What we learned about feminist art on Dior Talks

One of the world’s top fashion houses launched a podcast dedicated to feminist art back on Mar. 8, International Women’s Day. With Maria Grazia Chiuri as the Creative Director of the Dior’s Women’s collections, her interest in feminist theory has bled through the designs of the brand’s recent collections. Now, that commitment to the incorporation of women’s issues in art is front and center in “Dior Talks,” an audio series that aims to start empowered dialogue and amplify the voices of artists and curators such as visual artist Tracey Emin and author Paola Ugolini.

The podcast intro includes a voiceover of Maria Grazia Chiuri saying that only by giving voice to creativity can you move in the future and have a conversation with a new generation of women. The series is hosted by Katy Hessel, a London-based art historian and mastermind behind @thegreatwomenartists on Instagram. She engages the featured artists in a discussion of their work and the significance of feminist art. Here’s what you need to know about the first two episodes of “Dior Talks.” 

Maria Grazia Chiuri on how feminist art has shaped her creativity

The show starts with Katy Hessel and Maria Grazia Chiuri strolling through the famed Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris filled with statues of women throughout history. The Italian designer opened up about being born into a progressive family and growing up at the height of feminist activism. She didn’t have to look too far for her feminine heroes. Her mother was in charge of a dressmaking atelier. Seeing how supportive her father was of this independence made her aware of the possibility of married couples to build something together. She was encouraged to pursue fashion by the Fendi sisters. She also mentioned her love for Italy and how the city’s architecture evokes a sense of history living all together.  For her, it is important to see life from a different point of view. 

The interview moved to Maria Grazia Chiuri’s office at the Dior headquarters. There she talked about how her work is about celebrating women and asking other artists to celebrate women with her. Her office decor is full of feminist art that are worth examining. She refers to the pieces as souvenirs to remember specific moments of her life. Hessel points out several things such as a magazine cover of Jennifer Lawrence on Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” shirt and a photo of Chiuri’s daughter Rachele in the Linda Nochlin “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” top. She spoke of clothing as a platform that subjects the wearer to a change of consciousness. She connects this art portraying a naked woman’s body by adding that it’s important for women to be free to make decisions about their bodies. Dior recognizes this and is serious in celebrating women.

Judy Chicago on how working with Dior brought a long-planned feminist art project to fruition

The second episode features American first-generation feminist artist Judy Chicago who collaborated with Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior’s spring/summer 2020 haute couture show.  Her art utilizes a “female aesthetic that challenges male domination and celebrates often overlooked achievements of women.” Compared to the angular style of her male contemporaries in the ’60s, her work was a splash of color with suggestive curves to invoke female power. She is joined once again by Katy Hessel. This time in the Musée Rodin, the setting for the Dior show. Chicago explains that the backdrop she created was a giant installation called “The Female Divine.” The carpet of millefleur leading to a space bathed in golden hue was her way of establishing a sacred space. The catwalk led to a giant banner asking “What if women ruled the world?” Similar banners adorned the hall with similar questions. These were made by women from a Dior-supported school located in India where men typically do the embroidering. Before the show, Dior also hosted a dinner to facilitate a discussion about the commitment to women and their global movement of awakening. 

Chicago shares that this project is a continuation of a stalled one. She laments that women are in a cycle of continual pushback. Women in the United States have to fight for abortion all over again. She considers the absence of her work in foremost art museums a portrait of institutional resistance. Her early work tried to conform to the machine-like, supposed genderless approach of her male contemporaries. After being a victim of sexist exclusion, she firmly stuck to the language of feminism. She emphasized the importance of having positive role models at a time when retrograde strongmen are on seats of power. 

The fashion industry is becoming increasingly woke. It’s time we realize that art isn’t just a commodity, it’s a platform for political agenda and social reform.

 

 

Art by Tricia Guevara

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