chapter
Introduction
Pages 9

This book examines the theories and conceptual frameworks that operatein and around art and aesthetics. It addresses these subjects from a feminist perspective, that is, with attention to the roles that gender plays in the formation and application of ideas about artworks, creativity, and aesthetic value. This approach assumes that images, representations, and crafted expression of ideas are important not only for their beauty, virtuosity, or intrinsic value, but also because they are indicators of social position and power. Wherever there is power there are disparities in the ways that it is employed, and art is an enterprise where sex and sexuality, gender and social position, and cultural authority all have formidable roles. Aesthetic power is often hidden or overlooked; when one thinks of aesthetic value, the qualifier “mere” is often implicit, indicating the presumption that practical or moral values not only take precedence over aesthetic value but are cleanly separable from the way something looks, sounds, feels, or communicates emotions and ideas. Arts programs are among the first items to be cut from municipal budgets; they are often classified as contributors to the “enrichment” of public life that may be eliminated without major loss, comparable to skipping dessert with no sacrifice of nutrition. This is a grave error; art and aesthetic taste are powerful framers of self-image, social identity, and public values.