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Art & Prejudice: Dealing with Sexism, Racism, and Ageism in the Art World

by Brian Sherwin on 2/19/2011 9:50:57 AM

This article is by Brian Sherwin, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint and Art Fag City. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

 

When one thinks of the art world, one thinks of a place of openness and tolerance-- yet that is hardly the case. The ‘art world’ shares the same prejudice we face in the real world. That said, the illusion of togetherness that has been constructed around the art world makes said reality even more toxic. Forms of sexism, racism, and ageism dominate art culture just under the surface-- which dictates our collective knowledge of art history. This is a topic that few gallery owners want to discuss-- because it is a topic that, more often than not, reveals a world of bigotry and unnecessary challenges placed before artists.

During my research for this article I contacted Elaine Kaufmann of the Brainstormers-- for those who don’t know, the Brainstormers are an art collective striving to force discussion concerning gender inequities within the contemporary New York art world. Many of the stats I used for this article are based on research the Brainstormers have conducted-- as well as information provided to me by an anonymous artist claiming to have association with the Guerilla Girls… a group that has fought against art world discrimination and corruption since 1985.

Kaufmann made it clear that when asked about exhibitions or gallery lists of artists that include overwhelmingly more men than women, curators and gallerists typically respond by arguing that what gets exhibited is based solely on the quality of the work. Kaufmann stated, “This seemingly lofty statement about quality disguises a belief that would be unacceptable to say outright, the belief that men make better artwork than women.” She went on to say, “Many perceive the art world to have long ago rid itself of discrimination against women. Unfortunately, it persists and continues to affect new generations of women artists.” Professionals within the mainstream art world obviously don’t want to face the reality of prejudice that they have helped cultivate-- which tends to spiral down into all aspects of art culture.

New York is considered the hub of the art world in the United States-- a place where you would think ‘openness’ and ‘tolerance’ would reign-- yet the average New York art gallery represents 76% to 96% male artists. Galleries representing the same percentages in favor of women can be counted on one hand. Over 77% of the galleries in Chelsea represent more males than females-- and only around 5% represent males and females in equal numbers. These gaps have fluctuated ever so often-- but artists who happen to be male continue to dominate gallery rosters. These numbers foster the myth that males are more apt to be better artists in the eyes of the general public. People in the position to bring about change-- such as curators and gallery owners-- tend to cling to the status quo rather than find solutions.

Some have suggested that the stat breakdown does not represent educational background-- which implies that art school graduates tend to be male. However, when you consider that the average MFA program in the United States has up to 20% more female students than male students an obvious gender bias is clear. In other words, the MFA argument is flawed because more women study art on an academic level than men nationwide-- yet men dominate mainstream art galleries where the value of an MFA is obviously considered.

The glaring percentages don’t stop there-- they can also be found in our public institutions. For example, in a typical art museum visitors will find that 95% of the displayed artwork was created by an artist who happens to be male. Thus, women are only represented visually by 5% of the displayed artwork in the average museum. True, there have been many museum art exhibits that focus on ‘female artists’-- but I don’t think a handful of special exhibits make up for the overall percentages and clear gender gap. It sickens me to think that artists are being placed on the back-burner simply because of their gender-- but this hardly a new problem within the professional art world. The problem of gender gaps in the art world should be explored further.

I can recall an interview I had with Sylvia Sleigh in 2007--  in which she stated, “I do think things have improved for women in general.  There are many more women in Government, in law and corporate jobs, but its very difficult in the art world for women to find a gallery.” These words are haunting when you consider that the late Sylvia Sleigh is considered an artist who helped shatter the glass ceiling of sexism within the contemporary art world. Obviously that ceiling still exists-- research by groups such as the Brainstormers and Guerilla Girls bring light to the issue.

In the recent past, it was not uncommon to see only two solo shows by artists who happened to be female for every dozen solo shows to open in New York. Women exploring painting as the focus of their artwork stood even less of a chance of receiving a solo show compared to men. I doubt the situation has changed that much over the years. It troubles me that in the mainstream art world-- often noted for being liberal in thought-- such clear prejudice based on gender continues to dominate. This veiled prejudice fosters the idea that art is a man’s game-- and shoves that mode of thought into the psyche of the viewing public.

Due to this glaring bigotry, I find myself loathing the labels and descriptors that art world professionals, specifically art writers, use to group or categorize artists based on sex, race, and age. For example, this form of prejudice based on gender within the art world can be observed in mainstream art magazines, art blogs, and in the media as a whole when art is the focus of an article. It leaves one to ask why in 2011 artists who happen to be female are often stamped as ‘female artist’, ’female painter’, and other gender-specific descriptions that are never used when describing artists who happen to be male. It is almost as if the writers who describe artists in this way are giving females a pat on the back for their attempts. It is insulting.

Prejudice within the art world does not stop there. Race also becomes an issue. For example, you never read an article about an artist starting with so-and-so is a “Caucasian artist from…” to describe an artist who happens to be white. That said, if an artist is from any other racial background you can almost be assured that race will become a descriptor for that artists efforts-- “African American artist from…”, “Hispanic artist from…”.. the list goes on. While it is true that race can define an artists visual message-- if that is his or her direction-- I don’t think placing race before artist is a sound choice to define an artist in general.

The issue of age is apt to pop up in the fray of art world prejudice. Age is arguably the most offensive way to define-- or should I say label?-- an artist. I say that because the age factor often meshes with the two forms of prejudice I mentioned above. For example, most art critics, gallerists, and artists will tell you-- if they are honest-- that the majority of 30-something exhibiting artists who happen to be female are near career- end. That decision is not by choice-- it is fueled by age and gender alone in association with the prejudice of art dealers representing them.

After all, there is a double standard within the context of the art world-- artists who happen to be male in the same stage of life are often viewed as coming into their own. Sadly, I don't think the majority of art dealers, curators, and art critics realize that they are creating-- or helping to maintain-- a cloud of prejudice over the art world. It is almost as if it has become the status quo-- supported by feeble arguments that tend to bypass the issue altogether.

If you are not an artist who happens to be white, male, and are past the age of 35, it is likely that your career within the mainstream art world is playing an unwilling game of Russian roulette with three bullets in the chamber. I say that because the descriptors involved with those three factors often are reduced to art market trends and fads-- labels that artists don’t necessarily want for themselves but get stamped with anyway. This prejudice is an ugly stain in what is otherwise one of the most liberal thinking aspects of our culture.

I, for one, feel that it is time for art critics and the media in general to drop descriptions based on gender, race, and age when describing an artist unless that information is vital to the artists work. Gender, race, and age should not come before what an individual does when writing about said individual. Yet it happens all the time-- and most of the major art publications have long been guilty of this. Who knows how many artists could have continued to shine had it not been for these three factors serving as obstacles. These labels/descriptors breed prejudice no matter how you try to warrant it. It is time to look at the artwork and what artists have to offer instead of being so focused on their gender, race, and age.

In closing, we-- and I include myself in this-- have allowed the mainstream art world to become a place where maturity is punished, the color of our skin reduced to a mere exhibit qualifier, and our sex twisted into age-old stereotypes. It has become a place where the wisdom that comes with age is abandoned for youthful ambition, a place where an artist is defined more by his or her race than what he or she creates on canvas, a place where the likes of Tracey Emin will always be viewed as an adolescent girl breaking the rules-- even when she is 80! It is time to come together in order to deal with the issues of sexism, racism, and ageism within the art world as a whole.

