Ars Simia Naturae
Is the Pygmalion and Galatea myth not about his prayers answered but hers? Was the myth about how she was objectified, identified with art and about how she captivated him to escape her captivity? As there was no sequel we’ll never know.
Once upon a time, women were though–by men of course–to be objects. Object that share sufficient properties with art that in quite a few circumstances the two could be considered interchangeable. One property being women’s and art’s worth was measure by an ever-changing standard of aesthetic beauty, i.e. a beauty independent of practical use, and paradoxically a second where both were used as currency, as a measure of wealth and power.
Artists don’t have to make art objects any more, they can make objects art often by simply declaring what they cobbled together as such–thank you, M. Duchamp. This sounds like anarchistic, but is really totalitarian. The art declarer must an official artist, an artist declared as such by the art establishment, you know those lovely plutocratic collectors who buy and sell art objects like they were sub-prime mortgages.
These collectors only value an art for its cash value i.e. the amount of money they can barter it for with other collectors. They don’t care about any other value the object could have, they could as well play this game with anything declared their captive “artists” declare art like urinals, unmade beds, or even cans of sh*t and they do.
So is it true these days that the artist–official and not–no longer tries to objectify a subject? Some do; artists who sell on spec to the above-mentioned collectors or do work-for-hire in the advertising, big media or porn industries do. They can live well, but are soon forgotten. Odd that it’s often the ones who resist and therefore live in obscurity and poverty are the ones who when are sufficiently long-dead replace the official artists as “establishment” darlings. If it were but a personal choice for artists to be of their time and well off or not and not; what would they do?
Back to P. and G. Can a woman still be an ideal subject for an art object? not sure it’s even an legit question as the words “ideal” and “subject” are ironic. An ideal is a “noumenon,” not an observable “phe-noumenon” of the physical realm and art–an art object–is as concrete–real not ideal–as it gets. And a subject; I’ve always thought it odd calling the content of an art object a subject. The content/subject of an art must be an object, how else could it be created or beheld? Even if the content is the form, for example paint on a canvas, or if it is a brain-state, (abstract expressionism) it is always the re-presentation of it is a physical thing.
Such content represented in an art object can be a pleasant thing like Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” or an unpleasant event, like Picasso’s “Guernica.” But pleasant or not, event or thing these objects need something universal in them in effect or affect. Something in the creator must hook up with the beholder. But also let art present–not “re” -present–objectification like Manet’s “Olympia.” Manet didn’t objectify Olympia or even Victorine Meurent; he objectified objectification. But I digress and will stop here.