Last semester I was introduced to Carolee Schneemann’s film Meat Joy (1964) in my US Art History class. It was one of the few pieces in the class which produced a visceral reaction in me - my notes from the piece read, “Another psychological rendering of space – what is public, what is private. Performance art. Challenge ideas of female sexuality. Body as art. Rubbed meats on bodies. Erotic, ritualized, repulsive, choreographed, spontaneous. Protest of instant gratification, capitalism and stuff.. Ugh”
While I was put off by the piece – which I have still not watched in its entirety – I also took more extensive notes on this work than any of the others of the day’s lecture. Schneemann’s work with meat, as an early feminist artist, contextualized the work I did last week in Stacy Asher’s Meet/Meat/Mete workshop. As I worked with Stacy and a few other women from Durham on meat collages, we discussed the relationship between meat and masculinity. But less often discussed is the relationship between meat and femininity.
The vast majority of vegans are women; women are also more commonly vegetarian than men are. Meat is a sexualized object: women are meat, men eat meat. All of the artists at the meat workshop were women. Most of the responses I received on my art were from women (multiple of whom expressed disgust at the subject matter, much like the distaste I felt watching part of Meat Joy).
Is the relationship between women and meat one of guilt? Meat is “bad for you” - in particular red meat is demonized, and this meat is also highly masculinized. My own relationship with meat is more related to my impressions of how the women around me relate to meat. To many of my friends, meat is immoral; to eat it is to disavow ecology and animal welfare. Other friends claim to no longer “enjoy” meat; subsequently I have watched them become thinner and thinner. My brief stint with vegetarianism ended when one of my close woman friends pointed out I was only assuaging my own guilt, and that if I actually cared about animal welfare my activism would be more significant than simply placating my own troubled feelings towards eating meat.
I’m no longer a vegetarian. My meat art collages hang on my dorm wall.
The works are displayed in pairs that make sense to me. All of them hang on Pantone color postcards in a sort of surrealist landscape. They’re made of clippings from grocery store advertisements glued onto Pantone color cards, which is to me another interesting connection between trendiness - a Pantone color card - and something not particularly trendy - cuts of meat.
BEDROOM, left. UNTITLED, right.
SISTERS, left. ME AND MY BOYFRIEND, right. SISTERS is a particularly special piece to me. It was fun to see how my sisters interacted with it: “Tag yourself I’m the runt,” wrote Daniela, and Celeste responded, “I’m the juicy one… I’m the tastiest.” These quotes make me laugh, but my sisters and I were also the only ones who identified in any way with the pieces.
UNTITLED, left. PEONY, right. I love both of these pieces. The contrast of the reddish purple and the green in the first piece is really beautiful to me and I love the color matching in PEONY.
DEEP COBALT, left. TWINS/SUNSHINE, right. TWINS/SUNSHINE I like because the two chickens in the picture are actually the exact same image, one is just larger than the other. Since Stacy Asher cut out all the meats from grocery fliers, I have no idea where each of the chickens came from.
October 2017. Newspaper clipping on Pantone color postcard.