Sunday, 19 July 2009

Rant of the day

Last week Syma Tariq wrote about the new all-female art exhibition at the Pompidou centre in Paris. We asked you whether female artists have been ignored by the art world and to name your favourite female artist. Here are some of your responses:

As a teacher and writer of art education materials I have struggled for 20 years to show our learners any reproductions of art made by women. I don't stop trying, but so often the books and postcard collections available in schools, and even, surprisingly, Internet image banks, concentrate on what I jokingly refer to as the Ks: O'Keeffe, Cassatt and Kahlo. There is a lot more to see through different times and across cultures.

Alex Mackenzie

After 30 years teaching in schools and art colleges I have yet to find an exceptional female painter; I do not understand why. There have been good, skilful women painters in the past – Rosa Bonheur, Angelica Kauffmann, Mary Cassatt and more. However in sculpture there is Barbara Hepworth (less bombastic but surely subtler than Henry Moore?), Elisabeth Frink (erratic but occasionally brilliant and surely a "great" artist), and Germaine Richier (my own personal hero). Sorry ladies – stick to wood and clay.

Godfrey Jones

Female artists have been ignored by the art world for centuries: five and six hundred years ago male artists routinely signed their names to work by the wives, sisters or daughters who worked with them (some of Van Eyck's masterpieces are probably by his sister). Later, unscrupulous dealers forged men's signatures on female artists' work because they would fetch higher prices (Judith Leyster passed off as Frans Hals, for example). We owe a huge debt to the feminist art historians who have been quietly restoring the attribution of these works to their real creators. My favourite female artist? Artemisia Gentileschi – a genius.

Ishvara d'Angelo, Devon

I wrote the following response/ riposte

What saddens me the most, is that the most narrow minded and in my opinion outrageously sexist comments were written not by men but by teachers. It breaks my heart that this profession is still so utterly entrenched with attitudes that would not be out of place in an episode of Mad Men.

Maybe if episodes from that series were shown to today’s students, they would understand why even after 30 years Godfrey Jones has made so little progress from when he first started teaching. He appears to be clinging to the coat tails of yesteryear.

This ignorance will no doubt now permeate our current generation of students, because I am sure the opinions of both Godfrey Jones and Alex Mackenzie shine through their teaching practice. This attitude that even today, female artists are second best is so outmoded and dangerously perpetuates the notion of women as second class citizens, in not just the art world but in all walks of life is just plain wrong.

The reasons for the lack of representation in galleries by female artists is excellently described in Ishvara d'Angelo’s letter which just touches on the obstacles women had to overcome to become recognised.

Women nurture, it is innate in all we do, so of course behind an acknowledged male genius will often be the love, stability and talent of a woman.

Godfrey Jones and Alex Mackenzie also fail to take into account the rich and varied art produced by women from other cultures. The female painters of Madhubani, to aboriginal artists such as Roslyn Karedada.

Further thought led me to think that if Sorry ladies – stick to wood and clay. is to be taken literally, it implies that form and function are the domain of women (and I can imagine such fripperies as decorative art would be included in that jibe) then men are master only of illusion. Hardly something to crow about.

Rant over


materfamilias said...

Your students are lucky to have you!

Mardel said...

I agree, lucky students.