Media tagged Historical

Frida Kahlo - NPR

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In this interview with Judy Chicago, the artist discusses a book she wrote with art historian Frances Borzello about the paintings of Frida Kahlo. Chicago describes the project as an effort to assert Kahlo's place in an otherwise "male centered" art history. She describes a systematic erasure of female painters from the "mainstream narrative" art history such that only 3-5% of the works in permanent museum collections were executed by female artists and only 2.5% of solo publications concern female artists. While reviewing the existing literature on Kahlo, Chicago was aggravated to find that many authors interpreted Kahlo's paintings as reactions to events in her relationship with her husband Diego Rivera. To counter this view of female artists as always "re-active," Chicago and Borzello set out to consider the full body of Kahlo's work outside of conventional art historical concerns. By addressing Kahlo as an artist with agency and self-direction, Chicago reveals aspects of art and art-making that are generally kept invisible.

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Get Smart - The Claw

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This clip comes from a 1965 episode of Get Smart titled “Diplomat’s Daughter.” In it, Agent Maxwell Smart meets the villain The Claw, who is supposed to be Chinese. The Claw is played by white actor Leonard Strong, who was known for playing Asian roles. This clip is demonstrative of early television depictions of Asian people and cultures, with stereotypical and exaggerated accent, clothing, and behavior, and white actors in “yellow face.” The main source of humor in this clip is drawn from the stereotypical accent, as The Claw does not correctly pronounce his own name in English. Smart picks up on this, and refers to The Claw as “Mr. Craw” throughout the entirety of the clip. The clip also demonstrates Orientalist-like notions regarding the savagery of the East, with its portrayal of “Chinese bamboo stalks under the fingernails torture.”

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Gone with the Wind - Mammie

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Directed by Victor Fleming, produced by Selznick International Pictures, and based on a 1936 novel by Margarett Mitchel, 1939's Gone with the Wind is generally recognized as one of the greatest films of all time. Set in the 1800s in the American South, it tells the story of the Civil War and Reconstruction period from a white southern perspective. In this scene, the protagonist, Scarlett (Vivien Leigh), is getting dressed for a barbeque with the help of her house slave and maid, Mammy (Hattie McDaniel). Mammy is depicted as servile but stern, strict but loving. McDaniel went onto win the Academy Award for her role, the first African American to do so. She was forced to sit at a racially segregated table during the ceremony.

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Hollywood Chinese

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Hollywood Chinese is a 2007 documentary by Academy Award winner Arthur Dong that surveys the representations of Chinese and other Asian citizens throughout the history of American cinema. Topics include the general invisibility of Asians in popular films, the use of white actors to portray Asian characters, and the common stereotypes that are repeatedly associated with Asian characters in these portrayals. Dong’s film features clips from almost 100 films as well as interviews with actors, directors, and writers who have wrestled with the “tangled history of race and representation” that characterize the presence of Chinese and other Asian Americans in US cinema.

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Louisville Flood

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In early January 1937, the Ohio River began to flood. By the end of the month, more than seventy percent of Louisville, Kentucky was under water. Thousands of people were displaced from their homes, businesses were destroyed, and the geography of the city permanently shifted east, outside of the flood plain. In this photograph, taken by Margaret Bourke-White for Time magazine, a line of displaced people--adults and children, all of them Black--wait in line for food and dry clothing in front of an enormous billboard. In a terrible irony, the billboard depicts an idealized American family driving through a bucolic Midwestern scene beneath the words, "World's Highest Standard of Living." Over time, Bourke-White's photo has been used to represent the wealth disparity and precarious socio-economic conditions of the Great Depression.

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