First-Year Students View Film as Part of Shared Academic Experience

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All first-year students at Moore gathered Tuesday to watch a film as part of a "shared experience" to help them engage with each other outside the classroom.

The event was a result of a collaboration between Foundation, Liberal Arts and Student Services to encourage students to discuss art and the role women play as artists, not only throughout history but also in the here and now.

The students viewed “a woman like that,” a 90-minute film about provocative 17th century Italian female artist Artemisia Gentileschi. In “a woman like that,” filmmaker Ellen Weissbrod merges her own coming of middle-age story with her pursuit of the truths behind the legends of painter Gentileschi’s meaningful art and dramatic life.

Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the first female artists to achieve recognition in her own time. Her life story includes a famous rape trial when she was 17 years old, and a career as a working, professional artist. She told stories of women as heroes, from history, mythology and the Bible.

“This film is about a female artist making art in the 17th century,” Lynn Palewicz, chair of Foundation, told students. “I want you to watch this film carefully and ask – does this film still resonate today? What can I take away from this film as a contemporary artist and designer?”

Weissbrod, who was in attendance at the screening, answered questions from students following break-out groups where they discussed the film in depth. This was the first time Weissbrod screened the film at an all women’s college – “it’s very exciting for me,” she said.

“I thought about all these young women trying to be artists and seeing a film about a young artist 400 years ago, who started at 17 years old,” Weissbrod said. “…There’s a lot to learn from Artemisia – what she succeeded at and what she didn’t.”

“a woman like that” is the first personal documentary directed by Weissbrod, who has been working in film for close to 30 years. In 2002, fascinated by Gentileschi’s story, Weissbrod decides to take a risk and make her own work – but is mysteriously denied permission to film the once-in-a-lifetime retrospective of Gentileschi and her painter father Orazio at the St. Louis Art Museum. Undeterred, she dons a spy camera and goes ‘undercover,’ secretly filming the exhibition. This bold act sets her on a five-year journey, as she travels to Italy, where curators and collectors open their museums and homes.

The journey of “searching” for Gentileschi was a transformative one, Weissbrod told students at the screening.

“I’m a pretty shy person,” she said. “It was very transformative for me to be in front of the camera. It changed me a lot. Doing the film by myself without a crew, etc… it was a little daunting.”

Weissbrod said she was continuously inspired by Gentileschi’s “self-power.”

“If she could do this in the 17th century… It meant a lot to me to tell her story. I didn’t want to let her down. I had to keep going.”

Dyamond Grier, a first year student who screened the film, agreed.

"She created these amazing paintings in the 17th century with so little tools to use,” Grier said. “If she can do that, then the possibilities are endless as to what we can do in this day and age with

Student Lydia Walsh called the film "an eye-opening experience."

"It really brought to my attention that no matter the time period, women all over were putting themselves out there to become successful," she said. "Artemisia was so bold and willing to say what she wanted to be noticed. I hope that I can become that strong and persistent about showing my artwork someday."

Weissbrod said she hoped Moore students took away an important lesson from the film: “You have to be passionate about what you want to say and do and do it, otherwise you’ll just feel disappointed,” she said. “If you don’t say it, nobody else will. We need more women artists.”

Students will continue building a relationship to Gentileschi and the film "a woman like that" in their first-year classes including Liberal Arts, Art History and Drawing, Palewicz said.

“This film in particular was a great way for students to begin to explore who they are as artists and citizens of the world through a different lens,” said Ruth Robbins, dean of students. “The experience provided opportunities to think critically about history, art history, art, women’s issues, etc., and allowed students to explore their own identity in relation to those issues.”



Published on September 13th, 2013