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Hors-d'oeuvres : ornamental decoration and gender


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Daw, Robyn 1999 , 'Hors-d'oeuvres : ornamental decoration and gender', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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In this thesis I propose to make explicit the historical basis of the connection
between ornamental decoration and the feminine and reveal this as not just something
inherently 'female', but a product of historical conventions and interpretation. I wish
to show how this has impacted on the way artists and theorists have approached
ornamental decoration, its reception in the public domain, and how contemporary
artists have achieved a critical approach that both relies upon and is distinct from
previous artists' and critics' interpretations. The 'feminine' is as much an historical
construction as the link between it and ornamental decoration: neither are biologically
determined. Yet it is still difficult to dissuade viewers from this assumption.
In order to achieve my aims, this thesis investigates the evolution of the link between
ornament and the feminine through an analysis of the terms 'ornament' and
'decoration' and traces the history of the feminisation and subsequent denigration of
ornamental decoration through a discussion and comparison of historical and modern
writers on the subject. It addresses how ornament has become connected to the
feminine and indicates the implications for artists who choose to use it. It also
investigates various attempts to reinsert ornamental decoration into contemporary
visual art, paying specific attention to the exploitation of the 'feminine', and the
critical reception of these attempts.
What is revealed is that, even when ornamental decoration is used to critique or
subvert the historical construction that gave rise to the dichotomy, often it serves to
reinforce its reductive, essentialist position, to the extent that it remains problematic
for women artists to use it without being perceived solely as taking a 'feminine'
position, and falling victim to the dichotomies that have denigrated it as trivial and
extrinsic to form.
Through investigating contemporary visual art and theory, particularly those which
suggest alternative models for approaching the construction of gender, I propose a
possible direction by which the dichotomy that sees ornamental decoration as
extrinsic to form, can be transcended.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Daw, Robyn
Keywords: Sex role in art, Decoration and ornament
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1999 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Vol. 2 contains appendices I and II. Library has additional copy on microfiche. Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1999

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