 

Take care, Stay true,

 

Brian Sherwin



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 96 Comments

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
via faso.com
Brian, I will not argue with your statistics, they are sound. They reflect the truth, be it painting, singing, playing the violin, writing; the top dogs tend to be men. While I am not discounting for one minute the prejudice that still results in women wage earners making 77 percent the average man's salary, there is something else afoot, be it prejudice, be it the way we're built, I cannot say. But how many men who are artists have to juggle their job, their chores, their children and their art like women do?
Is it biology? If you search through history to the present, there are certainly lots of very talented women, but a lot of us had to choose to wait until our kids were gone, and even after we retired from our jobs before we could settle down and work. Let's face it, SOMEONE has to take care of the children.
As I am finally coming into my own as a painter as I close in on 60 years old, I find it ironic that at the age of 12, I chose Grandma Moses as my hero. Little did I know.
Thanks for your article touching on this delicate subject.

Luann Udell
via faso.com
Your essay echoes the theme of the video "WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?", a powerful and provocative look at where women stand in our modern world of art. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1124217/

It took some thinking to get around the despair the stats brought up. But in the end, I'm here, I have the ability to make my art, and I will continue to make it and share it with the world.

I just have to accept the fact that I'm never going to be the next NYC gallery hottie! :^)
You can read about such a 'hottie" at Robert Genn's article http://clicks.robertgenn.com/laughs.php with images of George Condo's work here: tp://clicks.robertgenn.com/discounting.php

And actually, once I let go of the fame thing, I'm perfectly happy with what I do.

Michael Cardosa
via faso.com
Brian,

An interesting post. It's a sad commentary that we still use the same qualifiers whenever something good or bad is reported and I truly believe until the time comes when we drop that terrible habit prejudice is sure to be with us, art world and everywhere else.

Michael

Sharon Weaver
via faso.com
The truth is sometimes a tough pill to swallow. Your article brings up a lot of very real problems that factor into success in the world of art. I have noticed the stark discrepancy of male to female ratio in galleries and museums but I was hoping to beat the odds since that has been my MO in the past. Woman, race, and age are all used to marginalize groups of people. I wonder if and how I can make a difference.

Karen Winters
via faso.com
This is a tough one and it certainly makes a lot of valid arguments for the unfairness of things. It could make me angry, if I let it get to me, but I need that energy to put into my painting.

Unfortunately it's not the only area of modern society where so-called open-minded free-thinking tolerance can very selective. Ironic, isn't it? And sad.

David Rickert
via faso.com
I wouldn't call this prejudice, but there is a natural tendency for men to respond more favorably to male painters and women to respond more favorably to female painters without knowing the gender of the painter. This is more about subject matter and style than about gender. In my own experience, nearly all of my top awards have come from male judges, very few from female judges.

James Young
via faso.com
The liberal means of thinking, prevalent in the world of art is part of the cause of the prejudice that you speak of. After all, liberal minds are always dividing society into groups. Bit of a catch 21, don't you think?

Virginia Giordano
via faso.com
Brian ”“ Thank you for tackling this issue, both the obvious and nuanced way discrimination operates in the art world. History demonstrates that change happens when people with consciousness keep the issues in view. As an art critic and artist you reach many, and as artists and just people we can take this up too. Sometimes, it”™s a long trajectory, but change inevitably occurs when a group of people are passionate about an issue, and about righting an injustice, which you have articulated here.

Trent Gudmundsen
via faso.com
Hi, Brian,

I appreciate the intent of your comments, which I know were in no way meant to be offensive (quite the opposite intent, I realize), but let me offer an opposing view.

Life is not fair, and I'm content that it's that way. I was not born into money or status, and I was a little too young to take advantage of the amazing art market of the 80s and 90s. I regard my challenges as opportunities, and my successes as ultimately my own (although I also readily acknowledge much help from all sides, especially from above). I work hard for my living and am constantly doing things to make sure the world takes notice of me so that I may continue to make my living this way. My female peers who have done the same things for their careers as me are as successful (or more so) than I am. Gender and age have nothing to do with it...success is usually just a product of hard work (and sometimes a bit of luck).

I am a white, male, thirty-something artist. I am making my living because I have worked extremely hard to get to the point where I paint quality works that people want to buy...NOT because I'm a white male.

P.S. - Thank you Mimi for pointing out the intensely challenging and important role of child-rearing. Indeed, someone has to do it, and take it from me that my wife is better at it than I am.

Mary Ann Pals
via faso.com
Bravo, Brian, for a well researched and superbly written article! A female artist friend and I comment to each other all the time that when gallery owners look at a male artist they think 'artist', but when they look at a middle aged woman artist they think 'hobbyist'. Very sad.

I have two biological sisters, and two adopted sisters, one deaf and one African American (I'm white). I grew up surrounded with prejudice. And I'm sorry to say that prejudice in all sorts of forms including in the art world is still alive and well. Thank you for speaking about the elephant in the room that everybody tries to ignore and act as if it's not there. It's still there, and we need to bring it to people's attention before it ever departs. And you're a man, no less! Bravo!

Linda Tenukas
via faso.com
We can't lay all of the blame at the door of galleries. After all, galleries are in the business of making money and they have found that the public perceives works created by male artists to be worth more than that of female artists. I can't count the number of times I have been told to sign my work with only first initials. It's sad.

The discrepancy in sales cannot be explained by most male artists "working harder," nor are all female artists are raising toddlers.

claudia roulier
via faso.com
I totally disagree with the premise of the newsletter's main thrust about gender bias there are reasonable answers to the stats presented. For example, woman tend to stop, take a period of time to have families which puts them back into the art scene rather late, plus there's all the catching up that they have to do and networking. I am one of those people but I have decided to go for it and have been fairly successful despite my age and the number of years when I wasn't in the art scene. In the 70's-80's things were different, for instance I used only my first initial when displaying my work because I didn't want my images to take with either a male bias or female bias I wanted them to remain true to what they were without prejudice. Stats never tell the whole story.

Carol Schmauder
via faso.com
I found your statistics shocking in a way. As a 62 year old female these statistics are somewhat depressing. I know I will never be in the NYC scene so I will content myself with my community here which is very supportive of female, older artists.

Virginia Giordano
via faso.com
Harriet Tubman said, I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.

Marian Fortunati
via faso.com
I think we encounter all of these prejudices in every aspect of our world... unfortunate as that may be.
And, I've found, it is pretty much true. It shouldn't however, be used as an excuse not to create the best we can or continue trying to open up the market for our work.

We need to persevere and continue to make the art which we love making.

Joanne Benson
via faso.com
Thanks for an enlightening article. I'm sure there is much truth in what you are presenting here. I have to say though, that until recent history and the 2 income household, the men have been the major breadwinners and therefore would probably be more motivated to have their works taken seriously. I don't doubt that there is discrimination on all the fronts that you mentioned as the numbers don't lie, but there is also truth in the whole child rearing scenario that Mimi pointed out as well. I used to have a female boss when I worked in corporate America who would always say "I need a wife!" I still think of that when I get overwhelmed! I work a part time job, do artwork, do church choir, exercise, care for an elderly mother, do weekly chores and errands, plan menus and cook. That's the short list.....So....... I need a wife!

Connie McLennan
via faso.com
Thank you for confirming and quantifying something I have long suspected. It's somewhat disheartening, but then again, what else is new? I agree that much of the explanation for the gender gap is the divided focus women experience as a result of being the default primary caregivers--not only for children, but also for aging parents and others.

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
via faso.com
Joanne,
I need a wife too! My husband is a terrible wife. Heh.

