|WHERE ARE THE FEMALE ARTISTS?
The title alone tells the story.
I don't know what it is, but since I've been interviewing artists, I've noticed a trend that seems so natural which makes it even more disturbing.
While I've interviewed many female artists, I would say that I've chatted with far more male artists. I also haven't interviewed very many artists of color, but I'll save that for another essay.
Anyway, I was wondering about this earlier today and finally decided to write about it. It's funny because whenever I look at art - and I've been admiring art my entire life - I see the art first and the gender of the artist second. It's just inconceivable to me why male artists still dominate the contemporary art landscape in terms of exhibitions and exposure. There are SO many kick-ass female artists out there. I think the internet has changed things somewhat. More female artists, all artists, have direct access to art lovers who surf the web. Still, things haven't changed THAT much.
I recently finished an interview with 90-year-old, New York-based abstract expressionist artist Dorothy Krakovsky (Now deceased. Rest in peace Dorothy). She's as sharp as a whip and her work certainly rivals that of Joan Mitchell, but that's neither here nor there.
Anyway, I asked Dorothy about her thoughts about gender inequity in the art world. By the way, I sometimes think it's silly to compare things in terms of "equal representation" when it comes to the sexes. As we all know, there are still many occupations, hobbies and disciplines that tend to lure more men while others attract more women. Fine. Whatever.
Yet, here's my point. Dorothy emphatically states in our chat that she believes male abstract expressionist artists back in the day were BOLDER and more passionate than their female counterparts. In fact, she defines BOLD as passionate. Could that still be the case today?
I've thought and thought and thought about this and you know what? I think that while her opinion need not be considered gospel, she does make a strong argument. After interviewing hundreds of artists, I think I can say that male artists do tend to be more unapologetically forceful and driven. Of course, female artists are bold as well, but I think - based on my experiences with them during interviews - that there's a slight hesitation in their responses and their expression of themselves and their work.
I think female artists might possibly be more precise and detailed in their expression and perhaps I'm interpreting this as "hesitation." Maybe it's also because women are still plagued by the whole "bitch" label if they're viewed as BOLD and unapologetically decisive. That's very unfortunate.
I'm not even saying that women should try to be more like men. I don't think Dorothy means that either, nor is she criticizing women. Speaking for myself, one of the many things that I love about women is that they're very different from men. They've certainly proven over the centuries that they're far better at multitasking with family, careers and more. Raising a family is an exhausting, full-time job in itself. I've spoken with many female artists who are moms - if not single moms. How they even find time for art is beyond me.
Something else just occurred to me. Just last week, I heard a female comedian describe the difference in thought processes between men and women while they're out on dates. She said that men spend the date hoping they'll end up in the sack - I can attest to that - while women spend the date hoping the dude isn't an ax murderer.
Since I interview many artists via email, I think that comedian's theory plays out online. Women always have to be so careful and discerning about who they chat with on the internet. I totally get it. I have to admit that I'm so glad I'm a man. I do think that when it comes to personal security and safety, I naturally do things without thinking that many women perhaps spend time considering before they choose to do it ... like sleeping outside on the back deck at night or sleeping with the window open. Of course, I'm generalizing, but you know what I mean.
Writer Fran Lebowitz has suggested that gender is perhaps the biggest luck of the draw there is. She has stated that this is SO true that every white male who hasn't become President of the United States has "failed." Funny.
Look, sexism, misogyny and crimes against women remain HUGE problems in this world. Look at the situations with the rapes of the teenage girls in India and the kidnapping of the school girls in Nigeria. It's just beyond criminal. There's just no excuse for any of that.
I heard someone recently say that when new parents have a boy, they only have to worry about HIS penis, but when they have a girl, they have to worry about everybody else's!
What am I trying to say here? I don't know. I guess I'm saying I don't have the answers, but I do wish that we lived in a world where we had more, real equity between the sexes. We definitely need to spend more time having honest conversations about all of the "isms" in our world, free from the fear that we'll be demonized for saying something stupid or making honest mistakes while we're trying to learn and grow.
Oprah often quotes the great Maya Angelou, who passed away this past week, as saying, "When you know better, you do better."
I guess that's true, but doesn't it feel like it takes a LONG time for some folks to learn?
Dudes In Art