by Cynthia Rodriguez
"Voices Of Women Artists"
by Wendy Slatkin
Even in today's day and age, unfortunetly, the arts are still a male dominated field. Those bastards. Oh, do I sound bitter? That is because I am. I am a solitary practicing Guerrilla Girl. That's how we do.
I was given this book YEARS ago by an artist friend of mine. She had forewarned me it was more of a textbook. I didn't realize how textbook it was until I recently read it, (which I dragged out, and took me a few months). Disclaimer: this book is for SERIOUS art students, artists, and art aficionados. If you are not, do not even bother. A shame such a fascinating subject that is basically my life wasn't written interestingly enough. Well, not for me, anyways. I believe this is one of the reasons people stop reading after school, be it highschool, college, or whatever. Text books are BORING. Can't text book writers spice it up just a bit? How can you expect to keep students interested and really learn somethin' if they are nodding off on chapter 18 or pressing pause on their reading assignment to log on to Facebook?
After growing up around art all my life, I believe it is just downright shameful that most of the women in this book I had never heard of. Some of them I related to, some I didn't. I'm almost embarrased to say that most of my artistic influences growing up were from mostly male artists. I feel now that may have been different if I had been exposed to more female artists. I think a lot of the turn off was that many of the female artists/art shown to me I considered to be more of the "girly" arts, if that makes any sense. Such things like the fabric arts, quilting, knitting, all that folky stuff which back then I considered to be "not real art". Art that apparently has always been deemed okay for women to do. Of course, today that has changed, and over the years I've developed a true appreciation for all of that and realized the importance of it.
I realize the type of art I'm more known for would be considered stepping into male art territory. There is NO daintiness about my work. This ain't no macrame. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) It's the rough, raw, brut shit. I'm okay with that. I also notice it's usually more popular with a certain type of female base. Guys are usually alright with it. Those that aren't afraid of it, anyway.
A couple of artshows that were a HUGE influence on me as a woman and an artist were the infamous "Bad Girls" (Part 1 and 2) art exhibits at my favorite museum, the New Museum Of Contemporary Art in New York City. Look it up, and you'll see what I'm talking about. Exhibits like that, and the popularity of artists like Frida Kahlo because of the feature film and such help us tremendously. That is the only major motion picture of a female artist that I can remember.
As women artists, we have definitely come a long way. It's so appalling the bullshit that women went through back in the day just to be artists, to do what they love. Many times while reading the book, I'd find myself yelling out loud, "Geez, just let the woman fucking paint!"
I did learn much about these wonderful artists I read about. That's why with this mixed review, I give it a mixed rating. As a just reading for fun book, I give it two stars. As a text book, I give it three stars.
To focus more on the positive, I'll let the artists from the book do that in their own words. There are MANY great quotes, but here are a couple of my favorite ones:
Janet Scudder, sculptor (1869-1940), arguing with a local politician regarding her rejecting an offer from the city to make a sculpture:
"I won't add to this obsession of male egotism that is ruining every city in the United States with rows of hideous statues of men--men--men--each one uglier than the other- standing, sitting, riding horseback- every one of them pompously convinced that he is decorating the landscape!"
I LOVE that.
Louise Nevelson, sculptor (1889- 1988), on women artists:
"No one has a monopoly on creativity. I never recognized that whoever created humans gave a brain only to one sex or the other. I never recognized that distinction. It seems to me that I was quite sure I was born this way, and I wanted to live my life as I understood it. I was so absorbed into what I was doing, the creative problems, that at the time I wasn't so aware of that kind of prejudice".
This was exactly my mentality growing up.
So yes, we've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. What else is new, right? Oh well, we just keep trekking along.