The Threatening Yet Impotent Female - Frances Goodman

Updated: Apr 4, 2019

Ophiophillia by Frances Goodman

Artist Profile

  • Frances Goodman was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is considered to be "one of South Africa’s strong artistic voices on feminism".

  • Goodman is a mixed-media artist whose work consists of installations, photography, and sculptures.

  • Her work circulates around themes of beauty and desire in relation to women. Goodman seeks to illustrate elements of the female identity and "the anxieties that manifest and are cultivated from the bombardment of the media as well as societal expectations and pressures"

2014 Nail Her Exhibition ~ Goodman Gallery

The 2014 solo exhibition, "Nail Her", consisted of works that delineate the true nature of female oppression from both an external and internal perspective with respect to women. False nails (along with false eyelashes) are common symbols among all works featured in the exhibition; Goodman incorporated this notable accessory to "signify a culture of excess and transience".

“Some of the sculptures are abstract and consider ideas of oozing, spreading, and writhing. Others suggest snakes and scaled creatures” ~ Frances Goodman

The layering and overlapping of nails in Goodman's sculptures alludes to the idea of movement and produces a menacing and predatory figure; however, this allusion is overpowered by the sculptures' stagnant, fragile, and impotent attributes. In this century, women continue to be viewed as ineffectual and fragile. Though despite this popular belief, Goodman's artistic pieces suggest that women have the potential to be as ferocious and cunning as men are in the workforce or society in general.

2011 Till Death Us Do Part Exhibition ~ Goodman Gallery

In her "Till Death Us Do Part" solo exhibition, Goodman "veils and unveils the pressures, anxieties and expectations women feel and in turn exert on themselves". Her works are primarily concerned with broken relationships and the instinctive responses women have to those types of relationships. When women are without a companion or lose one, they often feel obligated to retaliate or express themselves in ways that are popular to a specific mentality. This is conveyed through the writings displayed on car bonnets; Goodman mentioned that “cars are people’s avatars these days [...] when you want to lash out at people, you go for their cars”.

There exists another installation (bottom right) in the exhibition which is a canopy of bridal fabrics that hang in a cloud-like formation. The fabrics display writings that were obtained from interviews Goodman conducted with numerous single South African women. These utterly honest opinions and feelings reveal the societal pressures inflicted upon unmarried women.

Frances Goodman explores the anxieties that South African women encounter at home and in a professional environment. Threatening to control women's behavior, relationships, and even their way of thinking, these expectations writhe and bite, just like Goodman's snakes.


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