Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Uncovering History

There are always biases and preferences in our working life.  The diversity of humanity is refreshing and helps us to feel like we are not alone.  The internet has opened up a world to us introvert types; it is a place where we can seek out role models, heroines and positive reinforcement for the path and choices we are making.

At art school I learned about hundreds of artists.  So many that my mind blurs when trying to recall any exact amount.  Art history is a vast world of smooth faced cherubs, imposing bronze sculptures, colourful impressions of landscape, and hard edged acrylic surfaces.  I certainly felt inspired by many artists: Monet, Klimt, Schele, Raphael, men who's last names say all that needs to be described about their identity.  Household names by and large.

While their work inspired me, as an individual I was not inspired.  There was little to nothing about their lives that I could relate to.  Not merely because they lived in different eras but mostly because they were men.  I felt deep down that their way of seeing the world and living in it was vastly different than my own.  And while I could share their sensibilities about creating I could not use their life stories to inspire choices in my own.  I needed role models that had broken through a patriarchal system to expose their work.  I had to search,  look deeply at the handful of women artists presented to us in art history texts to find the women whose work and lives I could relate to.

The internet and a growing understanding of the exclusion of women in the art history world has seen tons of women artists being pulled out of the shadows.  Many worked alongside men who became famous but never achieved that level of recognition.  Some were muses, some were muses and then mothers to babies begot by their famous lovers/husbands.  Some pushed against glass ceilings, fought mental illness, hid and painted but never had a single show.

On my way to New York city in the late 90's I read Judy Chicago's book: Through the Flower.  Despite her huge impact on me I was not able to see her masterpiece The Dinner Party in New York at that time.   Now the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art in the Brooklyn Museum houses The Dinner Party permanently.   I see these changes as very positive for the art world.  Now young (or not) artists can find role models with more ease.

This long explanation has been my little manifesto into why I am so heavy on the female artists.  I admire many men for their achievements, but in this space I focus more on the women's side of the stories.  Someday I may not need to have such a bias, but until then I want to share the work of women, including my own, and let our voices reverberate in a changing world.

If you feel compelled to know more about women artists in history I recommend the following links:

Jennifer Higgie on Instagram

The Story of Women in Art a BBC Documentary

Why Have there been no Great Women Artists by Linda Nochlin

Back Soon.  JJ

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