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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Eunice Golden

New York, NY
USA

Born in New York City, Eunice Golden departed from her early studies in psychology at the University of Wisconsin to focus on her artwork. As a figurative expressionist, she eschewed pop and minimal art, and explored sexuality depicting the male nude. In the 1960’s, as her marriage was dissolving, Golden’s dramatic artwork converged with and paralleled the ideas expressed by the women’s liberation movement. In 1971, Golden joined the Ad Hoc Committee for Women’s Art spearheaded by Lucy Lippard. In 1973, she joined the Fight Censorship group and was a founder of the women’s co-op gallery Soho20, where her work was exhibited for nearly a decade. She attracted significant media attention including the New York Times, Art Forum, Ms. Magazine, and New York Magazine. Her revolutionary art, “Male Landscapes,” created a buzz among art historians who were documenting the emergence of feminist artists. “If feminism is a consideration in assessing Golden’s work, it is because she deals explicitly with sex.” As opposed to other women artists, Golden seriously questioned what it meant to be a woman. (Art Forum, 1974) Golden’s controversial and radical work challenged entrenched ideologies which excluded her from some museums and galleries. In 1973, a curator at the Whitney proposed her work for an exhibition, which was denied. Later, Golden met a male curator who was on the selection committee, and he accusingly said: “What makes you think you can paint male nudes better than men can?” Subsequently, in 1977, the Whitney did include her signature work, “Landscape 160”, in “Nothing But Nudes,” which was applauded in Art International by Carter Ratcliff. Throughout the 1980’s, Golden’s work evolved from body landscapes and portraits, to satiric anthropomorphic studies. She also wrote a seminal article on the male nude in Heresies. The untimely death of Golden’s son in the 1990’s had a profound and devastating impact. Golden sought refuge in East Hampton where she produced her elegiac, “Swimmers” series, based on the Mother and Child theme. This artistic departure was a rebirth in her life and work. A major retrospective was launched in 2000 at the Westbeth Gallery, NYC featuring three decades of Golden’s work. In 2003, Holland Cotter in the New York Times hailed Golden’s mini-survey of 1960’s and 1970’s work at the Mitchell Algus Gallery, Chelsea. In addition, Golden was included in “Personal & Political: The Women’s Art Movement 1969-1975,” at East Hampton’s Guild Hall Museum.

Feminist Artist Statement

In the 1960’s, while painting the male anatomy, I didn’t consider that it would be construed as heretical and revolutionary. Stifled by the existing definitions of wife and mother, this work was a stream of consciousness outpouring of emotionally and sensually charged images that reflected who I was: a heterosexual woman with erotic needs and fantasies, yet struggling to redefine myself. My artistic intention was not political. In retrospect, I saw that I had unwittingly addressed, on a subliminal level, ideologies, experiences, and perceptions of a broad audience. Suddenly I was engaged in dialogue, thrust against a backdrop of controversy and censorship. I catapulted into the women’s movement, wrestling with the salient socio-political issues regarding cultural and political change. Many feminist artists were asserting their experiences by creating “central core imagery” which was decidedly autoerotic. My work, “Male Landscapes”, addressed the “phallacy” of male power – its vulnerability to and dependence on a female audience. I as a woman became the voyeur – my powerful erotic gaze was fixed upon the male – which was a strike against the historical bias of the male nude as a subject for women artists. As my work evolved, the body remained the vehicle, the experience-acquiring medium, and the very core of my art. I conceived the human form as a landscape where sensual and spiritual messages leap and interconnect – a psychosexual Gestalt where the wires of our human architecture spark with vital physicality, powerful emotions, and an energizing erotic force. Distance is eliminated and the viewer’s own experience is ignited. Body experience is central to an understanding of my photographic and cinematic works. Here I explore the flesh as a canvas – embellished with paint, text, and food. All these works have aspects of symbolic behavior, expressing the basic and primal, and the universal nature of rituals. There exists a strong continuity within my oeuvre. The “Male Landscapes” made the sexual colossal, yet intimate. Works that followed capture the immediacy of closeness, from the portraits of mother/son/daughter, to the anthropomorphic studies, and the swimmer’s series which was influenced by the untimely death of my son. In current works, I have delved into yet another metamorphosis of visceral sensation in surreal abstract forms. For all the apparent differences in style, content, or technique, the common thread in all my work is the power of intimacy. © 2007 Eunice Golden

<p>CRUCIFIXION #1</p>

CRUCIFIXION #1

“Crucifixion #1”, ©1969 Eunice Golden, painted at MacDowell Colony, is an abstracted landscape of the female body, symbolically “crucified on the land (*1). The configuration shows a voluptuous, fleshy female form formatted as a “T”, suggestive of the cross.
A penis penetrates or exudes from her side, and alludes to the ambiguity of her sexual identity: her conflict as a heterosexual woman in her struggle to maintain her power as a woman to fulfill her own needs and desires, against a devouring yet seductive male presence. Crucifixion #1 questions what it means to be a woman in the “ (male) technological society” (*2), which binds and destroys her. This ambiguity creates a tension in the work which can be felt both psychologically and viscerally.

