Monday, March 27, 2006

My 2 Cents

Road with White Sky, 2005, Oil on Panel, 12x12

I thought I'd offer a few observations about women in the art world, or at least in my limited art world, which does not include the New York or international art scenes. My work is primarily represented by galleries in small to mid sized communities, with the exception of Atlanta.

Frankly, I don't pay much attention to the fact that I am a female artist. I simply do my work, try to continue to develop my voice, exhibit and meet my obligations. I don't feel that I have missed out on any exhibition opportunities because I am a female. I sense a lot more discrimination based on the the fact that I paint in a fairly representational manner and also that I am an unknown artist at this point.

Nearly all of the galleries that I am currently involved with are owned by women or by a male/female partnership. The gallery directors that I have primary contact with are female, with just two galleries having a male director/owner. In all of the galleries, the ratio of male/female artists represented are pretty much equal, about 40%-60% either way. I truly feel that with the people that I work with, there are no concerns about whether an artist is a male or female, it is just the quality of work that matters as well as the reliability of the artist. And of course whether the work will sell or not. I don't kid myself, the galleries are in business to, you know, stay in business and make a profit.

Ok, so that said, I know that there are inequalities in the art world. Female artists are sadly underrepresented in commercial galleries and museums. I recently went through the Met and MOMA in NYC and it was pretty discouraging to see so little work by women. Do I wish that there are more female artists? Yes. Do I think there should be more female doctors? Yes. Dentists? Yes. CEOs? Yes. Senators? Yes. Lawyers? Yes. The art world isn't much different than other occupations as much as we artists think it should be. It is definitely hard for a woman to get "in" and to earn as much as a man whether it's in art, medicine, business or in almost any other occupation.

Complicating matters is parenthood. If fathers were primary caregivers of their children, everything would be different. But the fact is, women are generally in charge of children and the home, though certainly there are many exceptions and things have shifted in the last few generations. Speaking from my own experience of adopting a special needs child and then having 3 babies in 4 years, being a mother is really intense. Much too intense for me to have also been consistently creating enough finished work to meet the needs of a gallery. Do any of the female artists, currently exhibiting, have a three month old baby, who requires constant care and attention, let alone two? Maybe, please let me know if you know of anyone. However most of the female artists that I know personally either don't have children or they have school-aged or grown children.

I wish things were different. I wish women and minorities and homosexuals were treated with as much regard and value as white men, in the art world as well as everywhere else. However, if you look closely, and not just in the metropolitan areas, you'll see that there are plenty of successful female artists, working, exhibiting, creating. Sometimes the daily struggle is as important as the big picture and sometimes success isn't recognition or money.


alannaclarice said...

I just did a paper on this. Check out these terrible stats:

Tracy said...

Hi Alanna. Thanks for the link. The stats are very interesting, and some were actually better than I thought they'd be. But there's no doubt, our arts organizations and NYC galleries do not do a good job of recognizing and rewarding artists. What was the specific topic and conclusion of your paper?

alannaclarice said...

The paper was on the MOMA in San Francisco. I'm taking a women's art history class right now. The statistics are about the same as the website I had listed even though the museum is curated by a woman. I question whether this is a subconscious judgement we make on art or whether it is consumer driver. Most people, including gallery owners are surprized to hear the percentage of women artists (with dedicated studio space) in San Francisco and other citied is more than 50%. I think most people aren't aware of the disparity of art by women in galleries and museums and in most cases I don't think it's a conscious decision to have such a low percentage of art by women. Maybe art by males tends to be of popularly accepted subject matter? Who knows? That would be a good thesis topic for sure. The good news is that things have drastically changed for women artists since the late 60s and continues to improve.

Tracy said...

I don't think there are any easy answers or just one answer as to why women don't get more recognition, sales or awards as artists. I'd be interested in knowing how many applicants for NEA grants, for example, are women. I too, find it difficult to believe it's a conscious decision to exclude women, however, treating women as less than equal seems ingrained in our society, so perhaps it's a reflection of that. I don't know.