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A Round Table Discussion at NOW

Monday evening, I shared a roundtable discussion about being a woman artist with my colleague and friend Kaetlyn Wilcox, at the Boston offices of National Organization for Women. The discussion was open to the public, and we fielded questions from about 10 other people, women and men, about the trials and tribulations of the art profession.

Yes, I have certainly been influenced by feminism. No, my work is not overtly gender-related or political, but my interest in pattern, decoration, and intimate scale is clearly inspired by traditional feminine interests and some of the early feminist artists like Miriam Shapiro, Frieda Kahlo, Judy Chicago, etc. I came of age as an artist in the 70s, so could not help but be influenced by the exciting newness of women artists' work of that time.

I don't think of myself as a woman artist, just as an artist trying to keep making art despite it all. Is that a political act? Maybe so, in this day and age.

Comments

Deirdra McAfee said…
As far as the NOW panel, wish I'd been there for that one.

Although most of us do not make "women's art," our situation, and (still-low) status as women,
and women artists, inevitably conditions our materials, our subjects, our time and energy, our efforts.

For centuries, we have been art's subject, which means it's harder to find our own subjects, compelling subjects that belong in the long conversation of art: art history isn't our history, and neither is literary history.

Male artists still today have generally more money, training, time, and recognition than we. As well as having wives.

In this context, everything we make is political, if you take politics to mean not only originality but questioning convention. All artmaking is a political act, but ours doubly so, since we are still at least a generation behind in skill, resources, training, and
opportunities.

These are what shape a sensibility and offer an audience. They allow an artist to change the domain, and very, very few of us have been able to do that in proportion to how many of us there really are.

In addition, our personal circumstances, especially when we have children, mean that we make art how we can, where we can, and in what space and solitude we can secure—mostly outside any "school" or community, which often means that it goes unrecognized and unrewarded. Or is treated as a craft or a hobby.

For us, no ateliers or salons exist. And even if they did, we would still need men to advocate for us in the highest reaches of culture; they are still the gatekeepers there.

Think about all the men's clubs who have advanced each other's work and publicized each other's efforts, probably starting with the cave-
painters (unless, as I've heard rumored, they were women).

The New York School, the Surrealists, the Fauves, the Impressionists, etc., etc., etc. And for us? What school or incubator or community for women artists has there ever been? Even as a mother, I was better connected than I am as an artist.
Kaetlyn Wilcox said…
I love what Deirdra wrote, but in answer to her last question: there was Womanhouse in the 1970s. Yay Womanhouse!

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