< Back to 'Strong Women' Page

STRONG WOMEN

The following is taken from the text by Susanne Jakob which accompanied the exhibition ‘Strong Women’ at Galerie Im Heppächer, Esslingen, Germany in 1991.

In her book 'The Second Sex' (1968) the French writer Simone de Beauvoir deplores the role and function of women in the arts with the following words: 'She is an Object not a Subject, a Creature not a Creator of Art History. She is never Herself.' Christine Kowal Post has proved this thesis wrong in more ways than one. She achieves this on the one hand through her works which are the result of a long and continuous involvement with art, and on the other hand through her own personal and critical attitude. She leads the way with an alternative form of perception; her woodcarvings challenge stereotypical patriarchal ideologies.

Christine Kowal Post offers a female perspective, the development of which has been successfully obstructed for centuries, and remains so. She wanders through culture and art history, questioning the myths and rituals of the past, armed with a different mode of perception and with a subversive and critical methodology.

As a woodcarver she is part of a long artistic tradition, which extends from the earliest pre-historical workings in wood, the tribal art of Africa , the works of Riemenschneider and Veit Stoss, to the neo-expressive art of the twentieth century. Likewise, the pale, soft limewood with which she prefers to work also has a long history of its own, and has qualities which make it an ideal wood for carving. From this soft limewood the figurative motif is peeled out of the tree trunk, not through a powerful violation of the material, but rather through a systematic and disciplined working of the wood, the even structure and surface of which is worked with chisels.

The fundamental method underlying the creation of her wood sculptures is not purely eclectic, it is at the same time also critical. This critical perception becomes clear in particular through her reference to mythical material and to a repertoire of art-historical symbols, by borrowing from these traditional symbols but without adopting their traditional assertions.

As the example of Leda and the Swan demonstrates, the critical material undergoes a critical analysis, a humorous reinterpretation and re-evaluation. The god Zeus, by profession the ever-changing and transforming seducer of Greek mythology is clearly becoming the victim of a seductive femme-fatale! Leda is attended by a lively chorus of singing, music-making and wildly gesticulating heralds who noisily announce Leda's triumphant victory over the exhausted swan. According to their postures and gestures the cheeky putti seem to have mainly materialised from out of Baroque paintings.

In Christine Kowal Post's sculptures we are confronted by an upside-down world where preconceived patriarchal attitudes and expectations, traditional role assignments and even biological interpretations of the female no longer have any place. Hers are altogether 'tough and strong' women, determined, fearless, self- confident and in a wonderful way cunning, without however abandoning their intrinsic femininity and their function as women - as is made clear in the piece 'Votive Females'.

Another group of carved 'heroines' bravely overcomes its collective fears - such as that for wild animals, and transgresses the traditional allocation of roles in a humorous and modern way. Eve, known as the cause of man's downfall is now bold and coquettish and uses the green and poisonous snake to help her in her keep-fit programme. 'Strong Woman' fearlessly lifts a dangerous looking green crocodile as though lifting weights in a fitness studio.

In 'Two Female Figures' two unlikely balancing females no longer expose their naked bodies, humble and humiliated, to the male voyeur, but openly and intimately they busily inspect, compare and discover their own womanly attributes. Christine Kowal Post's 'new women' not only demonstrate their self-confidence through their daring actions, but with vision and a new awareness of their bodies they take the offensive.

Susanne Jakob M.A.

Curator, Kunst im Schloss, Neuhausen A.D.F.

Website design by Fantod Design of Abingdon