Half a Picture’s title was inspired by the 1989 Guerrilla Girls poster which states that "You’re seeing less than half the picture without the vision of women artists and artists of color" (“Brooklyn Museum: Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection,” n.d.) Essentially, the art collection expresses the view that artistic representations in showcasing the truth in both social and political settings. The collection’s main focus is on historical and current works by various artist that engage both medium and message to address both social and political issues.
As demonstrated in the collection, artistic representations are influenced by or influence the following political realities. First, artists seek to rally the society’s support towards a particular cause. By and large, most artistic works usually seek to promote ideals that are contrary to those of the society.
Second, artistic representations also combat stereotypes. Many stereotypes are propagated in political settings. One of the roles of artistic representations is to squash such stereotypes with a view of maintaining sobriety.
Artistic representations can also be used to critique the dominant narratives in society. For instance, in patriarchal societies which are biased towards men, a common narrative is that men are natively more intelligent than women. Therefore, men are considered to have more chances in excelling in class or any other activities that require a certain level of intelligence. However, feminist artists brought to fore ideas that squashed those previously held stereotypes that were biased against women. Through their artistic representations, they draw the public’s attention to such kind of stereotypes with a view of pushing for the change of such a dominant narrative. Specifically, feminist artists advocate on behalf of their constituents who are mostly women.
Other than influencing political and social realities, the Half a Picture artist demonstrate certain realities about gender, class, and race relations of the times in which the arts were created. One of the traits of artistic representations is that they try to inspire their audiences through radicalism. In the collection, some of the images of women are sexually explicit. Created during a period when the society was highly conservative, and under strict adherence of Victorian ethical codes, the art sought to inspire women and feminists to break from the shackles of the then dominant narrative that outlined how women are supposed to relate to the world.
Second, the artistic representations of the collection are such that they demonstrate that the there existed class divisions during the era in which the artistic pieces in the collection were created. In the collection, “1880 Crow Peace Delegation” employs language to explore the racial discrimination of Native Americans (“Closer to the Whole Picture at Brooklyn Museum,” n.d.). The artist uses red ink overprints of various photographic portraits of leaders of the tribal leaders of the then Indian tribes. Essentially, the purpose of the artist is to educate the audience about who they see on the photo portraits. There are also captions which range from humorous comments to politically charged messages that demonstrate the historical injustices meted on the American Indians.
Overall, the “Half a Picture” collection is an important collection of various artists’ representations of various political realities. Through the artistic pieces found in the book, the audience can decipher the class, gender, and race dynamics that existed in the era in which the art was done. The arts seek to combat dominant narratives as well as combative societal stereotypes.
Brooklyn Museum: Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2018, from https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/half_the_picture
Closer to the Whole Picture at Brooklyn Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2018, from https://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/3233501/closer-to-the-whole-picture-at-brooklyn-museum