Have you ever wondered why it seems there are no great women visual artists?
Who comes to mind when you think of great, genius artists? Can you name five, ten, twenty? Are there any women on your list? The current misconduct and harassing cases recently coming to light almost daily since the Harvey Weinstein’s accusations were made public made me think of this. What suddenly gave? What changed?
Weinstein is no more than one other accused predator in a list that would take us back hundreds of years. When did this start? Harassing, oppressing, and misvaluing women has been so pervasive that it feels natural. Almost a century ago, John Stuart Mill said “Everything which is usual appears natural. The subjection of women to men being a universal custom, any departure from it quite naturally appears unnatural”.
Focusing on the visual arts world, I can quickly come up with some names of women: Helena of Egypt, Josefa de Ayala, Jan Steen, Elisabeth Vignee-LeBrun, Rosalba Carriera, Angelica Kauffman, Rosa Bonheur, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Clara Peeters, Camille Claudel, Olga Boznanska, Mary Edmonia Lewis… Artemisia Gentileschi is probably the most recognizable one. Was she extraordinary or was it that she had a painter father who instructed her without differentiating by gender? Most, if not all, women artists we know about also had some connection to the arts, usually a father or a husband who taught, encouraged, or simply allowed them to pursue their interest. The more I think, the more names come to mind, particularly in the 20th and 21st century. There is plenty to prove that women artists have produced works as good as their male counterparts. In reality, it is not the act of painting, sculpting or creating which sets men and women apart, it is our society’s culture which differentiates or which deliberately ignores women’s accomplishments. This is the crux. Do men require being allowed to do whatever they choose to do? Then, is it that men have way better press…
Do you think that this sudden change in attitude towards male predators and oppressors will finally put women and men at par? And not just in the glamorous industries… Are we truly equal? I would love to hear your thoughts…
By the way, have you checked Gentileschi’s self-portrait at the Vancouver Art Gallery? It is part of the Royal Collection exhibition. There is work from another great woman painter, Julia Margaret Cameron. Great show! Thanks VAG!!
On another matter, I started painting again with real brushes after a few years of doing it digitally. Twirling the liquid paint and spreading it on a canvas is so tactile, so sensuous… I love it! These are two finished pieces. I wanted to stay away from figurative. I decided to explore the weight of colour. To play with how small amounts of contemporary, artificially created neon colours balance against traditional organic ones. It was hard. After several tries, I settled on juxtaposing fluid, organic weaving kind of strokes in traditional colours against rigid, straight brushstrokes in neon. When I was doing this, I suddenly thought of Piet Mondrian’s minimalistic colour field canvases. I ended up calling my pieces Piet Interrupted I and II as I deviated from his stark, chromatic pure, reductive type of work. What do you think? These artworks are for sale. Each is 40” x 60”, acrylic on canvas. Send me a message for details.
Many thanks to all who visited me at the Culture Crawl this past November. It was great seeing you again. And, welcome to the new subscribers to my news and new collectors! The winner of the print is Joshua Turner. Congrats!
Wishing you the very best for the holiday season and looking forward to another year!