How old is the male gaze? The term, which was coined by the British art critic John Berger in 1972 - and popularized by the film critic Laura Mulvey soon after - marks a half century this year. However, male objectification of female forms in art is, we can safely assert, a little more ancient. The female gaze, as both a concept, and a force within visual culture, is newer, and, perhaps consequently, far more vital. In these works, women artists give agency to female figures, and offer a different view of male subjects. If the works on your wall are showing a little gender bias, we thoroughly recommend you consider adding a few of these beautiful, valuable pieces.
Mickalene Thomas – Jet Blue #11 (2021)
In 2012, Mickalene Thomas’s mother died, and the artist inherited her mom’s box of Jet magazines. The 20th century African-American lifestyle publication included, alongside serious reportage, political coverage and fashion and beauty advice, some semi-nude glamor photography. For her recent series, Jet Blue, Thomas appropriated these images and others, to produce a set of works that offer the artist’s own meditation on the Black female body. The models in Jet’s shoots were anonymous, and, as Thomas put it earlier this year, “I like to think that I’m giving them agency over what’s revealed—it’s gazing into their eyes and speaking to them, having conversations with the image. Who are you? What are you doing? Where are you from?”