Free Essay Example: Race, Gender, Clan, and Class in Art

Published: 2024-01-14
Free Essay Example: Race, Gender, Clan, and Class in Art
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Race Gender Society Art Civil rights
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1773 words
15 min read


Throughout the history of mankind, people have been classified into racial, gender, clan, or class identities. The expression of these identities continues to be presented differently through the various generations and anthropological distinctions throughout history. In art, the different characterizations of people and communities have been described differently in various artistic circles. These characterizations of humans often form their personal identity. However, they may also trigger discrimination and prejudice based on misconceptions and stereotypes based on various racial, gender, or class identities. For instance, women are always expressed without clothes in most art museums as a stereotype for the sexualization of the gender. Nonetheless, these demographic groupings have expressed themselves in various forms throughout the prolonged human history (Belting, 2020).

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Through historical retrieval, historians and anthropologists have gathered significant thematic and aesthetic factors associated with various present and extinct cultures and clan characteristics. Art has often been employed in various forms to describe the characteristics and significance of different human classifications. The art may appear to either endorse or criticize the stereotypes around lifestyles and demographics. A variety of styles are often used in the art including realism, symbolism, idealism, and abstraction. The research hypothesizes that art may be used in multiple ways to portray significant characteristics and stereotypes of race, gender, clan, and class in society (Belting, 2020).

Race and Art

Art has always been used to express the deep relations between people and their races through various generations (Cotter, 2008). Race has always been described by proponents as the ideal medium through which we can express the otherness of humanity. Contrary to the popular mainstream narrative that race is a distraction from important societal issues, we must note that race assists in understanding our social realities. In American racial history, three important periods can be determined. These periods include the post–Civil Rights racial period, the moment of blackness (epitomized by the election of President Barack Obama), and the “Semitic Moment” characterized by campaigns against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia (Cotter, 2008). Iconography and visual culture have assisted in understanding and expressing the important turning points in racial history. Race in art assists in forming identity for various groups (Cotter, 2008). It also looks to challenge the growing stereotypes and media labels around the various groups of people. Some of the art representing race in various generations is presented in this sub-section.

The first popular art piece that expressed significant strides in racial relations in America is “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima.” This art piece became popular as a socio-political statement and symbol after the civil rights era. The liberation of Aunt Jemima was made in 1972 as a black heroine representing the black experience in civil rights America (Holloway, 2016). It represented a caricature of a female slave that embodied the derogatory forms through which blackness and feminist perspectives were expressed during slavery. The importance of this work of art transcended race and embodied such movements as the feminist movement in the later moments of the 20th century. The image is currently present in the Pacific Film Archive and Berkeley Art Museum as an inspiration for the revolutionary spirit. The figure evokes the spirit of the Black Panther Party leader as well as popular works in the pop art culture. It represented an intricate perspective in art that began to explore the complex framing of the aspects of being both black and female in America. As Figure 1 below displays, artist Betye Staar uses this image to question the long-held stereotypes and derogations around black women in America.

The second piece of art that expresses race relations and movement in America is the “Monarch Butterfly.” This fairly recent art piece by Peruvian native Monica Campana symbolizes the most talked about racial issue in modern-day America – immigration (Holloway, 2016). The art piece sends a powerful message of belonging for immigrants in Atlanta and in America.

“What Do They Call Me? My Name is Aunt Sarah” is another modern work of art that continues to send the powerful image of perception and the elements of power from our inner selves. It fights the popular perceptions that others as well as ourselves may put on ourselves. Artist Delphine Fawundu uses the powerful symbols presented and inspired by civil rights activist Nina Simone.

Finally, another example of racial art from the 1970s is the bold performance-art version of the black male stereotype in America by artist Adrian Piper (Holloway, 2016). In the artwork that accompanied the protest, the artist is seen dressed in a fake wig and mustache to embody the racial stereotypes around a black male in America. Black males were viewed in the civil rights era as muggers, gangstas, and hustlers. She intended, through art, to turn the widespread racial fears propagated against black men by the political forces into serious farce. In the process, she would question the pervasive fictions that were prevalent at the time while acknowledging the power they had on society (Holloway, 2016).

Clan and Art

Clans comprise of individuals that are linked by blood and common ancestry or by marriage ties. They often recognize the leadership of one powerful individual. Art has always been employed in preserving clan culture through generations. One example of such art is the Interior house post of 1907 by Shaughnessy. The portrait shows the popular rituals conducted in the clan when leadership changed hands. These clan art pieces were specific to specific clans and are presently studied in academic circles as conveyors of anthropological data from such clans and generations.