Harold Joiner
via faso.com
Brian, I appreciate the sincere attempt to tackle an important subject, but for me your "research" is not convincing. Drawing broad implications from simplistic studies weakens your argument. Here's an example, in your own words: "...in a typical art museum visitors will find that 95 percent of the displayed artwork was created by an artist who happens to be male. Thus, women are only represented visually by 5 percent of the displayed artwork in the average museum." Of course, if there are more male artists (and there have been for centuries), then more artwork in museums will be by male artists.
This is just one example, and others have commented on the role that time off for child rearing might play in the artmarket gender gap.
I think your article would have been stronger if presented as an opinion piece based on your own personal observations, sort of like an editorial in a newspaper.

JT Harding
via faso.com
Last nite, I was at an awards show and 90 percent of the awards were given to women artists....including the best of show. I guess it depends on whether you are in the contemporary or realistic art world. But from where I sit, Women are making great strides and doing great work.

JT Harding
via faso.com
Write another comment . . .

Frances Vettergreen
via faso.com
For years I used only my first initials on my art and all my documents. I've stopped because it's unwieldy but also because I decided I should be proud of who I am, gender and all.

It makes me laugh, in a sad kind of way, when men say their wives are better at child-rearing than they are -- practice makes perfect, right? Ditto that there have been more male artists for centuries. That's only true if you don't acknowledge all the beautiful functional things women have always designed and created as art. If society hadn't forced women into a domestic role, would the male>female "artist" ratio still hold?

I'm one of the many artists -- male and female -- whose attention is divided by other responsibilities. How frustrating that many of the competitions and awards for emerging artists are age limited. You can only be serious about your work if you're young? Please.

Indigene
via faso.com
Brian, Bravo on writing your article. I know many people have commented on your stats, the true realities,etc. I believe, what you really wanted, was an open a dialog. Will we get all the answers on these issues...NO,we will not. But, it is a beginning.

My particular bend on this topic, is that I am a biracial/multi-cultural female visual artist over the age of 50! (Are those enough labels?) I fit into all the catagories of "isms". These "isms" deterred me for a long time. It had nothing to do with me not being stronger, working harder, etc. These labels are exhausting to fight, and then you have to create art! In the American culture anything, not white, single, male and over 21 has been the winning lotto ticket.

I'm not saying that people in that aforementioned winning lottery ticket had it easy, I'm saying that people not in those winning labels have it harder!

I'm sure there will be many comments stating otherwise. But, in the "isms" of American culture, being a woman of color over 50 has never, ever been a winning combination! Turn on any television in America, and you'll see the wisdom of my statement.

But, I continue on my artistic journey, because at the end of my life, I want to be able to say, I was a visual creator. I rose to my calling, and I was passionate about it!

So, Brian, once again, thanks for opening up the proverbial Pandora's box. I celebrate your loud whisper.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Replying to several of you at once:

Trent, you said "I work hard for my living and am constantly doing things to make sure the world takes notice of me so that I may continue to make my living this way. My female peers who have done the same things for their careers as me are as successful (or more so) than I am. Gender and age have nothing to do with it...success is usually just a product of hard work (and sometimes a bit of luck)."

I'm confused Trent-- are you suggesting that these factors-- sexism, racism, and ageism-- don't play a role within the art world? So what would you say to artists who feel that they have met obstacles due to one or all? Obviously the art has to be 'good'-- or simply strike solid interest-- to be successful.

Claudia said, "I totally disagree with the premise of the newsletter's main thrust about gender bias there are reasonable answers to the stats presented. For example, woman tend to stop, take a period of time to have families which puts them back into the art scene rather late, plus there's all the catching up that they have to do and networking."

I think that is a rather wide generalization to make about women in general-- especially in 2011. Especially when you consider some of the percentages mentioned. For example, the percentage difference between female and male art students-- there are more female graduates. There are studies that have long shown that college graduates, especially grad school, tend to wait until their late 30's or early 40's to start a family.

Practically all of the artists who happen to be female whom I've interviewed over the years don't have children-- and many of them have faced the obstacles I mentioned. Some have children but continue to be creatively productive-- and face the same obstacles. I don't think you can write the gaps off by locking in on the baby factor.

I'd also say that many of you are making wide generalizations about men when it comes to raising children. I'll speak from experience-- at one time I was working 2 jobs, watched my child while her mother was at work, and did the blunt of the changing and other needs during the night. Was I exhausted-- yes. Was I still productive-- yes. Would I do it all again-- yes. Even now, as a single father, I'm able to care for my daughter while getting other things done.

Harold said, "in a typical art museum visitors will find that 95 percent of the displayed artwork was created by an artist who happens to be male. Thus, women are only represented visually by 5 percent of the displayed artwork in the average museum." Of course, if there are more male artists (and there have been for centuries), then more artwork in museums will be by male artists."

I'm not denying the fact that males dominated art for centuries-- but I also think you should consider that in the past there were females creating art who are only now seeing the light of day... long after their death I might add. Also, the art museums I've visited tend to have more artwork from the last 60 years than from any other period of time. The presence of females within the mainstream art world has been substantial in the last 60 years-- yet we rarely see that reflected in museum collections.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
As for racism-- it does exist in the art world. Even Jean-Michel Basquiat-- as successful as he was in such a short time-- was made to feel as if he was the 'token black artist'. He had reason to feel that way-- some influential individuals treated him as that-- and marketed him based on racial stereotypes. Did it work to his advantage? Perhaps. Was it also an obstacle? Certainly if you consider his own words.

There was more to Basquiat than the stereotypes associated with the color of his skin. The irony being that his artwork often challenged and mocked the very stereotypes that were thrown at him during his years of success in the New York art world. That was really not that long ago if you think about it...

Marta Brysha
via faso.com
Thank you so much for your article, Brian. I would like to add one more prejudice to your list. While media such as painting and sculpture are valued, other media, such as textiles and fibre art are denigrated as being largely "women's work" and therefore of much lesser value. This is even reflected in FASO's Bold Brush competition. Why can't it be a Bold Art competition open to all media? There are many fabulous artists working in fibre, paper, glass and just about any other media you care to think of. Isn't it time that art was assessed on merit rather than what category it is deemed to belong?

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Marta, I'm relatively new to the FASO team. However, my understanding is that there has long been a focus on painting. I've actually discussed the possibility of adding other art competitions with Clint. The focus on painting has nothing to do with gender or putting other forms of art down.

As for art competitions and categories...categories-- as for medium used-- are of importance with juried competitions. Trust me on this-- I've worked with sites that offer non-categorized-- open to all mediums-- art competitions and it almost always results in someone feeling cheated when a painter or photographer wins. Painters and photographers easily out-number those working in other mediums.

You have to remember that painting is one of the most popular forms of artistic creation. Thus, if you have fibre art or sculpture up against painting after painting the odds are not very good for non-painters-- which is why a competition for each 'category' is the most fair and balanced way to go about it.

I'll mention it to Clint again. Perhaps in the future we will see additions to the competition... that said, I personally don't think the competition should pit sculpture vs. painting, photograph vs. video art and so on-- categories are a must.

Brian Sherwin
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Linda said, "We can't lay all of the blame at the door of galleries. After all, galleries are in the business of making money and they have found that the public perceives works created by male artists to be worth more than that of female artists."

If you want to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs, true? And who better to break those eggs than the individuals who serve omelets to the masses, so to speak. I do think art professionals-- such as gallery owners, art museum directors, curators, art critics and so on-- need to take more responsibility for the under-lining message they send to the public.

