Skip Navigation
Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Janet Polsky

Boynton Beach,
United States

Formally, I majored in Social Work and was awarded a B.A. degree from Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. During my ten years employed as a social worker, I realized that poverty, sexual abuse and abandonment affect disproportionately the lives of women. Many had such low self-esteem that they had no idea that they and their children deserved better. Always a history buff, I wondered what and who it was in the past that created a world in which the power and dominance between the sexes is so askew. Too few of us look backward to learn how we evolved, to get some perspective on the mores of the present. It’s almost a cliche, but history is written by the powerful. That which reflects badly on influential forces is either omitted from the classroom or completely distorted. For the truth, one has to dig a little deeper.

After retirement and while experiencing the empty nest syndrome, I turned to ceramics as a creative outlet. My interest in women issues flowed easily and naturally into my work with clay, resulting in a current collection of 26 plaques entitled Images of Misogyny. Each plaque illustrates a particular abuse. The work stands alone and is self-evident, but accompanying statements and literature relate significant historical and supporting facts.

Self-taught, it is my hope that authenticity and passion compensate for the lack of a formal art education outside of several clay workshops, classes and similar available experiences. If my work has an added emotional impact that dramatizes the words, then I believe I have succeeded in creating art.

Feminist Artist Statement

One of the driving forces in the creation and assembling of the series Images of Misogyny was a thorough study of the role of women in Western culture throughout history. I found that some of the most important and transformative historical events affecting the courses of women’s lives have rarely been included in processes of formal education.

History is a reflection of the values of the existing power structure and women’s lives have never been a high priority in the minds of men. This series expresses the rage and indignation of one woman at the degradation, pain, suffering and poverty that other women are subjected to all over the world as a result of the malice of past generations and the indifference of today’s scribes.

<p>Homage to Humanity’s First Mother</p>

Homage to Humanity’s First Mother

For centuries, Eve was vilified as the temptress who seduced Adam and caused their expulsions from Eden. In historical literature, the snake was a well-recognized symbol of the dominant goddess religion which flourished in the Mediterranean region from 7000 B.C. to 500 A.D. The goddess Hathor was believed to dwell within the fig or apple tree and to eat the sacred fruit was to eat of the flesh and fluid of the goddess.

Further, the literature suggests that patriarchal Judaism began to take root approximately 1500 years before the Christian era. In their efforts to defeat and replace the reigning goddess the Hebrew scribes wrote the “Adam and Eve” story. The symbolism of the serpent and the fruit would have been readily understood by the populace of the time since the snake was a symbol of the goddess religion and the fruit was symbolic of the goddess Hathor. The priests issued a warning to the Israelites that if they continued to believe in and listen to the “Serpent of darkness,” Yah’we, the true God, would punish them and deny them the protection of his love.

The role of the priestess was still fresh in the minds of the Gnostics, who were early Christians in the newly formed church. The Gnostics recognized woman’s spirituality and women, such as Phoebe, were deacons in the new church. Prisca, Persis, Tryphaena, and Junia were all respected preachers in the new Christianity. It is accepted that Paul said, “Because of Eve, women should not be allowed to speak in church.

Women must not be allowed to preach to men.” Thus, the vilification of the Bible’s first mother in this highly contrived tale was used to silence the voice of women in religion to this very day.

The following is an excerpt from one of the sacred volumes of the Chinese. This quote illustrates that the demonization of women is ubiquitous:

“All was subject to man at first, but a woman threw us into slavery. The wise husband rose up a bulwark of walls, but the woman by an ambitious desire of knowledge demolished them. Our misery did not come from heaven but from a woman. She lost the human race…See, thou kindled the fire that consumes us, and which is every day augmenting. Our misery has lasted many ages. The world is lost. Vice overflows all things like a mortal poison.”

Homage to Humanity’s First Mother

For centuries, Eve was vilified as the temptress who seduced Adam and caused their expulsions from Eden. In historical literature, the snake was a well-recognized symbol of the dominant goddess religion which flourished in the Mediterranean region from 7000 B.C. to 500 A.D. The goddess Hathor was believed to dwell within the fig or apple tree and to eat the sacred fruit was to eat of the flesh and fluid of the goddess.

