female absence in the art world

Since last May I am teaching arts and crafts in a small Kids Arts Studio in Shenzhen, China, and realized that almost 80% of my students are girls. The interesting thing is to see the different attitudes kids have towards art; specially if you compare girls and boys. There is highly more interest, dedication and  diversity in girls art work, but to clarify,  I am not stating that  boys can’t have the same relationship towards art…That’s not my point, don’t get me wrong! And again its just my interpretation and experience.

In Linda Nochlins influential essay in 1971 ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’, she wrote that:

There are no women equivalents for Michelangelo or Rembrandt, Delacroix or Cezanne, Picasso or Matisse, or even, in very recent times, for de Kooning or Warhol, any more than there are black American equivalents for the same.

Let me say that she published this essay in a time where women started to reveal herself against social conditions, females started to participate in the political field, looking for jobs beyond the limits of being a housewife and taking their personal and economical responsibility for themselves. It’s the time of Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer, Sheila Levrant de BrettevilleJudy Chicago, Annie Leibovitz, Louise Armstrong and many more.

But in terms of fine art, women struggled to get support and encouragement from parents, husbands and agents, their lack of representation in museums rose up their anger and feminist movements.

In 1985 a New York women artist group organised a protest against sexism in the art world. The ‘Guerrilla Girls‘, they hid their identity under furry gorilla masks, they created a billboard style poster to grab viewers attention, to express their ideals, opinions and concerns. One of the statements they made in their posters were ‘ Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” and “When racism and sexism are no longer fashionable, what will your art collection be worth?’ 

Encouraged by this early girls movement, today a group of women artists creating plays and performances call themselves, Guerrilla Girls On Tour, takes a hilarious look at the current state of women in the arts and beyond.

Recently the auction house  Christie’s sold Cindy Sherman’s ‘Untitled #96‘ which blew past all previous photography records. The first time I saw one of her works, I was impressed by it, not only because of the dramatic mystery effect of the pictures, but the fact that she depicted herself in a variety of poses and scenes. She was unrecognizable from one picture to the other, it’s no need of a men showing a woman in a sexist or socially approved way, Cindy is a woman presenting her art work, and the ‘real’ woman behind the scenes.  If you want to see her work,  Cindy Sherman is on view at the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis,USA.

Coming back to the beginning of this post, as far as I noticed from my little artists, they are very talented and committed, the new generation of Chinese parents understand the benefits of art education. Not only trying to teach art techniques, it’s also important to be able to have fulfilled personalities, being creative is a life long skill and can be used in everyday situations regardless if it’s a boy or a girl.


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