Public perception can be changed by action. Unfortunately, many art world professionals are not taking the right actions-- or if they do they stamp the exhibit with the very labels that have oppressed so many. It is time for artists to be viewed as just that... artists. That is my opinion-- and I'm sticking to it.

claudia roulier
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in response I would say that in the fields of fine art dealing with landscape, still lives, that genre wildlife, etc and I do understand that this is broad, I find the same as, or more women than men, same goes for the arts and crafts, are there excepts yes. However in contemporary art there seems to be more men than woman as a (general) rule. I belong to two co-ops and in one they call it the good old boys club and the other frankly is dominated by women both are contemporary art galleries.

Jo Allebach
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I am female, fifty and white. I agree sex, age are problems like you stated but the race issue is often upside down. I am "white" (actually more pinkish brown) and have no "culture". The are all kinds of venues and competitions for __________ artist, but you won't be finding any for white artist. It is sad that any designation has to be given at all in ANY way. My art makes me who I am.

Fox Ritter
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I have to agree with Jo above. I think reverse racism is a HUGE problem in the art world. Look at how galleries are in Chicago and New York. Like it or not these cities shape visual culture in the United States. New York boldy claims to be the center of the art world in the US. But the galleries have tried so hard to be politically correct that you will be hard pressed to find US born artists represented. Out of five galleries I visited in Chicago last year I could find only a few American artists. The rest were from Italy, Germany, and France. And before anyone says anything the mission of those galleries had nothing to do with international exposure. New York is no different. There should be more opportunities for American born artists in the United States!!! We should be demanding it!!! I doubt US artists are given the same merit in other countries. I doubt there is a wave of US art in China or the Middle East. But here you find gallery after gallery catering to artists from those countries all because they want to appear tolerant and politically correct. I call bull!!!

Esther J. Williams
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Brian, although I am aware of the 'good old boys school' in the art world, I feel it is losing strength. I feel I am doing alright as a female artist in the midst. I look at my male peers as human being artists, not males. If I want more proof that female artists have become very successful in the art world, I can pick up my books on Georgia O`Keefe or Mary Cassat and read them to feel validated.
In fact, I have a whole book on just female artists. It is titled Women Artists 1550-1950 put together by Ann Sutherland Harris, Linda Nochlin and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in 1976. It is filled with biographies of women artists and images of their art. It picks me up out of any discouraging emotions, especially when I read statistics like the above. Numbers are in a ever-changing state of reconfiguration, it just takes time. I have another half a century to see more positive changes and I am pretty certain I will smile.

Esther J. Williams
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Brian, I just read the preface to this book, it is actually a catalog of the exhibition for Women Artists 1550-1950 that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art organized in 1976. This was an extensive exhibition and a male suggested it! Kenneth Donahue told a story about a group of women artists who came to the LACMOA demanding gallery space and exhibition time for women equal to that being given to male artists. During subsequent meetings, the board proposed a comprehensive exhibition dedicated to Artemisia Gentileschi. Donahue stated that there were many other neglected women artists worthy of exhibitions and the concept developed into a major exhibition at the museum.
I am glad it occurred even though it is on the West coast, not NYC. I live here and I am now more proud of living here than my native New York state.
Maybe or shall I say, most probably, a group of NYC women artists need to approach the Met or the Guggenheim to demand an exhibition. The higher the number of women that approach the museums, the more powerful the request will be taken under consideration. Or it can be that just one influential woman speaker can convince the right powers. As for galleries, they are privately owned and that is another story.

Stede Barber
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Good topic, Brian, opening up the mysterious world of who gets noticed and appreciated, and who does not.

I”™ve long wondered why there are far more men in most shows/museums than women. I seem to get the opportunity to see so much less work by women than by men, but I certainly haven”™t seen that women are any less gifted and able.

One interesting subject I read about is how women tend to present themselves far differently than men. Men tend toward a "Here I am, here's what I do" presentation with the expectation of praise and acceptance, while women tend to be more indirect and look for cooperative ways to participate. Sorry I don”™t remember the book this is from”¦

My name gives no clue as to whether I'm male or female, and I've noticed that I'm assumed to be male during online interviews or situations where people haven't met me physically.

I really am curious about the general concept that women's work is of less value out in the world...while obviously considered the backbone of home and family. I worked with an organization promoting women and their financial awareness and responsibility, and saw that women are shifting dramatically in their relationship to money, taking responsibility for where it goes according to their values. I wonder if that will bring a corresponding shift in the art world.

Also, since women tend to be the ones who make purchases for the home...what does that say about the fact that the majority of art that becomes well-known and purchased is by men? Is that “purchasing power”¯ stat true in the art world, or do more men buy art than women?

Lots to explore here... the more we can parse this out, the closer we'll be to knowing how to make change.


Stede Barber
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One comment above that I'd love more info on is about judging and judges...I've long wondered how judges are chosen, if they are paid for their time and work, and who chooses them to begin with. The choice of judge(s) immediately lays a preliminary foundation for what type of work will be juried into a show.

Given that getting into shows and winning awards can so enhance an artist's visibility and provide a leg up in their career, I would love for this area to be more transparent, and for guidelines for judging, and judging opportunities to be more known and available. Since juries generally only see the art, and don't generally know anything about the artist, during jurying, it seems odd that more men's work would be chosen than women's. Are fewer women entering? Hmmm...


Stede Barber
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As far as awards, JT, I would love to know what show you were at! Please do tell...

Clint Watson
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Marta - RE: "Why can't it be a Bold Art competition open to all media? There are many fabulous artists working in fibre, paper, glass and just about any other media you care to think of."


The answer is not that we don't appreciate great art of other mediums - we do. The answer is that there is no good way to judge drastically different mediums against one another and the judges we know are not experts in those mediums. How do you judge a sculpture against a painting. Or 3-d art glass against fibre? You can't, so it's not a good idea to try.

This is covered at http://faso.com/boldbrush/rules #2:

"At this time this online art contest is only for paintings
(we do hope to have additional competitions for photos, sculpture and other mediums eventually,
but when that happens we will NOT be judging photos against paintings.)"

If there was enough demand for another medium and we had a volunteer to help line up judges, handle communication, etc, we could realistically consider another contest.

Note - We do use a broad definition of painting to include most 2-d work - some fibre/paper works that are 2-D are similar to "paintings" - we have no problem with fibre "paintings" being entered.


David Rickert
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Stede -- re: judges and judging ...
I was once a member of an art center annual juried show team. Our job was to organize the show and select jurors. Our philosophy was to have a panel of three judges, each of a different background and expertise. It could be a painter/instructor, an academician and a photographer -- or some other mix -- and always both sexes represented. Quite often one judge would point out the merits of a work that another judge had passed over. Minds were changed. A consensus resulted. We felt this was the fairest way to judge a show.
On the other hand, our State Fair has one judge for each category, i.e; oil/acryic, watercolor, drawiing, sculpture, photography, etc. Every year hundreds of first-rate artists are rejected and left to wonder why such-and-such a work got in and their's did not.
Most juried shows are judged by one person. It might be a visiting artist who's giving a workshop, or a local, estabished artist or academician. The show chairperson or committee usually strives to select someone who's credentials look good in the show program or prospectus.
In my opinion, whomever it is, having a singular juror opens the door for all kinds of prejudice even if it is subliminal. In the case of the state fair I mentioned, I have entered paintings that had won national awards and had them rejected at the fair. So, speaking of fair -- as someone said, life isn't.

Robert L Berry
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As a Black Artist I have to face the so called ART World everyday knowing that I will be treated differently. I can not let prejudices or anything else for that matter get in the way of creating art. I am going to paint and be happy. It may be a competition out there but I am not going to be in it. One has to stay focused and not get distrated by what I call "Art Haters", after all we are looking for "ART Lovers" and not Political Art Hackers that will destroy you and your art to gain an advantage. If you have confidence in your work then the work will rise above any negative perceptions. If the work is good it will stand on its own merits. Do what you do and let the critics do what they do without you. Jazz On and never own a box to think outside of. I am proud of my work and no one can take that away.

