Throughout history art has been used not only as a medium to capture reality but also as a way to tell stories. During the 20th century, many artists began to tell their personal stories — among other themes, those of drama, trauma, abuse, and injustice in some shape or form became common subject matter for the arts. In particular, the art of Judy Chicago captures the disparity in power between women and men and sought to balance the scales by expressing feminism at its finest in her works. Likewise, the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat used his urban style of art to detail the African-American situation in modern America and various other American societal issues.

Judy Chicago

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Earth Birth, 1983. (Visualizing Birth).

     Most likely created in Judy’s California art studio, Earth Birth is a captivating example of the female body. The cool, dark blues along with the ripple-like lines cultivate a sense of smooth and relaxed movement — perhaps that of giving birth (although I doubt birth is relaxed). Furthermore, the golden lights coming from the woman’s various orifices highlight the importance of the female body. It looks like the woman is yelling due to her mouth’s agape positioning and the wave stream coming out from there. Likewise, it looks like a baby will soon exit the woman as the ripples around her vagina appear to be closer together than most of the other waves which, to me, indicates a more active or quicker moving object.

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The Creation, 1984. (The Birth Project – Judy Chicago).

    Most likely created in her California art studio, The Creation is another example of the necessity of the female body. The wide spectrum of colors used in the above art, along with the animals and mountain-resembling posture of the woman’s body, help develop the idea that birth is a natural process. The woman appears to be grabbing the sun; potentially symbolizing the possibility of women doing the impossible? Furthermore, you can see a baby crawling around in the woman. It looks like as if it is about to crawl out and enter the world.

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Aging Woman/Artist/Jew, from A Retrospective in a Box, 2013. (Judy Chicago | Aging Woman/Artist/Jew, from A Retrospective in a Box (2013) | Artsy).

Most likely created in New Mexico, Aging Woman/Artist/Jew, from A Retrospective in a Box is one of the craziest pieces I’ve seen of Judy Chicago. The main reason I chose this piece was due to how strong the imagery is; she is naked and surrounded by an aura of light colors that slowly fade outwards to a deep purple. Furthermore, she has this interesting vagina-like crest with the Star of David at the top to indicate her status as a Jewish woman. The end of the crest ends in between her legs and the interesting thing about that is, coupled with the red aura between her legs, it gives the appearance that she is actually bleeding!

Jean Michel Basquiat

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Irony Of The Negro Policeman, 1981. (WikiArt).

     Most likely created in New York City, Irony Of The Negro Policeman is quite clearly a critic against African-American cops. His view indicates that he thinks African-American cops are pawns to a system designed to, in his eyes, ensure the success of white supremacy in the states. Hence why it is ironic for a black man to be a cop; they are actively helping to destroy their own people. The coloring and drawing style Basquiat uses is very similar to that of a small child learning to create art on paper for the first time. This style, then, really represents what I feel Basquiat wanted in his art — unstructured displays of serious issues in society. Thus, it is worth noting that this style is a constant throughout the vast majority of his art.

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Obnoxious Liberals, 1982. (WikiArt).

    Most likely created in Italy, Obnoxious Liberals is a clear depiction of, well, liberal-minded people. Here you can see a man appearing to be chained to a wall where Asbestos is inscribed three times along with a man whose shirt says Not For Sale and a man detailed with cash symbols. To me, it looks like the man with the Not For Sale on his shirt is holding arrows in his hand above the man with the cash symbols. It sort of feels like the man is saying war is not for sale and the other man is attempting to buy war from him. Furthermore, the man with the top hat sort of resembles Abraham Lincoln so it makes sense that the rich man is trying to buy some notion of war from the president. I don’t quite see how the Asbestos-chained man ties into the other imagery but to me he represents the idea that his need to spread the word about the dangers of asbestos has actually enslaved him in some sense to the cause.

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Scull, 1981. (WikiArt).

     Most likely created in New York City, Scull is an interesting piece of Basquiat’s artwork. I chose this painting for the same reasons I chose Aging Woman/Artist/Jew, from A Retrospective in a Box — it plays with very strong imagery. Here, we see a decaying skull that looks almost like a weird map of sorts has been imprinted onto his head; like the stitches along the body of Frankenstein’s Monster. His teeth look partially shattered and the skin color either represents the African-American community or death due to how dark it is. Thus, one may interpret this painting as a critic of the African-American condition in America or as an abstract recreation of death and decay. Furthermore, if you look briefly at the skull you see what appears to be additional structure like brain, skull, and other things but upon further inspection the truth is that all they appear to be is the intricate but jumbled lines typical of Basquiat’s work.

Bibliography

     http://visualizingbirth.org/author/visualizing-birth. “Judy Chicago’s “Earth Birth”” Visualizing Birth. N.p., 2016. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.

     “The Birth Project – Judy Chicago.” N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.

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