“How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself?” ~Anais Nin.
When I was asked to write a column for an American cultural magazine, my first thought was if I would be able to do this, first of all being European and second – strangely enough – being a woman. Would I be able to write something interesting that can capture the mind of the American reader? Then I realized this behavior is perhaps just typical for a woman. Am I able to, can I do this at all, how will other people perceive me? Stop whining! Just go and do it?
Let me properly introduce myself. Having studied Italian literature with a strong focus on Magical Realism I am a digital artist and poet and spent most of my time working on my art and writing my blogs. Born in the Netherlands, but as I have never felt typical Dutch I traveled a lot, lived in several European countries and so ended up today living in Gran Canaria, a paradise island located near Africa but officially part of Spain. I am passionate about art, literature, music and anything that enriches our life, things that make it beautiful and worthwhile.
My first article for this column I actually had planned to write about successful women in visual arts. But after having started I ran into my first big dilemma: “Was I able to think of enough important female artists?” While I had no troubles whatsoever to think of female writers and musicians I was only able to name a few women painters from the top of my head, and that made me think.
If I would have decided to write about male artists I could have named hundreds of them and there would have been enough information to write a library full of books – which other people actually have already done – but why is it that there are so few female artists. Had I just forgotten about them? One artist that most of you probably would have thought of right away is Frida Kahlo. She is an inspirational character, a truly great female Mexican artist. But when you think of it, her art was partly inspired on her suffering that was caused by her husband Diego Rivera. He treated her very bad and had many affairs which she turned into inspiration for her art. Many works are self portraits in which she presents herself to the world how she saw herself, suffering from physical and emotional pain, a tortured soul. The question is would we have remembered her if her husband wasn’t one of the most famous artists of his time?
When I try hard enough other artists come to mind like Dorothea Tanning, Remedios Varo, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Sophie Anderson and Tracey Emin.
Why is it that there is such a big difference in the level of success between women and men in visual art. I believe an artist needs some form of inner freedom to be able to create, but isn’t it so that women have a greater need for admiration and approval of others in order to perform? Woman are perhaps more likely to be judged on their behaviour and what they express while men can create whatever inspires them. Perhaps there is a correlation between these two.
It wasn’t up till the late sixties that things began to change largely due to the feminist movement and ‘woman in art movements ‘that Art galleries were almost forced to start taking female art serious, they demanded attention. The motto was “Art creating identities” where Art becomes personal and persons became art.
Happily most things have changed a great deal and I do believe we – meaning the artistic women – have broken free of many chains of society being free to develop, create and express. The question remains is it just our inner self that sets boundaries and creates our own obstacles in the creation of art and promoting ourselves. As a ‘typical’ woman, of course I am not sure either… am I right, am I wrong.
This article has been published earlier in Sweet Henry Magazine, April 2012
Portrait is by Frida Kahlo