Stede Barber
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Thank you David! Got a chuckle out of your last sentence.

Robert, you go! Important to remember the difference between our personal creativity and the business of selling what we create. We can always, and hopefully joyfully, continue learning, growing, experimenting, and loving creating our art.

As in any business, then we must deal with marketing, promotion, learning and growing our business.



Marta Brysha
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Thanks Clint for your thoughtful answer.

My art is in the medium of fine hand embroidery worked in silk thread that I dye by hand giving me the infinite palette available to the painter. In that respect my work certainly sits more comfortably with contemporary abstract painting than textile art. This often creates a problem when my work is hung with other textile art as it often doesn't look "right" when hung with such works.

I'll definitely enter a piece in the next bold brush.

Teri Starkweather
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Thank you Brian for bringing to light a topic which I have been aware of for many years. Prejudice and sexism does exist and it's easy to get away with because the art world is subjective. Artists are always dealing with someone's opinion of their work, and opinions are subjective. Historically the men have ruled the art world and have been it's bright shining stars, while women were not even allowed into life drawing classes in 19th century America.
In contrast, the world of medicine and the sciences is objective, and women have been making great strides. Most of the graduating classes in medical schools are now half women. This is due to the quotas which have been placed on universities. It has given more opportunity and consequently success to women and encouraged racial diversity.
It's too bad that museums, art departments, art clubs, and galleries don't follow suit and hand over equal opportunity on their own, but maybe we will have to demand it, like the women who asked for and received a museum show at LACMA.
The men have always had their "good old boys club". I have always tried to support and encourage my women artist friends, but perhaps we need to become more aware and outspoken as a whole.

claudia roulier
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I don't think some of you have been in many salon's classes, retreats, or co-op's lately. In Denver the women in these institutions way out number the men. One reason, in my humble opinion, for this is the fact that women tend to be joiners and men not so much this excludes clubs for men to get away from women that one, is what it is.

Brian Sherwin
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Claudia, women out-number men in the majority of college art programs-- BA, BFA, and MFA-- and they tend to out-number men in art workshop participation as well as lectures. One would assume-- just from these factors-- that we would see more women receiving the spotlight (reviews, exhibits, press... etc.) than men... but that is simply not the case if you break it down to percentages.

True, earning a degree in art does not mean that an artist will be successful-- but when you consider that more women than men have sought higher education in art it does not add up when you consider the percentage gaps in the majority of art galleries nationwide-- specifically in major cities that serve as cultural hubs.

I don't think this gap can be rationalized with the baby factor-- not to mention that it is a blunt generalization to assume that all women do 100 percent of child rearing while their partners are in the garage. Rationalizing sexism with sexism is not a good way to go about bringing this issue to light.

Also-- I'm not suggesting that more art/exhibit opportunities should be thrown to artists who happen to be female just because they are female... I'm saying that ALL artists should have an equal chance-- free from the stereotypes of their gender, race, and age. Obviously the merit, and dare I say power, of the art should be the most important consideration.

Another thing to consider... someone hinted that art gallery owners-- who happen to be male-- are more apt to associate with art created by males... as if that is the reason for the gap. I'm not so sure about that. After all, I can think of several high profile art galleries operated by women that focus more on artwork created by males than artwork created by females. If the opinion above were viable it would mean that gallery owners who happen to be female would cater to artists who happen to be female-- that simply is not the case.

claudia roulier
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I don't know, I just don't agree with you I think your life is what you make of it. I don't and never have relied on other people, I'm very proactive and I'm in a tough competitive contemporary art community and work very hard at net working and on my art. I have to tell you I'm not seeing what you describe in the Denver art scene. Something you haven't looked at is the influence of gay men (and women) which are in the arts at a very high percentage as opposed to the population as a whole. Again something that is hard to measure but I'm sure affects the stats.

Clint Watson
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Brian - I used to own a gallery and I don't think that gallery owners are trying to pick male artists out of some "good ole boy" type mentality.

Gallery owners need to make money to survive. I can honestly tell you we ALWAYS chose great art and NEVER gave a single thought to male-vs-female. If that art rocks, it rocks, period.

Now - WHY are there more male artists at that level? I honestly don't know, but you're seeing a lot of fallacies lumped under what us geeks call "survivorship bias" - for some reason MORE male artists "survive", so it sometimes *looks* like shows/galleries may be discriminating. But they're not - there are just more male artists showing than females.

If there is discrimination, it's happen, in most cases (IMHO) further back in the food chain. Or maybe it's something else entirely.

Something that is very, very important to remember and people not into statistics don't always think about this.

Correlation does not equal causation. In other words, just because there are more males in galleries than females does not mean the galleries are causing it. There is a correlation sure, but there may be a different cause.

In the end, I really don't know, I just love good art no matter who creates it.

Brian Sherwin
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I”™ll use Mary Boone Gallery as an example-- out of 31 represented artists only 7 are female.

Clint Watson
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Brian - follow up - I realize you were questioning whether gallery owners were at fault and were answering an earlier comment, I should have added that I agree with that questioning.

Brian Sherwin
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Clint-- I'm not really suggesting that is the case... what I'm saying-- and you obviously share my confusion on this-- is there are many women making rocking art yet the numbers don't reflect that in most galleries. As mentioned, in the average MFA program there are 20 percent more female students than male students-- so where are all of those females in the gallery world?

I realize that not every MFA graduate goes on to obtain gallery representation-- some stop creating shortly after college while others end up focusing on something else-- but aside from that the numbers just don't add up in my opinion. (And just so everyone knows I'm not implying that 'good' artists must have an MFA-- so please don't take it that way.)

Perhaps it does happen lower in the 'food chain' as you suggest. As in... small galleries and other alternative venues see high profile galleries exhibiting art created predominately by artists who happen to be male-- and it becomes a subconscious factor-- a 'monkey see, monkey do' type of choice. Perhaps some artists who happen to be female 'give up' due to that same factor. It is hard to say.

There is a clear gender bias if you look back at past decades-- specifically the 1940s, 1950s, and into the 1960s. I don't think anyone denies that. The blunt of widely successful artists who happen to be male from those decades are still coveted in high profile art galleries today-- they dominate visual culture.

My point is that perhaps the ramifications of past gender bias has simply not played out yet. In other words, as more females gain praise and become household names as artists we will most likely see more balance in the future. I hope that makes sense.

Clint Watson
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This issue is even worse in tech. Over 90 percent of companies are founded by males. I know of angel investors who have SPECIFICALLY put out calls to fund female founded tech companies. They are begging for female founders.....but maybe 1 in 100 companies that seek funding are started by females. Now some people will say that the angels are discriminating, but there is simply no way - they are practically begging for female founders. Again, the cause is something else - either discrimination further back or something else entirely.

David Rickert
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Brian, re same-gender favoritism, you may be referring to a comment I made, but I was speaking of jurors selecting art for shows and ultimately selecting award winners. I was not referring to gallery owners. Men tend to paint barns, boats and architecture with a fairly heavy hand and a strong palette. Women tend to paint flowers, poetic landscapes, children and animals with a soft palette and a lighter, more sensitive touch. There are exceptions, of course, but I believe this is generally true. Therefore it is natural for men to favor their own type of art and women to favor theirs. Jurors would deny it of course, but I think it is natural and unconscious.

