Level playing field?

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Dear Artist,

This morning Suzanne Lee wrote, “In a recent group exhibition in which I participated, it appeared that the men were taken more seriously as artists than the women. More value was put on their work in terms of prices paid. This hit a nerve for me, and upset my idealistic notion that the art world was devoid of these sorts of attitudes. I’m hoping I’m just being oversensitive and a little paranoid, but I fear that I will have to work twice as hard and produce twice the quality to be equally respected. Please tell me I’m wrong?”

Thanks, Suzanne. Unfortunately, you’re not being paranoid. The uneven playing field has been with us for some time. Just when I think things are improving for women, I see setbacks. In art, where taste can be arbitrary and buyers don’t have a lot of confidence, the old shibboleths of safety, male superiority and ego-force kick in. Just as it’s going to be a while before a nun gets to be a pope, the powers-that-be are at work.

Women artists need to fight it and men artists need to back them. Charlotte Whitten, the former mayor of Ottawa, notably said, “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” That’s the spirit women need. Fact is, women painters currently outnumber men four to one. Check out the ratio in any art club. One could say that women are naturally creative and naturally bicameral. In my limited experience with women, they seem to also take advice, network well, and are in touch with their emotions.

That being said, I was recently asked to support a group show exclusive to women. While the motives for this sort of thing may be noble and temporarily empowering, I don’t buy it. I don’t support anything that discriminates by age, race or gender. If someone invited me to support a show for men only, I wouldn’t. I want to live blind to all that sort of stuff. In my experience, most jurors bend over backwards to get it right. I just wish the general public (and a few dealers) did the same.

Whenever this sticky topic comes up, which it does in the Q and A after many of my public talks, I tell people not to look at signatures and definitely don’t look at who’s standing beside the art. Actually, I don’t think painters should be standing there at all. They should be somewhere else, painting.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Esoterica: I’m laptopping you from a room overlooking Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. My daughter, Sara, and I are on our way to Lake O’Hara for a week of mountain madness. We’re just in time for the turning larches and some crispy evenings, and look forward to our time together — to paint, to think and to share ideas. During the seven hours of dialogue from Vancouver to here, I shared Suzanne’s letter with my painter daughter. “It seems to me, Dad,” she said, “this is not a letter about the subjugation of women artists… it isn’t a feminist issue… it’s a self-esteem issue. Thriving as an artist — in all of its forms — our entitlement to our lives and livelihood, our imagination, our believed limitations, our expectations and dreams for our work, our professionalism, our perceived competition and, most importantly, our JOY, requires the serving of an eviction notice to the voice of doubt squatting inside us.”

 

Gifted female artists
by Brett Busang, Washington, DC, USA

 

Blue Door acrylic painting on canvas<br>48 x 48 inches by Brett Busang

“Blue Door”
acrylic on canvas 48 x 48 inches
by Brett Busang

In the face of any rank injustice, the truly gifted artist of either sex picks him or herself up and goes on. The whiners — particularly about sex and race — are generally the ones who don’t measure up artistically and have found a politically expedient sort of way to air their grievances. And get a lot of attention into the bargain. The talented women artists I know are vigorous and versatile people. When I think about who they are and what they’ve done, I feel somewhat ineffectual. They’ve overcome whatever they’ve needed to and do very well in every aspect of their lives. And I have never heard any of them complain (the way I do) about dealers, curators, and artistic mediocrities. They’re too busy doing what they’re good at — not to mention prevailing over injustices and obstacles that are, for the most part, not gender-oriented.



There is 1 comment for Gifted female artists by Brett Busang

From: Jane — Sep 23, 2008

Love the mood in your painting.

 

Women in an aggressive industry
by Jennie Rosenbaum, Springvale, Australia

 

Spinning mixed-media painting on canvas 24 x 24 inches by Jennie Rosenbaum

“Spinning”
mixed-media on canvas
24 x 24 inches
by Jennie Rosenbaum

I think Sara is spot on. Unfortunately, as women, we are often taught to stay in the background, to be self-effacing and to see to other’s needs first. Men are taught to go after what they want, to pursue it and capture it at whatever cost. I sometimes feel that the emphasis for women is to go after whatever man they want and to hunt him with the same tenacity. When something as personal as art is on the line, it is even harder to put ourselves forward. Women artists explore themselves through their work and that introspection leads us to associate ourselves with our pieces. When rejection hits, it is more personal, and when success hits, it is slightly embarrassing. This is an aggressive industry and it requires strength of character, of mind and of vision to succeed. We must not be afraid to put ourselves forward, to strive ahead and face our fears.

