Saturday, July 1, 2017

POST #143 WOES OF WOMEN (ARTISTS)


 "Rooftops"44"x66". Oil and charcoal on canvas   $1,200.  
The problem with being a woman artist is that nobody takes you seriously. Too often you’re considered a diletante, a dabbler. It’s a little better for the present generation than it was when I first started out. The only women I knew who had any degree of success were either gay or were married to artists and got by on their coattails. The gay women were usually better off – they at least had “wives” or a circle of friends to support them.

Dream Towers #16
 2017   Oil on canvas    48"x35 1/2"     $750
What set this off was a discussion a group of us had a couple of weeks ago based on Linda Nochlin’s classic (and still much discussed) treatise “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists.” It’s the lead essay in a book from the early ‘70s entitled “Art and Sexual Politics.” I’m pretty sure you can get a copy on line. She dealt with the subject historically, pointing out all the handicaps that women faced preventing them from achieving their full potential, of course assuming that they do have similar potential to men. Forgive my lack of political correctness, but maybe you do need testosterone (i.e. Picasso) to be great. Since the Renaissance, there have been quite a few women artists of exceptional skill and talent, but none (in my humble opinion) come anywhere near Goya, Brueghel, Rembrandt, van Gogh et al. As much as you might admire Mary Cassatt, there’s no way she comes close to her mentor, Degas. In my last blog, I wrote about recently attending a major retrospective of the work of Georgia O’Keeffe and while she certainly was important as a groundbreaking woman painter, I don’t think she never equaled her male contemporaries:  Hartley, Demuth or Sheeler.

Dream Towers #3   
2017 Oil on canvas    52"x36"
Sold
It’s easy to understand why women of past generations were never able to become major artists, let along “great” (testosterone aside). You would think that since many of the restraints of childbearing, domesticity and limited education are no longer holding us back, the art world should now be well-populated with women candidates. Sad to say, while there are lots of good women painters, sculptors, filmmakers and performance artists around, no one has come close, (in my humble opinion) to greatness. Come to think of it, not many contemporary men are that hot either. If I could venture a guess based on personal observation, I think women, despite fifty years of the Women’s Movement, still have a problem with being “over socialized,” taught to decorate rooms rather than dominate them.  Good looks are still over valued in women (although it helps a male artist to be drop-dead gorgeous too) and women spend too much time and energy turning themselves into works of art. While a male artist can (and does) bellow his genius to the world, women as still expected to be laid back. Loud-mouthed, self-promotion might be acceptable in a man, but just let a woman tell you how great she is and everybody hates her. I must say, however, I think things are improving in that area; more and more women artists are allowing themselves to be as arrogant and obnoxious as men. 


Dream Towers #2    2016     Oil on canvas       25 1/2"x34 1/2"    $650

This is an enormously complex subject that goes way beyond the usual explanation of lack of opportunity and training. First of all, the entire premise of what causes “genius” needs to be examined. Is it genetic? an accident of birth? exceptional early training?  Women have theoretically achieved equality for at least half a century and still, no geniuses have turned up. I have my own theory: we’re just too nice, too caring, too decent. This might sound a little simplistic but it’s as valid an explanation as anything more complex I’ve read: To be a genius – in any area, not just art - you have to be a monster (they ALL were), care about nobody but yourself, be willing to destroy everyone around you on behalf of your greatness. It’s no fun being the offspring or spouse of a “Great One.” They might be exceptional artists, scientists, writers, but you wouldn’t want to live with any one of them.