David Rickert
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If I owned a gallery, if anything, I would favor representing women painters over men because their art would probably have more appeal to women -- who make up a dominant percentage of buyers. Again, subject matter and style.

Brian Sherwin
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Clint-- I probably will do another article of this nature if you don't mind. This article has resulted in some great discussion-- and it is by no means a topic that can be explored in full with a single article. I just hope I'm making sense right now because I'm running on no sleep. Ha!

Back to the topic-- Think of it on terms of social conditioning... in all aspects of society we are generally conditioned to think that males are a step ahead of females. You can see it in sports, in hard labor, and-- I'd say-- in art. Some of the comments to this article show that... as in people implying that men do better in art because they are more aggressive-- are takers and not givers... and so on. Stereotypes.

Stereotypes simply don't help to define an individual. Not all men are aggressive in their pursuits-- and I know women who would not know how to prepare a turkey if their life depended on it. Stereotypes would suggest otherwise-- but stereotypes don't reflect the reality of an individual.

In other words, I don't think art critics, gallery owners, or curators are necessarily making selections/choices out of malice-- or a 'know your role!' outlook. I doubt there are many gallery owners who wake up saying, "How can I foil women today!" or "I wonder what my manly artists are up to?"-- though there may be some conflicted sorts who do. Ha!

I do think that the mainstream art world has conditioned itself to favor males-- just as other aspects of society. Again, subconcious. Thus, just like with other aspects of society-- I think it is important to explore this... shed some light on it.

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
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Wow, David, your stereotypes are blowing me away!
women don't just paint flowers and children! I find flowers and children to be extremely difficult, challenges, in fact. I don't think I'm an exception to any rule either.

Brian Sherwin
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David-- not sure if it was you or not... there is a debate happening on my Facebook and Twitter over this article as well. It certainly hit a nerve.


Sharon Weaver
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One thing that has not been mentioned. Many male artists have wives who are very important to their success. It is often the wives who are doing the promoting, organizing and marketing. If there are two people involved in the making of an artist, they seem to have achieved a lot more in a shorter time. That can also be said for a female artist I know, her husband is very involved in her career and she has been able to leap over other artists who don't have that help. All these artists are, of course, very talented but they have an edge with more getting done by two and not just one.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
David, I don't think it is fair to suggest that the majority of men paint with a heavy hand compared to women. I've known amateur boxers who are painters as well-- guys who could knock me out with relative ease... yet their brushstrokes are graceful and flowing. Furthermore, I know females who would never consider painting a flower-- in fact, a few would be insulted at the suggestion.

I'm not sure it is as easy to tell-- consciously or subconsciously-- the gender of an artist simply by the technique and methods utilized as you suggest-- or by subject for that matter. If that is the case-- as far as subject goes-- it is another example of social conditioning in my opinion. We assume a painting of a puppy playing with a child is the work of a female-- when in reality it was painted by a 65 year old male who has worn hands from decades of working in a steel mill and served for 8 years in the military.

Just to be clear-- I'm not suggesting that only men can handle decades of steel mill work or military service for that matter. I'm just making a point-- someone who has worked hard in a hard line of work and endured the experience of facing death on the field of battle can be the same individual who creates delicate paintings of cheerful subjects.

Brian Sherwin
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Sharon, would you suggest that a female spouse is more supporting of a career in art than a male spouse? Just curious...

David Rickert
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Well, I'm going back to my easel -- soon as I get my foot out of my mouth.

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
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Brian, you didn't ask me, but I'm going to answer. Generally speaking, I don't think men or women are more supportive of their spouse, but I think Sharon would agree with me that there are more women who are acting like marketers and secretaries for their successful artist husbands than there are men that do the same.
My husband is very supportive of my painting, but he doesn't volunteer to do extra housework to give me more free time to paint!
Can you see Salvatore Dali keeping the kitchen clean?

Brian Sherwin
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David, don't take it that way. It would be interesting to see a study on painting-- to see if we do make the connections you mentioned without realizing it.

Sharon Weaver
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Either directly or indirectly a woman is more likely to give time to her husbands career than the other way around. That is just the way it is. Understand that my husband is very supportive of my career but he has limits and I respect that. His career is very important so I do not even expect him to be overly involved in mine. Again, I am not making judgments only observations.

Brian Sherwin
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Mimi-- my experience has been that the non-artist partner tends to be the one telling the artist partner to get his or her head out of the clouds-- especially if there is only minimal financial success or they simply don't 'get it'. It can be rough! It is not any easier for writers. heh

"there are more women who are acting like marketers and secretaries for their successful artist husbands than there are men that do the same."

Honestly, that is a tough call. I think that viewpoint might be rooted in famous examples. You mentioned Dali-- Jackson Pollock and Lea Krasner, his wife, also comes to mind. What is interesting about Pollock and Dali is that at some point they were un-officially separated from their wives-- yet their wives continued to manage their careers. Willem de Kooning's wife, also an artist, was instrumental in his success.

There are examples that show the opposite to be true-- Sylvia Sleigh and her husband for example... but you rarely see examples like that discussed.


Clint Watson
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Sharon - that has been my observation as well, there are more female "artist spouses" than male, at least in my experience. Jack White who supports Mikki Senkarik is a noteable exception as he has done a tremendous job managing her career and leaving her as free as possible to paint.

David Rickert
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Brian, I'm just saying that there are natural differences. If you walked into the home of a single, straight male and the home of a single, straight female, I don't think there'd be a problem identifying which is which. Viva la difference!

Brian Sherwin
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Sharon, Clint, Mimi-- that might be an interesting topic to explore with an article... family support. I'll use an author as an example-- when I interviewed Janet Evanovich I discovered that basically every member of her family helps with her career-- her daughter helps with website development and promotion and other forms of pr. Her work has become the family business-- and even before she became a success she had strong family support as well as help.

David Rickert
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Hey, Mimi -- I've been called a chauvinist before. I probably am, 'cause I'm old. I lived in the era of men going to work, women staying home as housewives raising children.
But -- just to put my theory to the test, I browsed through my copy of the TWSA 2010 exhibition catalog which has artists identified by a numbered chart. (So the name isn't under or near the work.) I tried to guess which works were painted by a man or woman, judging from subject matter and/or style. Although with many I couldn't tell, I was about 80 percent right with the ones I guessed at. Try it yourself. Or, browse through the 415 paintings accepted in the Salon International 2011 online and note the preponderance of flowers, children, pets and cheery still lifes painted by women vs. men. It's not a stereotype -- it's just the way it is, with many, many exceptions -- like you.

David Rickert
via faso.com
Hey, Mimi -- I've been called a chauvinist before. I probably am, 'cause I'm old. I lived in the era of men going to work, women staying home as housewives raising children.
But -- just to put my theory to the test, I browsed through my copy of the TWSA 2010 exhibition catalog which has artists identified by a numbered chart. (So the name isn't under or near the work.) I tried to guess which works were painted by a man or woman, judging from subject matter and/or style. Although with many I couldn't tell, I was about 80 percent right with the ones I guessed at. Try it yourself. Or, browse through the 415 paintings accepted in the Salon International 2011 online and note the preponderance of flowers, children, pets and cheery still lifes painted by women vs. men. It's not a stereotype -- it's just the way it is, with many, many exceptions -- like you.

Donna Robillard
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This was an interesting read. I remember 30 years, or so ago, I had a female cousin who painted. She signed her name with initials and last name. I asked her why she did that, and she said it was because 'people' thought male artists were better and got more recognition. It is sad that is still that way.