Thematically, this dichotomy exists and recurs in many of my Body-Landscapes of the late 1960s in which the male figure predominates. “Crucifixion#1”, a female image, is the icon depicted here which pictorializes this dichotomy. This is atypical within my oeuvre, which primarily utilizes the Male Landscape, a metaphor for this dichotomy. I have expanded the notion of self-definition in new ways from a revolutionary perspective of feminist sensibility, a perspective which went beyond the autoerotic and the criteria for judging feminist work, and I have also disclaimed all the ways in which men had looked at women, and celebrated the experience of my joy as well as my angst as a heterosexual woman.

(*1) and (*2) - Lucy Lippard, From the Center, Feminist Essays on Women’s Art, 1976

CRUCIFIXION #1

“Crucifixion #1”, ©1969 Eunice Golden, painted at MacDowell Colony, is an abstracted landscape of the female body, symbolically “crucified on the land (*1). The configuration shows a voluptuous, fleshy female form formatted as a “T”, suggestive of the cross.
A penis penetrates or exudes from her side, and alludes to the ambiguity of her sexual identity: her conflict as a heterosexual woman in her struggle to maintain her power as a woman to fulfill her own needs and desires, against a devouring yet seductive male presence. Crucifixion #1 questions what it means to be a woman in the “ (male) technological society” (*2), which binds and destroys her. This ambiguity creates a tension in the work which can be felt both psychologically and viscerally.

Thematically, this dichotomy exists and recurs in many of my Body-Landscapes of the late 1960s in which the male figure predominates. “Crucifixion#1”, a female image, is the icon depicted here which pictorializes this dichotomy. This is atypical within my oeuvre, which primarily utilizes the Male Landscape, a metaphor for this dichotomy. I have expanded the notion of self-definition in new ways from a revolutionary perspective of feminist sensibility, a perspective which went beyond the autoerotic and the criteria for judging feminist work, and I have also disclaimed all the ways in which men had looked at women, and celebrated the experience of my joy as well as my angst as a heterosexual woman.

(*1) and (*2) - Lucy Lippard, From the Center, Feminist Essays on Women’s Art, 1976

Landscape # 160

“Landscape #160”, ©1972 Eunice Golden, painted in the Springs, East Hampton, was created in the darkness of the Parson’s Blacksmith Shop, yet the fluidity of the medium, expressionist style, and the colors of the painting evoke sensations of the aquatic environment which engulfs the East End of Long Island. This is a landscape of the male body, at once, a felt experience of nature and its sensuality, juxtaposed with the charged eroticism of the potent yet vulnerable male subject of the female gaze, a gaze which is a gender role reversal of artist and model. This powerful and challenging dichotomy provides many layers of meaning on psychological, social and political levels. Here, one sees a foreshortened and cropped male figure, where the focus is on the male genitalia pulsating and tumescent, making the intimate colossal. It is presented in a horizontal format, touching the horizon at the top, and grounded by the edge of sand and our vision. Although it is a landscape, the male energy is total and totemic. This seminal work may provide a deeper comprehension of my male landscapes of the late 1960s and the 1970s whose common threads of ambiguity and dichotomy project throughout, linking the
paintings, drawings, photoworks and films, and weaving the fabric of my oeuvre of the male nude.

Exhibition “Personal and Political” 2002, Guild Hall Museum; “Nothing But Nudes”, Whitney Museum Downtown

METAMORPHOSIS #12

“Metamorphosis #12”, ©1973 Eunice Golden, is a large totemic form, re-configuring the male landscape. In this work, the body and psyche are scrambled and reassembled, as organic parts appear to converge, dissolve and change. It is a monument to power, where the penis is flagged at the top, but as the body-parts are disassembled and re-programmed, there is an implication that the tower may fall, and that new forms or beings may emerge from the reconstruction. Here, translucent pastel forms are silhouetted against a background of neutral space. “The shimmer of transparent washes of oil on fine
canvas, and the hanging rather than stretching of the canvas reinforce the iconic impact of the image” (*3).

