Constructing a feminist gaze?

Portrais by Karl Glave
Originally uploaded by killerfemme.

Another favorite at the Petra Projects U-Turn show, Karl Glave’s small, painted portraits. There’s something almost classical about them and their position on this shelf reminds me somehow of an alter or mantle piece. The solid backgrounds isloate you with the subjects’ gaze. I felt myself wanting to have a conversation with these women, wondering about their relationship with the artist, the challenges in their life and how they found strength to overcome them.
Thinking about gaze though, most of the artists in this show were men and most of the subjects female, many scatily clad or naked. It brings up those age old questions of subject and object, active and passive. It kind of shook me because I felt like there’s much strength in many of the women portrayed, while at the same time they are constrained by the canvas and remade how the artist (male gaze) wants to see them. I think I’d also like to see different (feminist) approaches to portraiture as well. What does a feminist gaze (as opposed to “female” gaze, as it’s debatable that such a thing exists) look like? Can we “gaze” in a feminist manner, or do we use feminism as a lens with which to examine?