Director Shelly Silver takes a simple premise – to interview young women about the art they are seeing in a gallery – and creates an absorbing commentary on female representation and its effects.
Girls/Museum is like spending a meditative hour in an art gallery with a young friend. The quiet spaces and eclectic art becomes a journey through different centuries. Girls talk to camera, giving their impression of art from the 16th century on. They talk about the female figures, what they think is hapening, who the person is, what they might be thinking, who they would like to be in the painting and the gender of the artist. It is all fresh, guileless and from the heart. In talking of the paintings, we find out about the young women; gender dysphoria, the difference between Germany and Afghanistan and belief in God.
Slowly, the fact that nearly all the paintings are by men becomes apparent to the young women. They struggle with this, all feeling somehow it’s not right but that it must be okay if such a venerable art museum so obviously says it is. One girl says men are better painters and that women’s paintings are too messy. Another says “I don’t know why there are so many breasts in art” and she’s right.
It is a strength of the documentary that there is no exposition and the girls are allowed to speak their minds without correction or explanation. It is a fascinating insight into the art and representation that has formed their view of themselves, their bodies, their world and their opportunities.
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