In the December issue of the world’s best-selling fashion magazine, ELLE, readers are invited to “Meet Eight Women Changing the Art World Today.” (It’s also presented as an online slideshow). The writer, Linda Yablonsky, says it features “eight sexy, smart, funny women in art whom we’re lucky not to have to live without.” The eight women (Marilyn Minter, Clarissa Dalrymple, Julie Mehretu, Mickalene Thomas, Nathalie de Gunzbug, Jeanne Greenberg-Rohaytn, Ella Kruglyanskaya and Dominique Levy) have clearly achieved career success and deserve attention, but some feminists see the whole categorization as a step backwards. Would the piece have worked without glamorous glossy photos of these attractive women? Did equally talented but less photogenic artists miss the cut? Artists may generally share a common trait in being intelligent (the “smart” of the title), but “funny” and “sexy” too? Julian Schnabel isn’t.
Most surprising perhaps is the shot of Marilyn Minter, dubbed by Yablonsky as “The Erotic Thriller” who worked “for most of her career as an artist with a scarlet streak of feminism…(and) has subverted prevailing standards of beauty.” For one who “riffs on pornography and fashion” Minter seems like a natural-born model on the fashion shoot–if Mintner’s subverting prevailing standards here then so is Kate Moss! Yablonsky also gives artist Ella Kruglyanskaya a pro-wrestler nickname. As “The Body Politic” Kruglyanskaya makes “restless, cartoony paintings that depict vixens in slightly ridiculous situations.” (Wait, aren’t vixens, simply by virtue–so to speak–of being vixens, always in ridiculous situations?) Anyway, more power to these artists, if power is what they derive. This ELLE spread may be just another example of “tongue-in-cheek feminism”–where we’re expected to know it’s all wink-wink, I’m just going glam as a gag. Or it’s just an artistic example of the old advertising adage: sex sells.