Thursday, April 29, 2010

Where Are The Famous Female Artists? know, I was thinking of role models the other day and it occurred to me, that other than one single female artist (Emily Carr),  all of my 'role models' are male!

I realize that up until the last couple of centuries, we have lived in totally male dominated society, which would explain the lack of famous female visual artists... But it's been a couple of hundred years here where women have been making inroads on equality, and still, I really haven't seen any larger than life genre defining women appear on the horizons. 

I've been discussing this from time to time with my writer friend and she has many theories as to why.'ve even read a book about different types of societies and how humanity seemed to have started with something more equal, not a male dominated society, back in the days of Crete

The book was called the 'The Chalice and the Blade' by Riane Eisler, and it was pretty dry, but very, very interesting...  Ms. Eilser advanced the theory that early societies in human history were based on Goddess worship rather than focusing on a male God.  This led to less warlike tendencies, greater harmony between the sexes and also with nature... She went on to mention how our archeological history was slanted to give credit to males while discrediting, misinterpreting or dismissing female accomplishments found in historical artifacts.  This was a natural tendency as the bulk of archeologists were men and historically, women were not really thought to matter. 
I'm pretty glad that society has changed, I know I didn't enjoy growing up in the seventies with my mother harping at me to become a housewife and stop having so many opinions! for Ms. Eisler's theory, light of how western society has worked in the past, it makes a lot of sense.  I've noticed that history has a way of highlighting male accomplishments while just leaving out the women.  It's a definite void in history, it's like we are missing half of our background!

I wonder if there were more female visual artists that were just left out, overlooked?  It would be interesting to try to collect them and get a more detailed picture of how art evolved over time...
On the other hand, I'm going to be the devil's advocate here and hypothesize that we may have done some of this to ourselves...  Women have been socialized to be modest and self effacing... That type of approach would certainly lead to women not putting themselves forward to create new art movements. 

In fact, one of the things I was taken to task on by my rather traditional mother was my lack of modesty about my artwork... I figured that if I didn't like my own work and put it forward, certainly nobody else would do it for me!  I've noticed that people that stand back and wait for others to notice their merits tend to be left standing on the sidelines...

I've never been that good at waiting for things, and blending into the crowd on the sidelines sounds like a special kind of feminine torture to me... So I think I'll just carry on with being myself and let my mother rest with her traditions back in the last century!

But I still think it would be nice to have some more famous female artists out there...  Hmmm... Maybe I could help fill that void someday!

References:  Eisler, Riane. 1989. The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. Harper & Row. New York.

Paintings by Teresa Young, photograph of Teresa Young by Nina Munteanu.
1. Undercurrents - Mar.2009,  2. Central Viewpoint - Aug.2009,  3. Near The Edge of Reason - Sept.2009,  4. Halo - May.2001.

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SF Girl said...

Teresa, this is an interesting topic. Your question brings up many others... as usual... :)

So, where are the famous female artists? And why are most of your role models male?

I submit that this is a choice we make or have made (and I mean men AND women). And one fully supported and made easy by those who support a patriarchal culture, which of its nature subjugates women.

Yes, you, for one, could certainly help fill that void with your original and exceptional art. But to paraphrase what you also said with an age-old quote (by a man, by the way): "God helps those who help themselves." In this context, I certainly agree. I feel God's message speaks directly to women today, calling us to celebrate our merits and how we will change the world. Why aren't we? Why aren't there more famous females? While it is considered laudable for a man to show behavior of self-worth (e.g., confidence, assertiveness and eloquence) these same traits are practically vilified in women as being "unlady-like": something our culture has engrained in us and something women have willingly traditionally accepted.

But things are changing; WE are changing. I strongly feel that women are ready to celebrate female energy and wisdom. Now is a time when many of us are entering a new phase in our lives (from mother to "crone" and the wise mature woman) and awakening to our genuine powers and new role in society. See my post on The Alien Next Door on this:

What is changing is our perception of self and this comes with a change in how we see and use language and other art forms.

We (and I mean both sexes here) tend to confuse altruism with naivite, humbleness with weakness, compassion with foolhardiness, non-competitiveness with lack of passion or direction and one who bends with a "sucker"... While men generally avoid them, women are encouraged to nurture these traits (and by association are considered emotional, weak, foolish and directionless).

Stereotypes--like victims--are created and maintained through collaboration by both parties involved. As you eloquently said in your post, womankind has commiserated with the stereotype as a convenience and to the detriment of our growth and evolution.

It's time to change that stereotype and stop hiding behind it. Let's take the lesson from Crete (the link to my article in your post). We don't need to be hard to be strong. We don't need to "win over others" to succeed.

Let's take a step to change that stereotype NOW. So, here's my challenge, Teresa: I'm a writer and you're an artist. I plan to showcase one exceptional woman writer (famous or soon-to-be famous) every other Friday; How about you do the same for art?

Your friend,

Dalifan said...

Wow! This is a great comment! If you put in photos, it would be a blogpost in itself;-)

--> I agree with you whole heartedly Nina... It has always rankled me that kindness is considered a weakness and only the sharp player (usually a male!) gets ahead in the world...

There is definitely something wrong with that psychology and I think our culture could benefit from becoming kinder and gentler!

I'll try to follow what you suggest here, and search for famous female artists to highlight. At the very least, I'll be educating myself on something I feel is important!

Thanks for the great comment!


SF Girl said...

So, are you picking up the gauntlet, per se?

Looking forward to what--I mean WHO--you find...

Dalifan said...

HaHa! Who knows, I might surprise you!