JT
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Kara Walker, Lisa Yuskavage, Marina Abramović and Dana Schutz. Just for beginners...and Filthy rich. Don't even start me on lists of writers, dealers, curators, critics, editors etc, etc. that are women and who MOVE the art world. Maybe you should stop obsessing so much about age, race and gender. It's a cheap topic and besides, Jerry Saltz has already cornered it.

Brian Sherwin
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JT, how is it a cheap topic? If it is not something that should be discussed why do so many have an opinion on it? Why do so many come forward with their experiences? A hot topic... yes-- cheap... no. This is not the first time I've written about the topic-- the reactions of people are of interest to me.

Jerry Saltz is just one voice among many in the realm of art criticism. Trust me, art writing does not start and end with what Jerry has to say. I have issue with some of his opinions just as he has had issue with some of mine-- especially in regards to political art and other forms of bias that appears to dominate the mainstream art world.

If you are comparing me to Saltz-- thanks. You are more than welcome to become a fan of my Facebook page-- just as he is. ;p

You say, "Don't even start me on lists of writers, dealers, curators, critics, editors etc, etc. that are women and who MOVE the art world."

Fair enough-- but do consider the gender ratio between what they exhibit or write about. Is it direct sexism? Probably not-- but it could very well be rooted in subconcious social conditioning as mentioned in earlier comments. I'm in no way suggesting that only men are keeping these gaps as wide as they are.

Also-- the professionals you mentioned may "MOVE the art world"... but where would they be without artists? They would all be jobless if it were not for men and women creating great art. That might be a topic for another day.

The issue at hand with this article-- why does the gender gap exist within the context of the art world? Obviously there is a gap... even if you just look at the last few decades. Why?




JT
via faso.com
I was actually backhandedly criticizing Saltz for taking the low road as he often does but that might be a topic for another day. Then again, Maybe not.

Sure you can write about whatever you wish and you can spin it however you wish. This question you raise could be applied to writing as well. Do you mean to imply that there is some subconscious desire to suppress women writers as well? The field is lopsided in regards to numbers. Great art smashes right through what you are implying. If we are talking about anything below that then who the hell cares? Now we are talking about making a buck and if that is the gripe then those who are complaining should get into another business.
Besides. There are always gaps and exceptions to the rule in any field. You mention boxing well I am a long time boxing fan. Do you think pound for pound women are superior to men in boxing? Not in a million years because there are distinct differentiating factors that come right down to biology.
I'm wondering if this might spill over into other realms. Equality is a Western construct for better or worse but it is a fabricated societal tool. In truth, there is no equality. That my friend would be pretty damn boring. The bottom line is: If someone hits the honey spot, no matter what their race, gender nationality etc. They will "make it" for whatever that is worth and no subconscious stumbling block will prevent it in this culture. Not when there is money to be made.

JT
via faso.com
One more thought for you. and you will have the last word as this will have to be my last visit - A little rule of mine.

One biological difference between the sexes (barring exceptions) is that by nature men objectify the subject. Woman do not. This could be a very crucial visual tipping point over the long haul, who knows.
This is my jumping off point.
I'll leave you with a quote from Norman Mailer:
“Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.”¯
Maybe men overcompensate in art and war for lack of being able to bear children and for women anything other than that ultimate contribution is an anticlimax. Just a half funny little joke...very much like the idea of gender suppression within the art world. ;)


Sharon Weaver
via faso.com
JT
Your last comment is a good one.
About men objectifying things. It is an interesting observation and could have some truth to it. Hummm....

Marta Brysha
via faso.com
JT you are delusional if you think that gender suppression in art (or any other sphere) is a "half funny joke". It is happening whether consciously or not.

Also as a childless woman I can say that producing art is closer to the ultimate contribution than adding to the world's woes by producing more snot nosed little carbon munching humans.

luna
via faso.com
reading these comments makes me ill. so many women here are allowing males here to define their whole existence with childbirth. women have children but that does not define who we are!!!!!!!!!!! raising children only holds you back if you let it. i know successful painters who have raised a family and earned success at the same time. look at how many of you are usig raisin children as an excuse for why there are not as many women in the arts as there should be. you use that excuse and then say that people don't generalize on gender!!!! if in the back of your mind you think that women painters don't do as well because they raised kids what makes you think that art dealers don't think the same thing in the back of their minds????????? women here saying that they can't succeed because their hubbies don't help them out with cooking, cleaning, and childcare. girls you need to tell your men how it is cuz they knew they married a creative. if they don't support you art they don't support you. so think about that!!!!!!!!!! some of you even say that racism is not an issue today??????? are you mad!!!!! where do you all live cuz it must be paradise!!!!

catherine meyers
via faso.com
I was pleased to find your great article about art and prejudice. I am in complete agreement with your comments and thoughts. We are naive to think this is no longer prevalent and somehow different within the art world. Women are certainly aware of it, as are those marginalized in some way in society are aware of prejudice and abuse by those in power.

I am fortunate to be attending a University where the majority of the students are women and was the first degree granting University to women in Canada. Nonetheless, this does not change the realities ahead for women upon graduation and life as emerging artists, regardless if they are women or not. Few of us become, or really want to become,"Art Stars".

I think of the old adage, " He who has the gold rules". This is no different in the art world. People in positions of wealth, which are mostly corporate men, call the shots.

We have an a mountain to climb as a human race, but surely we can strive to be honest, open minded and willing to hold on together to actualize the dream that we will creatively climb that mountain one step at a time, together, regardless of ability, age, race, gender and creed.

I'll meet you on the summit!

Jo Allebach
via faso.com
Catherine - I'll be there

Sherri
via faso.com
Well I remember taking the art history courses in college and we studied three female artists - out of hundreds of male artists! The snobbishness of the art world is what I really dislike. Of course you see quite a few famous female authors who use their initials rather than their first names, so I think it extends beyond the art world. Women are encouraged to get into art as a nice hobby, instead of a way to make money - and if they are married and have kids they don't have time for art. Being a caregiver myself, it is very difficult when you have to be responsible for everything. Women are as good as men in the arts, but are not taken as seriously.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Sherri, I remember taking an art history class that only mentioned one female-- Kathe Kollwitz. It was a jaw dropper because the instructor focused more time on Picasso's models than he did talking about Kollwitz. The class focused on art from around 1900 to 1990.


David Rickert
via faso.com
Sherri, I am in a group of artists who meet monthly, rotating at our homes, to lunch and share and critique our new works. Four of us are men, seven are women. All of the women are married and are successful artists who bring in as much or more of their joint income as their husbands. They are all gifted artists who don't take a back seat to any of us men.

If it helps you feel better, last night I and two other very qualified men judged a high school student art show. We awarded three awards of excellence and four honorable mentions. All of the award winners were girls.



Sherri
via faso.com
Yes I think the artists were Kollwitz, Georgia O'Keefe and Mary Cassatt - grand total! At first I thought Joan Miro was a female ;)
I wondered....are there really no female artists, or did the text book writers just ignore them?

Glad to hear that there are women out there doing well, but I am still considering using my first initial on new work!


Teri Starkweather
via faso.com
David: That sounds like a good group which you are in. It's also nice that some women artists got awards. Both of these examples are what you call anecdotal evidence. When statistics show that women receive half the awards in competitions, half the signature artists in art clubs are women, and half the artists in galleries are women, then we can say that women are finally equal in the visual art world.Women are a lot further ahead in music, theatre, television, and movies than the women in museums. It may take generations to catch up with the men.

Darren Daz Cox
via faso.com
well, girls are weird!

