March 22, 2015 Repository 171: Women History Month | Round Up on Women Artists Posted In: art practice, bon mots, community, contemporary art, culture, perspective, social critique


Mira Safura O’Brien’s poster for Mary Boone Gallery, from the Gallery Tally Project


Celebrating women’s history month I figured I would be posting more images of women artists, doing more write ups of women artists, and at the very least looking at more artwork by women. In true banana slug fashion though, the month of March is rolling to an end, and I have been able to post only once, and will now simply provide an overview of some of the female art and artists I did ponder this month.

I was asked to review a show by Ann Hamilton in Seattle at the Henry Art Gallery, and will travel there this week to see it. So I will end the month of women arts/artist with a bang, as Ann Hamilton’s work I believe is an incredibly powerful example of a woman’s work of art. Meaning it is full of intuition, feeling, material, immaterial and a sense of place – all things I believe women are aces at. Meanwhile some thoughts on women arts and artists this month:

 “The men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I’m one of the best painters.”—Georgia O’Keeffe

First and Foremost it’s OK to Consider Women Art/Artists Versus Artist Period
On no uncertain terms a work of art should be judged simply on it’s merit as art – the quality of communication, the intention behind the work and the layers of meaning it embodies. However, I’m flummoxed by smart folks who refuse to be considered a woman artist, or include themselves in the “woman” artist shows etc. The conversation needs to be had, so let’s not be shy or pussy foot around it. A lot of opportunities are NOT available to women in the art world and beyond, and for what reasons I have no idea. If we don’t consciously and urgently look at this, just as if we don’t have a dialog on issues of race representation, than the broader conversation of women and opportunities become mute/moot, and no change may be had or heard.

I Used to Love Marina Abromovic
Something about Marina Abromovic has always excited me – her lineage of hardcore body work, where she has stretched her body to it’s limit in so many performances, and her desire to always address and attain the higher self, knowing consciously that her lower self is the one full of ego, and full of contradictions. I’ve read her autobiography, her artist manifesto, and many essays written about her work. That said, all of my idolization of her came crashing to a halt this weekend after reading these 11 words from her, “You have to be like a man to be an artist”. I hope that because English is not her first language something was lost in translation. Sadly my Marina hat now lies on this incredulous statement of hers, and the fact that Roberta Smith of the New York Times called her retrospective at MOMA “cheesy”. Things are clear now. And Marina should be clear that strength of body, pain, nature and creation are a woman’s domain – all of which she centers her artwork.

Andrea Fraser “Unofficial Welcome”
I’ve just read Sarah Thornton’s delightful and entertaining “33 Artists in 3 Acts” (only 29 in book, though still a must read;-). I recommend this to anyone wanting to see less of artists with a capital “A” and more of artists in their underpants or robes. In it she interviews artists well known and not-so-well known. While I had heard of Andrea Fraser before, I had not read any interviews of her, and most appreciated the candor of Sarah following her around the campus at UCLA to learn more about her practice and views on being an artist.

If you are not familiar with her work, Andrea coined institutional critique (of the art world), and has been doing this with aplomb and squarely from the eyes and heart of a woman artist. Her work “Unofficial Welcome” is one of her better known pieces: in the performance she has a monologue where she embodies different players in the art world, highlights the ego and machismo, and disrobes in a timely and perfectly awkward moment.

In her talking with Sarah she reveals her theory on artists which is quite helpful whether male or female. She believes as an artist you are either a “perverse” artist (working from the gut and intuition), a “neurotic artist” (working from a place of shame or guilt), or a “psychotic” artist (working from a place of psychosis). I would say that at any given point I have practiced in one or more of the camps described above.

Thank You to Galleries and Artists Continually Highlighting the Discrepancies
I am so grateful to artists projects and curated shows that highlight the feminine, the female artist, and the socio-political issues surrounding being woman. There can never be too few of these. We have serious cultural issues with girls and women, where girls are three times more likely to attempt suicide than boys, where writers and media executives (the ones who create the media we consume) are only barely woman (3%). Artists, man or woman, need to reflect this disparity and think about the consequence of years of disparaging the qualities of women as irrelevant, overemotional, or inconsequential to the marketplace.

Some Food for Thought, and Hope For the Flowers (the ball must hit the ground in order to bounce up):
• Only 8 percent of the work that the Museum of Modern Art exhibits is by women.
• Less than 3% of the artists in the Modern Art section of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are women, but 83% of the nudes are female.
• Only about 23 percent of solo gallery shows at top New York sites feature pieces by female artists.
• Women are consistently only 15% of the names on Artforum‘s, Art + Auction‘s, and ArtReview‘s annual “power lists.”
• 51% of visual artists today are women.
• Only 28% of museum solo exhibitions spotlighted women in eight selected museums throughout the 2000s.
• Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing, and advertising)

Gallery Tally (A call for gender equity in the arts)
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Gorilla Girls
Miss Representation – (Urgent documentary on women and media)

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” – Arundhati Roy

Tally from my Bookworm issue this month - 7 out of 41 David Zwirner books are  for female artists. image courtesy the author

Tally from my Bookforum issue this month – 7 out of 41 David Zwirner books are for female artists. image courtesy the author

The Guerrilla Girls’ 1986 Report Card alongside Pussy Galore’s 2015 Report Card

The Guerrilla Girls’ 1986 Report Card alongside Pussy Galore’s 2015 Report Card

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