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Dames Done Wrong E03: Nobody messes with Lynda!

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Welcome to Dames Done Wrong, where we handle misogyny, sexism and everyday douchebaggery throughout the ages. Most artists in museums might be male, but ladies rocked that paintbrush (or camera/chisel/etc.) JUST as hard. Whether the woman in question was murdered or simply overshadowed, whether her artwork got banned from the museum or maybe even stolen by the unfairer sex…you’ll read all the juicy details here.

Our third episode of Dames Done Wrong could be called “How to handle sexism in the workplace, by Lynda Benglis.” Her ways of fighting the male-dominated (art)world might not work for everybody, but it’s inspiring at least! Personally, I think Lynda is one of the most savage artists still alive today. 

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Dang!

Lynda is semi famous for publishing one of the first unsolicited dick-pics ever, but I’ll come back to that later. From the start, Lynda was doing her own thing. This wasn’t so much appreciated as it was stupidly ignored by the artworld.

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At first, Lynda was famous for pouring latex onto the floor (for which people keep comparing her to Pollock *sigh*). Yeah, they both threw paint on the ground, we get it! While Pollock believed in “the bigger the better,” there’s a whole lot more to Lynda’s work than just being big and bold. She was the first artist ever to create sculptures out of paint:

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Lynda Benglis in her Baxter Street studio w/ Night Sherbert in 1969.

Because of the (DayGlo)paint-latex combination, Lynda was able to create 3D artworks. She erased the line between painting and sculpture. Later on she made similar sculptures but would cast them in metal. Yet the art world continued ignored her innovative works. I mean, she was no Sol LeWitt or Donald Judd, so what was she thinking?

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Lynda made a sculpture called Contraband specially for the “Anti-Illusion: procedures/materials” exhibit at the Whitney museum. That sounds like the perfect exhibition for Lynda’s right? The museum did invite her personally to submit a work, but eventually her work was not welcome. Hmm I wonder why! *drumroll* her piece would have been installed a tad too close to to a “splash piece” by Richard Serra (and other paintings by popular cis-males.) Co-curator Marcia Tucker was afraid Lynda’s piece would distract from Serra’s piece. No joke.

Seriously.

They did offer her an alternative solution: installing the piece on a ramp near the museum’s entrance. Ugh, yeah riiiight. Lynda withdrew her work instead of letting it get marginalized. This left Eva Hesse as the only woman invited to the show.

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Obviously, Lynda was sick of this, so she decided to confront the the male-run artistic community. To make a long story short: the upcoming year she started raising the stakes of her public image in a series of escalating photos.

Her suggestive advertisement came to a climax in 1974. Mother Benglis said: “They’ll remember you for this.” And oh boy, did they! Lynda spent nearly $3,000 on a two-page spread in an edition of Artforum. So far nothing new, right? The photograph she used tho, was so “extremely vulgar” and “brutal,” five editors published a letter, publicly disassociating themselves from the issue. Guess you’re curious what kind of photo it was right? Well Lynda shot a selfie posing fully nude, oiled up…with a giant dildo. A glorious two-headed dildo to be precise.

CLICK HERE for a picture of the ad. Needless to say, it’s probably NSFW (unless you work at Sartle HQ).

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That’s a pretty awesome move in my book. They even blamed Lynda for ridiculing the penis. Because that’s all women do right? People mainly criticized her for shameless self promotion, conveniently forgetting all about Andy Warhol, king of shameless self-promotion.

Her mom was right though, no one forgot about Lynda or her photo ever again. Nowadays, whenever she gives a lecture on her work, she wont be using a photo of the ad:

“I don’t see any reason for it to be put there anymore. People ask me about it anyway.

She doesn’t care about it anymore, but that’s totally understandable. She has an incredibly broad and complex oeuvre, but all everyone wants to talk about is that one picture. A picture which she took because no one wanted to talk about her other work in the first place! And here I am talking about the photo, I KNOW…  But I do hope I’ve convinced you Lynda is not just that lady with the giant plastic wiener. 


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By: Silke

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Silke van de Grift

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