Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Who Does She Think She Is?"

Last Sunday, Steve and I attended the film screening of a documentary about women artists, called "Who Does She Think She Is?" ( I was invited by a member of the Lakeside Arts Foundation ( to exhibit some of my work at this event, because the film screening was held in conjunction with a women's art expo put on by Art for Peace, the Lakeside Arts Foundation, and Peace Project International. The theme was women and peace, and so, several of my paintings featuring women and children were on display, and will be until November 22.

At first, I thought the film would be interesting, but I was going to take it with a grain of salt, because I'm not a feminist! I also assumed that because of my own personal situation, I wouldn't be able to truly relate to some of the women who were featured. However, even though many of them were married (some eventually divorced), with children, and struggling to balance motherhood with their calling as artists, I realized that I could relate in more ways than I thought. The film was really quite eye-opening. Women struggle to stand out in the art world for many reasons, and this film highlighted just a few, while showcasing some beautiful, incredible women artists whose voices are being heard.

Some of the statistics:
- Many people can't name even one woman artist.
- 80% of the students enrolled in art classes are women, but in the real world, 70-80% of the artists in galleries and museums are men.
- It wasn't until 1986 that HW Jansen's History of Art included 19 women artists, out of 2,300 illustrations.

In her review of the film, columnist Kim Nagy writes, "To be fair, female or male, mother or not, the life of an artist can be a tough one. When your heart pounds to an inner drive that most people might not see or hear, at some point or another you may be the beneficiary of some strange looks. The urge to create can be an unbearably powerful one, a drive that requires inner contemplation, the vulnerability or self-expression and solitude. It can also be physically and mentally painful to ignore. People will doubt you. At some point or another you will doubt yourself." (source:

I've asked other people their thoughts on why men dominate the art world, and I've also gathered things from my own experience as an artist. Here are some of the things I've found:

1) We have many roles. We are daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, helpers, healers, friends...the list goes on, all without mentioning a specific career path!

2) Women are not taken seriously as full-time artists if they are also full-time mothers. Taking time for art may be considered selfish or neglectful to the family, because art, by nature, is time-consuming.

3) People question the validity of talent when combined with youth and femininity. When potential clients walk into my art booth, the reactions are not always what I'd like to hear. As a young artist (not yet 25, and baby-faced on top of it!), I am continuously being told, "You're just a baby! What are you doing painting these portraits??" Perhaps I am not taken seriously because of my age? Yet people wouldn't question me if I told them that Steve, my husband (who is a year younger than me), was the artist.

4) In the opinion of one male artist I know who has been in the scene for many years, women are not as "bold," artistically, as men. Less risk means fewer creative breakthroughs, and people want to collect work by an artist who does something new or has a very specific style. What's "risky" for the artist is "safe" for the collector.

What are your thoughts on this matter? As the film states, this is not just a "women's issue." This dilemma reaches to the core of our culture. I'd love to hear your opinion!

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