Gender and Art

Various cultures often outline what’s acceptable for each gender (Deepwell, 2019). Art from different generations therefore offers a picture of what such relations were during such eras. Such gender presentations are a result of the cultural processes that are often employed in defining social experiences based on our sexual and social identities. While gender is used to imply the representation of both sexes, popular literature often associates the concept with the female gender (Wolf, 2020). Perceptions of femininity and masculinity have been converted into art since the ages of antiquity. Such themes as gender relations and feminine fertility have remained within the bounds of visual arts for several centuries. The Paleolithic statuette Venus of Willendorf (c. 28,000–25,000 b.c.e.) was undoubtedly the first evidence of gender art. The female figure represents the symbolic concepts of fertility in females (Deepwell, 2019).

In male-dominated cultures, the gender arts often portray the concepts of power and weakness as well as sexuality. Queen of the Night from the Mesopotamian deity is an illustration of the benevolence and power of the genders at a time when gender representations favored males (Wolf, 2020). The Egyptian relief of Tel el Amarna from 1335 B.C.E further expresses the genders in society through the concepts of intellectual and emotional engagement. The portrait outlines the symbolic representations of power and superiority (Deepwell, 2019).

Class and Art

Art has undoubtedly been used in class representations throughout history (Woods, 2001). Since the prehistoric period, the art concept has been a domain of noblemen and powerful members of society (Wolf, 2020). The economic attachment of art has been explored since ancient times. The East African Maasai tribe, for instance, viewed wealth and beauty through commodities such as cattle. Women´s beauty within the tribe was thus expressed through their possession of copper accessories (Woods, 2001).

The current state of scholarship

Presently, art has remained a domain for expression in various demographics and social realities (Sunderason, 2020). The freedom in art allows it to critique and appraise the various societal evils and occurrences that impact social and cultural establishments. In America, race relations remain the most significant and contentious relationship in popular culture and in the arts. As such, the artistic expressions that portray significant strides in American reality deal with the complex and highly interwoven racial factors within society (Patrizio, 2020). The artists involved in exploring such iconographic and artistic presentations often express fearlessness and boldness in questioning established belief systems and biases. Through various ambitious art pieces, such movements as the feminist and civil rights movements found their voice and backing in hostile environments. Artists and researchers always claim that art possesses the ability to challenge the value systems of various individuals by communicating to their emotional and intellectual senses (Patrizio, 2020).

In present and past literature, art in race, class, gender, clan, and class has assisted in gaining a futuristic approach to preserving notable cultural assets and questioning undesirable social trends (Sunderason, 2020). They thus communicate various levels of commonality and change from one distinct paradigm to the next (Sunderason, 2020). Scholars in arts continue to recover and name the various art pieces and themes through various generations. Through multidisciplinary approaches, these authors establish the roles of such art pieces in furthering the iconographic and symbolic statuses of these historic paintings. Undoubtedly, research and artistic expressions in present and future societies shall continue to gather pace and preserve the cultural attachments associated with such artistic expressions (Patrizio, 2020).


While aiming to understand the role of art in past and future societal representations, it is essential that we investigate the present artworks in such demographic regions as race, clan, class, and gender. The research approach shall thus involve both narrative and artistic reviews of present and past artworks in these domains. In the narrative approach, the author shall investigate the stories behind the artwork. In addition to such historical characterizations, the author shall also retrace the artworks through their online and physical museums and libraries. A close examination of such pieces of art shall thus be used to analyze their symbolic statuses and thematic nature. From such close analysis, the author shall then gain knowledge about the inspirations behind such works of art as well as the prevailing circumstances that created them.


As already described in this piece, arts have been used throughout human history to characterize the concepts of wealth, race relations, and clanship and gender relations (Belting, 2020). In the civil rights era, artworks were presented in both controversial and bold methods to question the established and largely racist and discriminatory values. Such presentations made art to be a preserve of black and female liberals whose intentions were for equality and respect for different-ness. As such, art was used during such monumental periods in US history as a weapon for expressing the human realities and mocking established stereotypes. Reeling from the slave and segregation eras, the black culture felt the need to develop alternative characterizations of the black experience. Such fight towards equality and civility allowed for the eruption of more civil rights expressions in art and popular culture.

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