It makes me incredibly sad and angry that my art history books do a terrible job of mentioning female artists. I find it unfair that Van Gogh gets almost half a chapter, but Frida Kahlo gets one obscure painting and a couple paragraphs that are mostly about how she was upset over her cheating husband. Georgia O’Keefe gets one painting and a disclaimer that it is not, in fact, a vagina, nor did she condone the common misconception.
Critiques were today and as I was finishing my quiz, I heard a woman describing her piece as “cute” to the dismay of the only female art professor present in the group. The professor began to explain that as women, we’re already dismissed as cute and small and that we need to be strong and different and make ugly, jarring things to be noticed or else we’re written off as “cute.” What I think she was trying to say was that we are left to be a paragraph in an art history textbook that is full of old white men, if we’re even that lucky.
I don’t want to be a mention in a book. I don’t want that to be my top shelf goal. I don’t want to make cute things that sparkle and are complacent. I want to make ten foot tall wooden sculptures with broken edges that threaten you if you get too close. I want my art to confuse people and to make them have viceral reactions. I want to create monumental paintings that make people question their existence. I want a whole section of art history books dedicated to women in art. I want books and galleries of female artists and I want little girls to have a woman to look up to instead of trying and failing to be Van Gogh and Monet by being told they can’t do it. It broke my heart to learn that the surrealist movement, one of my favorite movements, was completely dismissive of women. The head of the movement refused to accept a female artist as a surrealist and refuted any claims when a women challenged it publicly. Frida Kahlo was the first and only women to have this “honor” and it was seen as a gift to her instead of a testament to her talent.
The art world makes me goddamn mad. We don’t need a “gift” of acceptance, we deserve it.
I’m tired of writing papers on art that feature white men because there’s no good research on anything else. If I can count on one hand the amount of female artists mention in this book, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed if we ever expect to get anywhere.