Further, the literature suggests that patriarchal Judaism began to take root approximately 1500 years before the Christian era. In their efforts to defeat and replace the reigning goddess the Hebrew scribes wrote the “Adam and Eve” story. The symbolism of the serpent and the fruit would have been readily understood by the populace of the time since the snake was a symbol of the goddess religion and the fruit was symbolic of the goddess Hathor. The priests issued a warning to the Israelites that if they continued to believe in and listen to the “Serpent of darkness,” Yah’we, the true God, would punish them and deny them the protection of his love.

The role of the priestess was still fresh in the minds of the Gnostics, who were early Christians in the newly formed church. The Gnostics recognized woman’s spirituality and women, such as Phoebe, were deacons in the new church. Prisca, Persis, Tryphaena, and Junia were all respected preachers in the new Christianity. It is accepted that Paul said, “Because of Eve, women should not be allowed to speak in church.

Women must not be allowed to preach to men.” Thus, the vilification of the Bible’s first mother in this highly contrived tale was used to silence the voice of women in religion to this very day.

The following is an excerpt from one of the sacred volumes of the Chinese. This quote illustrates that the demonization of women is ubiquitous:

“All was subject to man at first, but a woman threw us into slavery. The wise husband rose up a bulwark of walls, but the woman by an ambitious desire of knowledge demolished them. Our misery did not come from heaven but from a woman. She lost the human race…See, thou kindled the fire that consumes us, and which is every day augmenting. Our misery has lasted many ages. The world is lost. Vice overflows all things like a mortal poison.”

Women as Caryatids

Regardless of class, women have always been the cement holding families together. Upper-class men were always free to study, create and pursue personal goals, while women were expected to stay home and raise children. Not educating girls is and always has been a deliberate act intended to limit their role in society. First lady Martha Washington could not read or write. Abigail Adams, known for her brilliance, was considered to be self-taught.

Today, in many third world countries, boys are sent to school while girls are kept home to help their mothers work the farm, keep house, sell goods in the market and fetch water from distant sources.

Merry Old England

Before the reign of King Henry VIII (I509- 1547), England was a Catholic nation where divorce was not an option for anyone. A man who tired of his wife would take her down to the livestock marketplace and auction her off. “Who’ll buy my cow?” he would chant and this powerless piece of property would go to the highest bidder.

We are Never Quite Good Enough!

Right to left: The 17-inch waistline (the Scarlett O’Hara look); the 1920’s Lillian Russell look; the Twiggy look; the Burka.

The stretched neck of some African women - stretched so that the neck can no longer support the head without rings. Stretched earlobe and two front teeth missing, so that she cannot bite food.

The corset, the chastity belt, and a knife representing clitorectomies. Bound feet that absolutely crippled Chinese women; high-heeled stiletto shoes that eventually disable American women. All, really to titillate men.

At the top right is Amelia Bloomer, editor of “The Lily,” a temperance journal, who wore and publicized the clothes designed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Known as “Bloomers,” these undergarments resembled Turkish pants and were intended to free women from corsets, long dresses and multiple petticoats that encumbered women’s free motion.

Church Sanctioned Same-Sex Marriages

In the August 28,1994 edition of the New York Times Book Review, Same Sex Unions In Premodern Europe by John Boswell was reviewed.

Mr. Boswell, an A. Whitney Griswald professor of history at Yale University, thouroughly researched libraries of Christiandom and reproduced 6 manuscripts of services for same-sex unions, from the 11th to the 16th centuries. He offerred an historical precedent - nothing less than the blessing of the Church for male coupling.

The edict of 1170 A.D. demanded a celibate clergy. How odd that at the very time, when the heterosexual marriages of the clergy were declared null and void, the clergy’s wives murdered or turned into Church slaves, children bastardized, that Mr. Boswell rhapsodizes about the initiation of services for same-sex unions.

This coincided with the intense brutality of the Inquisition started by a tribunal in the 13th century, and witch-burning that existed between the 12th and the 17th centuries.

Websites

Text, images, audio, and/or video in the Feminist Art Base are copyrighted by the contributing artists unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.