 

Men taken more seriously
by Pnina Granirer, Canada

 

A Man and a Woman mixed-media on canvas 36 x 36 inches by Pnina Granirer

“A Man and a Woman”
mixed-media on canvas
36 x 36 inches
by Pnina Granirer

Suzanne Lee is right and so is your daughter. This is a very complex issue. We all know by now that when women are showing confidence and letting people know that they are important, they are accused of being aggressive, although sometimes, rarely, they do get away with it.

However, when one looks at the numbers, one sees a disproportionate number of men in Museums and Public Galleries. It is better than it was 30 years ago, but there is still a lot to do about the issue of men being taken more seriously.



There is 1 comment for Men taken more seriously by Pnina Granirer

From: Mishcka — Sep 23, 2008

I looked at your body of work on your website. Wonderful!

 

No evidence of sexism in gallery
by Peter John Reid, Chatsworth, ON, Canada

 

Catching the Light acrylic painting on canvas 40 x 30 inches by Peter John Reid

“Catching the Light”
acrylic on canvas
40 x 30 inches
by Peter John Reid

It has not been my experience that it matters one iota whether the painter is male or female. In fact, the gallery where I am, one of the top artists is female and there are several women who sell as well or better, and for more, than I do. I have done exhibition painting at the Loft Gallery in Ontario with these women and found it quite humbling. The public are drawn to their work first, whether they are standing there or not. I do not and I have never seen anyone who judges an artist’s work by their sex. I’m sure it does happen, but ignorance has a way of settling for less.

 

 

 

 

Core essence of what we do
by Carole Dwinell, Martinez, CA, USA

 

Girlfriend pencil portrait 11 x 14 inches by Carole Dwinell

“Girlfriend”
pencil portrait 11 x 14 inches
by Carole Dwinell

I find it interesting — this talk about sales, prices, respect, who is taken seriously and who is less so. I have to say that first one must take one’s self seriously and while this has been my best year ever, it is not the sales that invigorate the passion that I have for doing what I do. I agree wholeheartedly with your daughter, Sara. Though I would go one step further. I would take out the self-esteem part too… along with the subjugation, the feminist perspective. It is when I am in the middle of any of my art, whether it’s clay, wax for bronzes, or paint, when my fingers are wet with it, those are the moments that define why I do it. I think sales, galleries and so forth are only embellishments on the core essence of what we do. “If you ask me what I can do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” (Emile Zola)

 

Entrenched in patriarchal culture
by Maggie Parker, Middlesbrough, UK

 

digital artwork by Maggie Parker

digital artwork
by Maggie Parker

Suzanne needs to read Old Mistresses by Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, who also have other feminist writings to find out exactly how long the artworld has been like this and how entrenched we are in patriarchal culture. I also agree with you that sole exhibitions are not the way forward, but, sometimes, they have to be curated to support other women’s self-esteem knocked by our perceived maternal submissive in life.

 

 

Cultural expectations
by Kim Fancher Lordier, San Francisco, CA, USA

 

Soulful Measures pastel painting 18 x 24 inches by Kim Fancher Lordier

“Soulful Measures”
pastel 18 x 24 inches
by Kim Fancher Lordier

Being on the estrogen side of things in this global community of artists, I believe very strongly that respect comes from within. Self-confidence, an inner drive, and a good work ethic play a large part in how our work is perceived, whether male or female. I feel very strongly that when one’s work starts to get passed by, it is time to look inward and push to the next level. I have just gone through several months of negative dialog floating around in my head, making mental excuses for my work, and realized, yet again, that it comes down to time at the easel. That is not a female-only phenomenon. I am not saying that a “glass ceiling” does not exist… (I don’t think the playing field will ever be level, simply because the genders are DIFFERENT and our cultural expectations of gender roles are slow to change)…but I choose to not let the concept enter into my creative and professional path.



