’s theirs. So instead of making two wrongs, I wanted to do it right this time,” Cave states. 
 
“Instead of it being unfair and unequal, I wanted to empower women to feel comfortable. All the women in the photos stare at you because it’s combating the male gaze, which is where females are objectified in art.”
 
For Cave, feminism seeks to create an equal relationship between men and women rather than create enemies, and her art shows this. She believes that men can also appreciate her project. “Men can be feminists. What [feminism] is about is fighting for equality so that we aren’t objectified. It’s about letting us go about our normal lives without us being interrupted because somebody thinks something that we’re doing is sexual when it’s not.”
 
Sumer Cave’s series will be on display until April 20.

 

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