But obviously women are less in number from antiquity as they weren't allowed to be artists, the job wasn't open to them to learn it, however, after the Renaissance opened the doors, females proved that they could paint just as well as males. The greatest painter, in my opinion, of the Rococo was Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.

But here's the REAL reason, in my opinion, college is b/s. There isn't enough time to learn realism and pass all the other unrelated classes and have a life, especially if your life involves serious dating with commitment.

MFA students are just as likely to be stalling having to get a 'real job' as they are seriously considering being an art teacher in a world where their job is often the first one cut when school budgets roll around. A man can be a starving artist easier than a woman as if you are an MFA and a serious artist you have two choices after college, either starve and paint or get a day job and paint, either way you wont have much time for family if you are serious about your art.

Brandy Saturley
via faso.com
and then there was Banksy...
There are challenges in all professions based on age, gender and a plethora of other factors. I think the issue is when artists or anyone dwells on the challenges in life, rather than focusing on their goals...determination, hard work and being true to yourself - it is those who push through that slowly change the landscape before them and I see this happening every day in all areas of the Arts, never before have women been so strong and so involved in the discussion...

claudia roulier
via faso.com
I totally agree just get on with and don't whine...

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Brandy, Claudia -- having had the opportunity to interview artist Sylvia Sleigh I don't agree that it is a 'just face it and work hard' situation, so to speak. As Sleigh pointed out to me-- things are better overall, but there is still much work to be done.

For her time she is arguably one of the most influential 'pushers', if you will. That said, even she continued to face obstacles based on her gender alone-- and she continued to speak for others all the way up until the months before she died.

I don't think this is a 'stop everything you are doing until things are right' situation either-- I'm not suggesting that at all. That said, one can continue to develop as an artist while at the same time speaking out against glaring bias based on these factors.

It is 2011 -- the fact that the art world, often considered very, very, very liberal still clings to forms of prejudice or just accepts the way things are is odd to say the least.

claudia roulier
via faso.com
I gotta say again Brian, I'm not seeing it Denver maybe different elsewhere but I'm just not seeing it elsewhere. There may be another factor involved there are a large number of gays involved in the arts and some "very high" up in the hierarchy. Maybe some of what she saw was simply the same old notion of using sexuality to climb the ladder.

Brandy Saturley
via faso.com
I too have to say that I am not seeing it where I am, though I am in Canada. I can say that I have been told that being a female, over 30 and Canadian would be a challenege, not so much the first two factors, but my nationality would be the largest obstacle in making a name for myslef on the International art scene.

I too have had the pleasure of interviewing distinguished women in the Arts, with Pat Martin Bates being one of my mentors. With the strong female artists whom I have had the pleasure of sharing discussions on art, none have ever brought up being female or age as the challenges that limit them in their success as artists. I am not saying that ageism or sexism does not exist, it does in all areas of the arts and with more women having the opportunity to educate themselves and more women focusing on career first, I have seen a swing in the pendulum so to speak. Early on in my career I worked in the film industry exploring my art through film, I also spent time taking modelling jobs to pay for school and what I can tell you from my experience is the 'casting' couch exists in all areas and like all sectors of the work force, there are good people, passionate about their profession and those focused on power and money.

I believe what it comes down to is being 'fearless' - the only obstacle that keeps anyone from realizing their dreams is fear. I think on the whole men are naturally more fearless, men are warriors and for a long time have ruled the world. It is the women who have been and are continuing to be fearless in their lives that are changing things.

I believe Jerry Saltz started a similar debate about female representation at MoMA last year - the debate ended with Jerry meeting with the cheif curator - you can read more here http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=92786967230andtopic=9682


Vandal
via faso.com
I think women need to accept that the world has and always will be a mans game. The art world isn't any different. What has the modern concept of gender equality done for society? Not much good if you look at how broken homes are today, how uneducated kids are today, and how poorly nutritioned people are today!!!

That can all be linked to the outcome of the feminist movement of the 1920s and 1960s. Todays young women don't know how to keep a husband, how to raise children, or how to cook a proper meal. Where does that leave people exactly!?! Alone, stupid, and hungry.

You can call me a bigot all you want but centuries of strict gender roles show that the way things were was probably better for civilization. The harder women fight against natures intentions for them the worse society will become. Don't view it as serving a man view it as serving a purpose. If people don't have a purpose today it is related to this shift that goes against thousands of years of what allowed civilizations to grow!!!

Giving up the basics of thousands of years of gender purpose in exchange for the delusion of rights has done more harm to the world than any modern war. Men have botched their roles just as bad. The purpose of a man is to provide for his family and to do most of the physical work. Todays young men would rather stay home and play video games instead of working an honest days work. To think that the greatest generation this world has ever seen grandfathered this generation of uselessness is painful to observe!!!

Teri Starkweather
via faso.com
Vandal: Your way of thinking is exactly what some of us are referring to when we talk about prejudice and stereotypes. Maybe historically it has been a man's world, but things are changing. We have a female secretary of state and there are women on the supreme court. Opportunities for women are opening up more and more every year. Making art can be a woman's job as well as a man's job. And a man can learn to cook for his family also. The kitchen doesn't need to be the woman's domain. Mostly, the art world and those in power need to wake up and realize that the statistics show that women love art, love making art, and will spend money learning about art. Let more women artists be art stars along with the men and you will see even more support from women art students come your way. Honestly, I feel that giving more women artists visibility would boost the art market and art schools in general. It would be a good thing for everyone.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Brandy, the fact that a critic as notable as Jerry Saltz has locked in on the issue of gender bias should tell you something as to the importance of keeping an open discussion about these issues going. There are several vocal members of the mainstream art world who have chosen to tackle these issues-- which is why I find it both sad and amusing with some people suggest that these issues don't exist or are not as bad as they seem.

Vandal, I'm not sure what rock you came out from under-- but by all means please return to it. Also-- your view of human history is not exactly correct. There are examples of early civilizations that placed women higher than men in key social roles that your view of history does not account for.

Teri, at my house I'm the master of the kitchen. Ha! I personally love cooking.

Concerning college... if you look at the stats most art students are female-- even more so for grad school. Yet the majority of positions that one needs an MFA for, such as teaching on the college level, are mostly dominated by men. That should tell us all something-- you don't have to be good at math to see that the situation does not really add up.

I'm sick and tired of people using the baby factor to explain the numbers. Worse still is the number of people who suggest that gender gaps don't exist within the art world or that the people bringing it up are not working hard enough, are jealous, or whatever. I don't think anyone is suggesting that artists who happen to be female should get an easy ride-- but their rise should at least be fair in the sense that they are taken just as serious as artists who happen to be male.

Ethel Mays
via faso.com
"...if there are more male artists (and there have been for centuries), then more artwork in museums will be by male artists."

Not sure this is an accurate statement/assumption. How do we know there have been more male artists than female "for centuries?" Maybe this is perceived to be the case because female artists haven't experienced as much promotion as male artists. (Who does the promoting?) How can we be sure of female artists' roles during times when history wasn't being recorded? It's hard to prove a point that has no concrete evidence to append to it. Right now, however, evidence of discrimination against women artists is available through the efforts of hard work applied to research, such as Mr. Sherwin's efforts.



M.K. Hajdin
via faso.com
I was right with you until you said Tracey Emin breaks the rules. Then I had to laugh. There's nothing rule-breaking about navel-gazing narcissism. It's de rigeur these days.

Aside from that, good points.

Ed Shott
via faso.com
The NYC Chelsea contemporoary artworld is primarily a JEWS ONLY art club---rarely do you see a genetic Blonde in Chelsea---The presence of White people is discouraged--White people can buy there but not sell there.










 

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