There are 2 comments for Cultural expectations by Kim Fancher Lordier

From: Marsha Savage — Sep 23, 2008

Well said Kim! I totally agree with you. There will always be differences, but I believe most problems are self-imposed when it comes to creating good energy for my female self! If you have respect for yourself and your own work, usually success will follow.

From: Carol Carbin — Oct 10, 2008

Well said, Kim. I have never allowed my gender to affect anything I have done (I’m 51) and it has never been an issue. Men and women are different but neither are superior.

 

Reinforcing our positive human selves
by Keith Cameron, Sierra Madre, CA, USA

 

Monica Abbott giclee print by Keith Cameron

“Monica Abbott”
giclee print
by Keith Cameron

Dear Suzanne, please feel wholly supported by me, and I am sure many male artists who face similar adverse situations in different forms. I look forward to the day when an issue like yours is looked upon as a human issue without the separation into gender, or race. Your feelings are very real, and you deserve to be treated fairly. By separation into categories of race, or gender, the argument of whether or not something took place can take precedence over the offending event. The immediate power we have against injustice is to deal with it while it is right in front of us. This, in my humble opinion, makes for a healthier human environment with a communication of ideas that should include all in dignity. The transgressions take place across gender and race, and when we deal with these issues positively without separation we reinforce our positive human selves.

 

Juror’s attitudes
by Larry Andrews, Soquel, CA, USA

 

While I agree with most of what you wrote, I disagree strongly with one piece. I do not believe that jurors are at all as nearly impartial as you suggest. If you look at the art groups you cite with 4:1 ratio of women to men, you will probably find a strong bias in the subjects they choose, at least in many cases. But if you look at what gets into competitions and what gets prizes, it seems to me to be a strong bias toward the subjects and methods that are emphasized by men. The level playing field needs to be sought, but there are lots of unconscious attitudes still to be uncovered.



There is 1 comment for Juror’s attitudes by Larry Andrews

From: Lori — Sep 23, 2008

I agree 100%

 

Prejudice due to economic interests?
by Bertram Lewis, NY, USA

 

In the New York area I have noticed quite a few organizations that promote women artists and have often wondered why I never encountered one that did the same for men. My impression is that there are many more women attending schools and workshops than men and that (in this area at least) women are not being underestimated (or under-priced) as artists. But your mention of jurors bending over “to get it right” brings to mind another matter I have oft wondered about. Most organizations that sponsor juried shows charge a commission on work that is sold. To what extent is a juror influenced by what is salable, rather than what is good? For example, a “good” piece comes in that is priced high, making it unlikely to sell at that particular show. The economic interest of the sponsoring organization suggests that the piece not be included in the show. Can the juror be unaware of that? Can the judging be conducted “blind” so that the juror is unaware of the asking price? To what extent should a sponsor be required to disclose any criteria that will be used by a juror, other than pure artistic accomplishment? I’d love to get some feedback from jurors and sponsoring organizations on this.



There is 1 comment for Prejudice due to economic interests? by Bertram Lewis

From: Anonymous — Sep 25, 2008

I think that there is no answer to this question because it relies on personalities. A pushover jury will yield to the sales if instructed so, a strong juror will hold to the artistic criteria. It is impossible to have control over this. Organizations either pick jurors according to their preferences, or they get whomever they can manage. The best an artist can do it so understand the organization they are getting involved with and decide if their work agrees to his/her idea of the art or not. I stay with some organizations for different reasons, some organize good demos and attract interesting guests, the others have good juries and shows. Pick what you need, there is always a way to learn and participate.

 

Equality examined
by Joe Faith, PA, USA

 

Identifying the root cause of your survey results can be more revealing than looking for blame. Now, don’t get me wrong that anyone should get paid more or less for equal work. But when has any original piece of fine art been equal to another?

Value — Value is arbitrary and subjective to the people willing to pay a given amount. So is there any reason why a gallery owner would ever ask or accept less for a work then he/she could get? That is their job right? To get the most that they can for the artist as well as themselves. Or could it be market forces?? Too many women producing too much art?

A glut is pushing prices down until a women’s coalition can limit the number of pieces on the market? Ha.

