I saw a statement that struck me really odd the other day which was “feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings”. This was said by Cheris Kramarae, and on the surface it seems a ridiculous statement, but underneath that is the world in which a lot of women find themselves in daily. I am really lucky that I live in a culture where I just don’t earn the same amount as my male peers, and that I have to work harder to get noticed and taken seriously for my knowledge and expertise, but there are many women in other cultures who lead a subservient life style simply because of where they were born. There are women who don’t have the choice in whether they should have children or not, what age they marry at and who they marry. I am still pretty adamant that I am not a feminist, as there is so much controversy that comes with that title, but if it was simply seen as believing that women should be equal to men… well then I am in for that.
I think that is why I was drawn to this painting. There is still an undertone of an expectation on women today, that they can go out and work, then still have children, keep a home, be a dutiful wife and look good doing it. Sure, it may not be spoken rule, but the media and social stereotypes still drum this into young girls at an early age. Just think about a magazine such as “Vogue”, women dressed as though they are going clubbing, going about their daily chores, with articles about how to keep a good skin routine while working or taking the kids to school and washing dishes.
Rose Freymuth- Frazier (to now been known as RFF) is an American based artist. She was born in Nevada City, California and attended Interlochen Arts High School in North Michigan. After graduation she was awarded a scholarship to study theatre at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC. On completing her training she went on for a stint in Hollywood, before deciding that she wanted to investigate her other interest – figurative oil painting.
RFF openly talks about her fascination with colour, and how it started at an early age over an agonising decision whether to paint her bike cherry red or hot pink… it ended up hot pink as she says “it was still feminine with balls”. You can read more about RFF here but this obsession with colour placement adds a punch to her work that hits her audiences like a right hook from Mike Tyson.
“Woman Fighting Bull” is particularly powerful in my eyes. We see a woman, holding a bull’s skull and a bull whip. She is dressed in a blue shift, red heels and marigold washing up gloves. Her hair and makeup are perfect. She is stood on what looks like a laminate floor, reflecting the red of her shoes like a beacon.
There is so much in this painting which fills me with joy.
Despite how the woman in the painting is dressed, she is stood in a totally dominant stance. Her shoulders are back, her legs are hip width apart, with her weight shifted on to one leg as if she is ready to pounce. She is ready with the whip in her right hand to make her move. The look on her face is defiant. She is also showing you her victory of war. I will admit that when I first looked at this, I had assumed that she was holding a bolt gun, and the image was of a women working in a slaughterhouse, because of the gloves, but in reality I guess bullfighting is just a very ornate slaughterhouse. She is definitely displaying that she is a woman who can take on the world (or a bull) and win.
We have all heard the phrase “goddess in the kitchen, demon in the bedroom…”
I am impressed at how two fold the the outfit is. If you have ever watched any bullfighting (I do not recommend it is a horrendously cruel sport), you will know that the Matador wears a highly elaborate outfits. The Matador will have a suit embroidered in gold – this will be the person to actually kill the bull, where as the others in the ring will have silver/white embroidery and are called subalternos. The subalternos are made up of 3 different roles, all of which help the Matador to kill the bull.
This image shows a Matador, his bright blue suit, embroidered with white and gold, dictating he is the lead in killing the bull.
Now really look at the painting, the woman’s shift looks like an adapted version of the Matador. The lace around the neck line, mimicking the embroidery, her red shoes a nod to the pink tights, and the red cape. Her yellow gloves the indicating factor that she is the Matador, but she is ready to pop home and do the washing up after the fight is done.
The outfit also exposes the woman’s femininity. It displays her long shapely legs, her unblemished collar bones on display. Her hair cascades onto her shoulders and her face is perfectly painted. She is a woman ready to perform.
When I look at this painting, it really tells me a story of a woman trying to make a mark in a mans world, while still trying to retain her femininity and live up the the stereotypes that we are force fed while growing up. She has become triumphant in a sport which is predominantly male driven. She is picture perfect. She is sexy, but she is also ready to complete household chores and be a lover to her partner. This is a lot and I think that this has been perfectly shown in the way the painting has been composed. She is stood center stage and dominant on the canvas. She is lit to show her assets, as well as highlighting her victory… most of all she is alone. She has made her way in this male orientated performance of strength and courage, on her own and proved that a woman can be equal.
This is such a powerful painting, and one I continue to be impressed by the more I look at it, possibly because this is the sort of woman I aspire to be. RRF does a fantastic job of storytelling in such a detailed way, really using minimal props. As always, you will see your own meaning in this painting, but for me, the message is very clearly a triumphant display of being equal is being shown here (if not slightly superior as she did it in heels).
RFF is such an inspiring female artist, and one I will be watching closely, to see how she progresses. It is hardly surprising Buzzfeed named her one of the top 100 figurative painters in 2017.
What do you see when you look at “Woman Fighting Bull”? Why not tell me in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?
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