Surrealist concepts to overcome the subject-object split, instead of fetishizing the female body.
She commenced with changing her name from Lucy Schwob to Claude Cahun. Claude is not a gender-specific name, and Cahun was her Jewish grandmother’s last name. By renaming herself, Cahun renounced gender differences and bestowed self-confidence in her Jewish ancestry in spite of the dangers that Jews faced during World War II. Her self-portraits are arms of her reality. These illustrations request “the gaze that had become conventional to developing women and subvert the social and sexual authority in which the artist was quintessentially male and his material female.
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By removing barriers dividing genders, and the lines separating the active subject and the enduring object, Cahun defied male Surrealist’s ideas while rigorously following Surrealist principles. She rebelled against gender stereotypes and joined the split within subject and object without yielding into any of the Surrealist ideas for women, which is why, despite her groundbreaking work, the Surrealists never accepted her as a member of their movement.By examining and exhibiting her own image without admiring it, Cahun took the power of substantiating women away from men and persuaded another woman to do the same. For example, in her self-portrait with the mirror, Cahun wears a man’s coat and haircut, and instead of seeing in the mirror, she looks directly at her viewer. By doing so, “she challenges the conventional notion of a woman’s relationship with her mirror as an expression of feminine vanity. More importantly, she disrupts the fixed contradictions of gender difference and the privileging gaze of men by explicating that she is not simply the object of a gaze.14 She asks her readers to look at her as she is, a confident, unique, transgender figure. Like Kahlo, Cahun brings “to the surface previously hidden or feared aspects of the self, thereby empowering women’s ability to create a more liberated self-definition, a definition that allows s for multiplicity and paradox.
“15 In this way, she owns her position as an independent and strong subject with many aspects of her personality. She portrays herself as untainted by any societal or gender restrictions, and in doing so, she builds a way for other women to cut through the objectification that is set on them. Cahun overcomes the subject-object split through her art, by providing the same amount of power to the model, as she gives to the photographer. In her commitment, she turns the ordinary object into a subject and inspires others to do the same.