Ordinary Goddess 4, hand cut collage on vintage book cover, 13.5 x 9 in
“No other creative field is as closed to those who are not white and male as is the visual arts.”
“Of the top 100 most successful contemporary artists from 2000 to 2019, only seven are women….The art world gender gap is visible throughout the sector: women are under-represented in galleries, in permanent museum collections and in temporary exhibitions. This all leads to less media coverage and lower market demand which results in significantly lower auction prices compared with their male counterparts.” (Artprice on the contemporary art market, 2020)
Women’s History Month
Well, here we are again – March, Women’s History Month. One year ago, I wrote a post about how the Women’s Movement had figured in my own life. The media was full of exposés about the Time’s Up and the Me Too Movements, as well as pay disparity and other types of gender discrimination. All of this attention shed a harsh light on the fact that women hadn’t made nearly as much progress as we had hoped.
Women’s rights as a whole is much too broad a subject for my little blog. The struggle of women artists to be treated equally to their male counterparts parallels the struggle of women in many other fields; since I’m an artist, I decided to focus on that.
While doing research for that post, I found the above quote about women in the contemporary art market. It was shocking, and certainly demoralizing. But it also inspired me to begin working on a new feminist art series. I call this series (at least for now) Ordinary Goddesses. Some of the past year’s recent additions are included in this post.
Eve, hand cut collage on book cover, 12.5 x 9.5
Eve and The Fall are kind of companion pieces, depicting, of course, the evil woman that brought sin into the world… haha!
The Fall, mixed media collage on book cover, 15.5 x 9.5
Where We Stand Now
Earth Birth, Judy Chicago, sprayed versatex and DMC floss on fabric
My assumption had been that there just weren’t very many female artists throughout history. But, surprisingly, that wasn’t the case at all. I mean, I knew there were far more women artists than most people had heard of. But the number of women artists who were simply written out of history is truly mind-blowing. I think feminist artist Judy Chicago articulated it best:
“The truth is that for centuries women have struggled to be heard, writing books, making art and music and challenging the many restrictions on women’s lives. But their achievements have been repeatedly written out of history.”
Ordinary Goddess 5, mixed media collage on vintage book cover, 15 x 11 in
“It was not very easy for a woman to impose herself as a modern artist in Germany… Most of our male colleagues continued for a long time to look upon us as charming and gifted amateurs, denying us implicitly any real professional status.”
Signs of Hope
The biggest change I see compared to a year ago is that people appear to be finally getting it. Allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of women is being taken seriously. The perpetrators are being fired, or even sent to prison. And women whose accomplishments were for years – or centuries – wrongly attributed to men are now being recognized.
It seems that lately there are forgotten female artists (not to mention aviators, architects, writers, engineers, activists, mathematicians, scientists, doctors, even pirates!) brought to light almost daily. This is not a statistic, it’s just my way of saying, well – a lot. For instance, last week, I was flipping through the PBS channels and happened to catch part of this:
I was like, wait – what? A twenty-one by six-and-a-half foot painting of the Last Supper, created in the 1560’s by a woman??! Yes, and restored by the all-woman Advancing Women Artists foundation created specifically for the task! It was just too good!
The Last Supper by Plautilla Nelli, 1560’s, restored
Women Artists Rising
I’ve also noticed a huge increase in the number of new books, films, podcasts, organizations, and galleries dedicated to spreading knowledge about and giving support to women artists and feminist art. If you want to explore, I’ll share a few of these here, just to get you started.
Art Girl Rising is an organization committed to amplifying and elevating the voices of women artists. Led by founder and creative director Liezel Strauss, their stated goal is “…to ultimately inspire change and action to help women artists rise to their rightful equal positions in the art world.” View their projects and collaborations here. Check out this fascinating podcast interview with Liezel Strauss on Beyond the Paint.
I can’t say enough about Katy Hessel’s The Great Women Artists website. A young British art historian, curator, and broadcaster, Hessel is somehow able to keep an impressive assortment of balls in the air. She makes art documentaries for the BBC, lectures at and curates exhibits for major universities and museums, and makes the wonderful Great Women Artists podcast, just to name a few. I’m also very excited that her book, The Story of Art Without Men will be coming out this September; I’ve already pre-ordered my copy!
All right, I really should stop here. As usual, my post has gotten away from me. I started off to share more of my Ordinary Goddesses series, but can’t get away from my desire to inform people about things they probably don’t even care about! If you check my instagram, I’ll try to share more information for those who are interested, including some books you might enjoy.
In other good news, according to Artprice.com, four out of the top five price ascensions in New York last year were women: Amy Sherald, Flora Yuknovich, Joy Labinjo, and Emily Mae Smith. And, as indicated by the video below, Judy Chicago is finally getting her due.