Friday, June 12, 2015

POST #89: MY SENIOR MOMENT in the sun

36"x48" oil on canvas

Guess what? Older Woman Artists are the flavor of the month; we finally made it! You don’t believe me? Just read the New York Times: two big articles lately on women artists in their seventies, eighties and nineties. It looks as if the art establishment (who/whatever that may be) has tired of macho men, minorities and transgenders and turned their interest to older women. Now, it’s never been easy to be a “woman artist,” but if you were young and sexy, or married to someone important, you might have a minor career. An OLDER woman, forget it! They remind gallerists (and buyers) of their hated mothers… In the past, the best way for an older woman artist to get noticed was to paint flower vaginas, have well-publicized affairs with adolescent men or do portraits of themselves in the nude - generally not a pleasant sight. The sad part of the Times’ new found interest in “older women” artists is that the one’s they’ve chosen to “discover” have been around for decades and are, truthfully, not all that deserving of fame and fortune. They are okay and not much more.

36"x48" oil on canvas
Ironically, most of the better known women artists of the past fifty years, really deserved acclaim: Lee Bontecue, for example, is as good as any male artist in the last half of the 20th century – Julian Schnabel, Basquiat and the whole pack of Neo Expressionists from Germany included. Since I resigned from the New York Art scene a couple of decades ago, I have no idea who’s really hot today.

Linda Nochlin, the art historian, hit the nail on the head fifty years ago in her essay “Why There Have Been No Great Women Artists,” in a book entitled: “Art & Sexual Politics.” She criticized the nascent Women’s Studies movement for their interest in women artists, dredging up mediocrities and lauding them as neglected major figures in the history of art. Her well-taken point was that rather than to extol lesser talents, examine what it takes to achieve a high level of performance as an artist – male or female - and how women were not given opportunities for greatness. But, whatever the historic reasons, we need to look at the here and now.

How does someone achieve fame and fortune in the contemporary art world? Notice that I don’t even mention talent; that’s near the bottom of the list. We all know the importance of being in the right place at the right time, socializing with important people, calling attention to oneself by behaving outrageously and so forth. But the key factor, the one you rarely hear mentioned is chutzpah, gall, consummate arrogance, relentless self promotion, BALLS! How un-lady-like can you get? There’s a reason success requires “balls” (both literally and metaphorically) and women (or so they’re told) aren’t going to be liked – by either men or women - if they have them.

40"x36" oil on canvas
At one time, my goal was to be “discovered,” a great artist hiding away in a cottage in the suburbs. I always wanted to be in a Whitney Biennial; I’m as good as 90% of the artists who show there. But, guess what? Unless there’s some some form of Divine Intervention, it’s never going to happen; I’m resigned to that. And, in the old “be careful what you wish for” warning, maybe it’s for the best. I go into my studio practically every day. I’m peaceful; I paint. I dance around to corny Leonard Cohen records (I know; I should say I listen to Honneger or Philip Glass, but I happen to have a crush on Leonard Cohen). The seasons change from my north light window. My refrigerator is full and my bills are (mostly) paid. I entertain friends, fellow artists, feed them, go to Curley’s Diner (my version of Picasso’s Lapin Agile) and show my latest work to anyone willing to stop by. The Day of the Older Woman Artist will come and go; the Times will find another “hot” genre and I’ll still be here, unknown, undiscovered. And you know something? It’s ok with me. I’m as happy as any “famous” artist I ever met or whose biography I ever read: maybe happier.

And there’s still a chance I could make it into a Whitney Biennial. I’m not dead yet. Can someone get me an introduction?

1 comment:

  1. These pictures remind me of Charles Demuth. I like these very much. And I totally get the gratification you get from the work itself.