(*3) Sue Heinemann, Artforum, March 1974

RAPE #1

In a reversal of Magritte’s “The Rape”—a woman’s face composed of her nude torso—Eunice Golden perpetuates a visual rape by twisting male genitalia into grotesque heads—“ (*4).
I made this piece and other “Rape” drawings in defiance of censorship (which I consider to be a rape of the mind), and as a response to Magritte’s mutilation of the female body in “Le Viol”. This large drawing was the catalyst for the Metamorphosis Series in which the deconstruction of the human form and the reconstruction of the body-psyche suggests changes as yet unknown which may affect men and women, physiologically, psychologically, socially, politically.

“Rape #1,” ©1973Eunice Golden, was created as a socio-political protest against societal conditions and attitudes which existed then, yet we still live in a global society in which violence is rampant, rape is insidious, domestic violence and the abuse of women continues to be an addiction for many whose anger replaces healthy sexuality, and censorship exists to repress and dismiss free expression and creative initiative.
(*#4) Dorothy Seiberling, New York Magazine, “The Female View of Erotica.” Feb. 11, 1974

Eunice Golden, Heresies 12- May, 1981
“The Male Nude in Women’s Art”, Mitchell Algus Gallery

BODYWORKS SERIES I #7

“Bodyworks Series I #7,” ©1976 Eunice Golden, is a photowork. It is composed of three photographs in a vertical format, in cinematic sequence, which suggests that a performance is taking place. The male is dressed in painterly patterns of female anatomy, changing positions to reveal identities or modeling roles which challenge definitions of femininity and masculinity.

This photowork was developed in the context of all of my work in body-art where body-experience is central and sexuality is at the core of the art.

In 1973, I began dressing the male nude in paint, food or text in symbolic rituals, in the natural setting of the beaches of the Hamptons, exploring basic and primal aspects of behavior of the human body, and recording acts of embellishment and ritual self-examination in film as well as still photography. Some of these explorations and investigations included the female nude, for example, “Bodyworks Series III #1,” ©1976 Eunice Golden, in which text is written on the bodies, and “Wrappings #1,” ©1976 Eunice Golden, in which both male and female are “wrapped in cocoons of opaque plastic” (*5).

(*5) Holland Cotter, New York Times, April 11, and April 18, 2003, reviews: Solo Exhibition, Mitchell Algus Gallery, March 15-April 19, 2003.

REORIENTATION OF THE HUMAN FIGURE AT SCHEDULED INTERVALS

“Reorientation of the Human Figure At Scheduled Intervals,” ©1973Eunice Golden, shows a painted male nude, the colors reflective of sea and sand, in a symbiotic relationship with the natural environment, an isolated Hamptons beach, where the awareness of time slips away. The focus is on the lower torso of the male body, which is in a quadrant-like configuration. The male body-landscape is rotated clockwise or counterclockwise depending on one’s perspective, suggestive of motion, yet appearing as if stationery. “Golden rotates each photograph in 90-degree intervals, thereby rendering the male body (and the penis) horizontal as well as vertical, upright as well as upside down. In contrast to many contemporaneous artists, both male and female, who took their own bodies as medium, Golden orchestrates a situation in which the male body is “reoriented”, “scheduled”, “positioned” and “clocked” by the female artist. She shifts the terms of artistic control and photographic documentation in ways that exceed the limits of simple role reversal”(*6).

(*6) Richard Myer, “Hard Targets: Feminist Art, Male Nudes, and the Force of Censorship in the 1970s,” exhibition catalog, Museum of Contemporary Art. Los Angeles, CA: “Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution, 1965-1980”.

BLUE BANANAS AND OTHER MEATS

“Blue Bananas and Other Meats,” ©1973Eunice Golden, a 16mm film, made in East Hampton, is a surrealist fantasy, in which the male body is dressed in paint and food. He is portrayed as a delectable landscape. A banquet of eroticism, which incorporates the experience of all of the senses in actuality as well as in fantasy for the male as well as the female. “In a hilarious reversal of the trope of the female body as fruit…Golden positions the male body …as a site of both humorous and erotic appeal.” (*7)

(*7) Richard Myer, catalog of Exhibition, “Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution 1965-1980,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Feminist International 1976, Gemeentemuseum -The Hague, ”
Exhibition: “Personal and Political: The Women’s Art Movement 1969-1975, Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton

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