Blogger women left to right: Kathy Cartwright, Margaret Ryall, Carolyn Abrams
Here we are at the Clark Museum in Williamstown, Mass! It was wonderful spending time with these very LOVELY ladies over lunch. We discussed our backgrounds in art, process, and ideas for the future. The only thing that could have improved our day is if YOU had joined us!
Returning to Cynthia Freeland's book, But is it art?, I've reached chapter five and a fascinating (and timely) discussion about the "Guerilla Girls." This is a group of radical feminist visual artists who emerged in New York City twenty-five years ago and are known for placing posters all over the city to protest the gender and racial imbalance of artists represented in galleries and museums. They've expanded their mission since then to include cinema as well. An anonymous group, they assume the names of deceased female artists and number somewhere about 100.
I you want to know more, they have a website at http://www.guerillagirls.com/.
Why does Freeland mention this group in her book? It's because she wants to answer the question: is gender relevant to art - to work an artist makes, or to meaning? And - what about sexual orientation? In my opinion, these are both good questions. One of the Guerilla Girls posters from 1989 asks "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?" In other words, only paintings and sculptures of female nudes give women entry into this prestigious venue. The rest of the text on the poster informs us that "less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female." Hmmmm....
Another GG poster lists "The Advantages of being a woman artist." Notably, one item on the list is "not having to deal with the pressure of success." And, another advertisement pointed out that the 1997 still-life exhibit at MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art) featured only 4 women artists out of a total of 71 artists.
So, we might also ask why there's a paucity of great women artists throughout history. Freeland explains that, historically, women were not in a social or economic position to become professional artists. They couldn't acquire the materials or necessary training, nor could they gain entry into the important social groups that would legitimate their status as artists. And then, there's the notion that a "woman's place is in the home."
It's only been since 1971 that women have risen in the ranks in the art world. For instance, Georgia O'Keeffe's work is now housed in her own museum. And, there are others. Nearly a decade ago I spent a week with a very famous female artist whose work hangs in museums all over the world. She bitterly complained to me that her work sells for a fraction of what her male counterparts get and there's nothing she could do about it. She also complained that the feminine palette and content in her work is considered less important to serious collectors. Don't get me wrong, her work sells in the six figures but still below her male peers.
The newest series that I've developed, The Laws of Nature, is deceiving. Someone recently remarked that if they didn't know me, they would have attributed these paintings to a man. They're decidedly masculine. Interesting - but, should that even matter??
There's more to this, and Freeland offers a banquet. Next time....
And now, it's time for your thoughts.