Famous feminist critic dies at 69 – ARTnews.com

bell hook, a writer and thinker whose writing on Black art, feminism, and identity inspires legions in academia and beyond, has passed away. Berea University, the Kentucky school where hooks was a professor and home to the institute named after her, said she passed away at the age of 69 on Wednesday. The Washington Post report The cause of death was end-stage renal failure.

Since the ’70s, hooks has been writing essential essays and poetry on a wide range of topics, many related to the inner lives of Black women and her own experiences. These essays are influential not only because of their ground-breaking subject matter — which, as she began to write, was largely not set in a white-led academic space — but also because of their style. In lush, elegant prose, combining theory and poetry, personal and political, academic and vernacular.

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A prolific writer with more than 40 published books, her acclaimed writings made space for Black women at a time when many white feminists did not believe that race had anything to do with race. their cause. Am I not a woman? Black women and feminism, whose title refers to a famous speech on Sojourner’s Truth, was written when hooks was a college student in the 70s, but it didn’t get in the press until 1981. It advocated the understanding that there can be no race, gender and class. considered apart, and that “the struggle to end apartheid and the fight to end sexism were intertwined,” as she wrote.

“We, black women who support feminism, are the pioneers,” she writes at the end of the book. “We are clearing the way for ourselves and our sisters. We hope that they see us achieving our goals — no more victims, no more recognition, no more fear — they will courageously follow.”

She also applies that pure prose to the art she sees. Her 1995 book Art on My Mind: Visual Politics features interviews with artists like Carrie Mae Weems, Emma Amos and Alison Saar, as well as hooks’ own thoughts on the role in her life. She implied that the arts can have revolutionary potential, even for the Black community, whose members, she believes, often see the field as something separate from their lives. .

She writes in the first chapter of the book: “Taking our cues from the mainstream white culture, blacks tend to see art as completely unimportant in the struggle for survival. “Art as propaganda was and is acceptable, but not art related to any old subject, content, or form. And black people who think there can be some artwork because art is for black people, well, they’re seen as out of place, apolitical. As a result, black leaders rarely included in their vision of black emancipation the need to sustainably assert creative expression and freedom in the visual arts. Much of our political focus on image has to do with the issue of good and bad images. Indeed, many people think the problem of separating black from art is simply a matter of misrepresentation, not enough images, not enough visible black artists, not enough reputable galleries. to display their work. ”

While the focus in Art on My Mind mostly black women, as has happened in other works by hooks, she also periodically turns her attention to men, especially Jean-Michel Basquiat. About him, in an essay originally published by Art in America In 1993, she Written, “To testify in his work, Basquiat struggled to utter the unspeakable.” Quickly, her prose became a conversation. She wrote about how a Whitney Museum retrospective described him as “the random stereotypical black man who made love to white women,” and then concluded that Basquiat had taught one important thing: “we are more than our pain”.

Swinging between writer modes like this – and still is – was unique in art essays. hooks describes it as a necessary strategy, saying it could take the theory beyond academia. She told Lawrence Chua in 1994: “Part of the challenge for rebellious intellectuals, especially those of us who are artists in this society, is to withdraw from the academia and academy. Bomb interview.

In 2006, hooks discussed the topic further in a series of conversations with artist and scholar Amalia Mesa-Bains, titled Homegrown: Participatory Cultural Criticism, which also addresses the role of art and activism, feminist symbols, etc. In the book’s foreword, hooks says, “This conversation should nurture others. … And by actions like these, which are forms of activity, we deny the notion that as intellectuals and cultural workers we are at odds with the world in which we come. . And I agree with you – in this project we are thinking about solidarity and the connection between Black culture and Latino culture. “

hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in 1952. Raised by a working-class family, she says, has given her a different voice on topics that she says. she will deal with later, she went on to attend Stanford University for her bachelor’s degree. and the University of Wisconsin – Madison for a Master’s degree In 1978, for a book of poems called And then we were, she adopted the bell hook alias in reference to her great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. The unusual lowercase stylization also marks an attempt to “emphasize the importance of her typeface instead of who she is,” she once wrote.

As the text of hooks became popular, it was widely read by artists and more. But not everyone is seduced by it. In a famous article published by Village voice in 1995, critic Michele Wallace wrote, “Everybody knew that computer rhetoric became a problem, and Hooks made herself the queen of computer rhetoric. Without the cryptic phrases of pc code, ‘white supremacy,’ ‘patriarchal domination,’ and ‘self-healing,’ Hooks could not have written a sentence. “

Hooks posts and public appearances often include comments that appear to be designed to provoke. In 1996, in a Artforum essay, she wrote, “Finally, let us pretend that there is no racism – no sexism – that anyone who speaks out about oppression is just whining and should be silent, no one listens. That was the message of 1996.” And in the book Killing Rage: End Racism, published the year before, she talked about her desire to kill a white man sitting next to her while she was writing.

At its core, the text of hooks is still widely read because of its openness. “When I find myself frustrated by the thoughtlessness behind so many images created by our dominant film and television culture, I turn to the fascinating complexity of bell’s writing. — a challenge equal to the difficulty of creating an image,” said artist Isaac Julien Written in Artforum. Countless other artists have drawn inspiration from hooks over the years.

hooks seemed to speak volumes for her entire practice when, in a 1996 interview with artist and filmmaker Camille Billops, she said, “If we’re always afraid of judgment, we can never take the risks that make it possible for us to get full self-actualization.”

https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/bell-hooks-dead-1234613659/ Famous feminist critic dies at 69 – ARTnews.com

Yasmin Harisha

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