Die Waldaff by Niki de Saint PhalleThe French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, raised in New York, is best known for her Nana or women figures, which represents the “Archetype of an all-powerful woman. These huge sculptures of paper mache, painted with bright colors, and exaggerated body parts, depict a women with an emphasized bust, and minimized head. Though Niki may say that the sculptures represent “an all-powerful” woman, I want to look at this sculpture through Freud’s psychoanalysis Theory. The psychoanalysis theory will allow me to discover the hidden messages within the sculpture. In Saint-Phalle’s Die Waldaff sculpture, the small head and full curves, may symbolize how women’s bodies are objectified, and portions of the female physique are only of importance, versus to the individual’s intellectuality.
Classic pieces of literature that invokes the same idea is “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Perkins Gilman. In the article, “Trapped and Silenced: Claustrophobic Fear in The Yellow Wallpaper and The Handmaid’s Tale” by Wang Fanghui focuses on both the main characters, Jane and Offred, who fear the position of being held captive and are silenced by patriarchal authority. In The Yellow Wallpaper, Jane who suffers from Post-partum depression is told by her husband (a physicians) to follow the famous “rest cure” treatment, where it involves her resting in isolation doing nothing. The only thing she actually does is secretly write in her diary, and often stares at the ugly yellow wallpaper that is in her room, which eventually drives her to insanity.
In The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred is a sex slave to the Commander of the Gilead, who runs a misogynistic totalitarian government, and was confined to his living quarters. Due to the high percentage of infertile women in the society, those who were able to bear children were made to be handmaids, in other words, sex slaves. Similar to Jane, women in Gilead were not legally allowed to read or write; it was believed that men were the only ones with the right to access this knowledge. If caught doing these actions, women received severe punishment. Fanghui wanted to explore the fears which both women faced in a patriarchal society, where both women were pushed into a limited domestic space, keeping them under surveillance, and strict control.
There is all sorts of mediums where society prefers a woman’s body over mind. Women express themselves through poems, art, literature, etc describing the silencing of their ideas, opinions, and beliefs. A poem which describes a women being silenced by a patriarchal society is “Silence” by By Bella Akhmadulina.
Who was it that took away my voice?
The black wound he left in my throat
Can’t even cry.
March is at work under the snow
And the birds of my throat are dead,
Their gardens turning into dictionaries.
I beg my lips to sing.
I beg the lips of the snowfall,
Of the cliff and the bush to sing.
Between my lips, the round shape
Of the air in my mouth.
Because I can say nothing.
I’ll try anything
For the trees in the snow.
I breathe. I swing my arms. I lie.
From this sudden silence,
Like death, that loved
The names of all words,
You raise me now in song.
“Trapped and Silenced: Claustrophobic Fear in The Yellow Wallpaper and The Handmaid’s Tale” by Wang Fanghui
“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Perkins Gilman
History of Modern Art by H. H. Arnason and Elizabeth C. Mansfield