Why is Marilyn Minter's work considered "feminist" and when is it just "art about women" or "art by women"?
In fact, it was Judy Chicago who coined the term “feminist art” to refer to visual art that employs political tactics or has a political goal. Minter’s work often centers on trying to break down the ideals of beauty established by the fashion industry and "impressed upon women" by showing how when you get really close up to the thing, there are always "imperfections". She is also playing with ideas of reclaiming female sexuality without shame. Minter has been an outspoken feminist since the 1980s, and so is an artist who is also an activist.
Who designed these shoes in the Minter video?
Those are Jimmy Choos!
Minter has worked closely with the beauty and fashion industry. She has said, "In our culture, fashion is seen as debased and shallow but I don't see it that way the fact that it's so dismissed is riveting because it gives so many people pleasure. And I feel like my job as an artist is to shine a light on what is."
What is this piece called?
This video is called "Smash" and was originally created for a show called "Killer Heels" about high-heeled shoes that was at the Brooklyn Museum a few years ago.
I love this close up on bedazzled shoes! Tell me more!
This work was actually commissioned for a previous Brooklyn Museum exhibition "Killer Heels." The artist, Marilyn Minter, is known for her close up and unflinching portrayals of the fashion industry.
You can see the model's feet are uncomfortably squeezed into the bejeweled heels which slowly destroy the glass pane separating the subject from the viewer; a kind of breaking of the fourth wall. The whole scene is further exaggerated through Minter's use of silver paint.
What’s going on here?
Inspired in part by the accoutrements of her fashion commissions, Minter created this video for the Brooklyn Museum’s "Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe" exhibition in 2014. Rather than highlight the glitz and glamour of the designer shoe, Minter’s video is more foreboding. The model’s feet are uncomfortably squeezed into the heels, which slowly and ominously destroy the glass pane separating the subject from the viewer.
Minter actually purchased the shoes the dancer is wearing from a two-for-$50 sale rack and embellished them herself.
Her feet move among and across a surface of what looks like water but is actually silver paint, adding drama and visual interest to the work.
The dancer is Akira Armstrong. She is based in the Bronx and she is the founder of Pretty Big Movement, a "full-figured dance company" that specializes in Hip Hop, Jazz and Ethnic dance. They are currently touring with the band Salt-N-Pepa!
What does it mean?
This work by Marilyn Minter features a model/dancer's feet, which have been tightly crammed into bejeweled heels.
The model slowly and ominously destroys a glass pane separating the subject from the viewer as silver rain falls from above.
Minter is known for critiquing the seeming perfection of the fashion industry. She gets almost uncomfortably close to her subjects, showing the point at which things start to break down---in this case, perhaps literally “shattering” an illusion. There are also more broad implications such as breaking glass ceilings and smashing the patriarchy!
What is the liquid she is dancing in?
It's actually silver pigment mixed with vodka! Minter found this strange combination while experimenting to create a silvery liquid that was messier than regular silver paint.
Is that water?
At first, it might look like water. But it is actually silver pigment mixed with vodka, which makes a bit more of a mess as well as accentuating the dancer's gestures.
Can you possibly tell me where this has been displayed before?
It has been displayed twice before here at the Brooklyn Museum. It was originally commissioned for our 2014 exhibition "Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe." Then it was shown again in our Marilyn Minter retrospective in 2017.
Yes! Thank you so much!
This is interesting because at the same time it combines aggressiveness with an elegant piece of clothing.
Absolutely! And the desire to break down barriers or illusions about what beauty means. I agree that it can also be read as empowering. Like the best art, it is open to many interpretations.
Tell me more.
Marilyn Minter's Smash was originally created for the Killer Heels exhibition which was here at the Brooklyn Museum in 2014. The elaborate heels in the video were actually from a clearance rack and the artist embellished them herself.
What is happening in the scene? It looks aggressive, as if something is happening to her.
The woman being filmed is a dancer named Akira Armstrong. She is the founder of the Pretty Big Movement dance company which specializes in Hip Hop, Jazz, and Ethnic dance.
Her movements are certainly aggressive. And the way it is filmed amplifies this mood and also creates an ominous atmosphere.
So she’s dancing?
Yes! Her feet are crammed into those high heeled be-jeweled shoes and splashing through silver paint while she kicks through a pane of glass in front of the camera.
What’s the significance of this work?
Minter often photographs fashion professionally and then critiques the industry in her fine art work. By having Armstrong wear shoes that are obviously too small she highlights issues like the association between beauty and pain.
At the same time, when a kick smashes through the glass that you may not have known was separating the viewer from the video, it's like "breaking the fourth wall," breaking down the barrier between art/entertainment and daily life.