Biology — Could it be that the physiology of testosterone makes for creating more desirable art? (Sorry, just thought I’d throw it out there.)

To come perfectly clean, I do not subscribe to gender-based pricing. That would be just stupid. And buying based on a name can be just as dubious. Quality, success level, personal connection are valid reasons to up value; the stuff that makes fine art Fine.

There is no such thing as a level playing field. As artists our fight is always uphill and with our aesthetics. Not with each other.

Women, keep up the good work. Men, keep up the good work.

 

The chicken or the egg?
by Mary Ann Pals, Chesterton, IN, USA

 

Time to reflect pastel painting by Mary Ann Pals

“Time to reflect”
pastel by Mary Ann Pals

In my mind, Suzanne’s AND your daughter Sara’s statements are both valid. But they beg the chicken-and-egg question: Which came first, the substandard public view of women’s art, or the lower self-esteem by women of their own abilities and the artwork they produce? Gender double standards are alive and well in the art world, just as they are in many other areas of life. And until that attitude changes dramatically, young emerging female artists like Sara will have to fight hard to not let that poison lower their own high level of professionalism and self-esteem. Discrimination can be debilitating, no matter where it rears its ugly head, in the gallery or in one’s own psyche. I think art exhibits that showcase the work of only women are a REACTION to that discrimination, not just a headstrong feminist move. Once the playing field gets closer to being level, there will be no need for such exhibits. Their purpose will have been defused. Let’s hope we see that come to pass very soon.

 

Unspoken inequalities
by David R. Darrow, Oceanside, CA, USA

 

Bodice oil painting on canvas 7.5 x 11 inches by David R. Darrow

“Bodice”
oil on canvas
7.5 x 11 inches
by David R. Darrow

Regarding Charlotte Whitten’s quote, you wrote, “That’s the spirit women need.” Sounds like a put-down to men: “Luckily, this is not difficult.” There are other factors that I believe have something to do with where women are in art, which I will address.

Women who use paint and also join art clubs outnumber men 4 to 1. Men and women are very different in their motivations. It is generally true that men are competitive by nature. More men are concerned with being the best, reaching the top, learning the hell out of a skill than women. Men do not join clubs because the only purpose for clubs, to me, is to promote their work, show it, and compete.

Women on the other hand are very relational. They join clubs for the relationships and to show their art. While there are a number of women who are better than some of the very good men, it is generally true that women do not have the same internal motivations for painting well, and what drives men — however offensive to women it may be — makes, probably, the biggest difference. The number of competent women painters does NOT outnumber men 4 to 1. If anything the reverse is probably true.

Women, who express their emotions in a number of ways and by many means, “get it out” — Men find a way on the canvas. A man may not know he is sad or happy, or angry or embarrassed, but he does feel something, even if it’s suppressed, and when it comes out, there is a booster-rocket of drive, aggression, competition, perfectionism supporting their next painting, this being the last resort for such men to express themselves the way they want.

There are other unspoken inequalities: There is no similarity when one gender paints a nude of the other gender; nor when one gender paints a nude of the same gender. What people think about such situations is not the utopian “level playing field.”



There are 3 comments for Unspoken inequalities by David R. Darrow

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Sep 23, 2008

It is true women out number men in art organizations, probably in greater numbers than your estimate of 4 to 1. Women express themselves easily, enjoy sharing with one another and in many art organizations, skill is a secondary concern. Large numbers of women paint who do not have the skill to be great-I don’t think you can say quite the same about men.

I believe that if men aren’t really good at something, they move on to something else to spend their time. Just an observation, not being a man myself. Therefore, taking my observation a step further, the men who do paint, generally devote themselves to it fully and as you say, are concerned with being the best. Not true with all, of course, but many.

Interesting differences between men and women.

From: Jeanne Rhea — Sep 23, 2008
From: Anonymous — Sep 25, 2008

Very interesting – several truths have been mentioned. I had my portfolio looked at by a male artist (I am a woman) in presence of other artists (mostly women). The male artist took my portfolio and before opening it said loudly so everyone could hear him – Oh, I know all about you and your naked guys (meaning paintings of). I didn’t take an offence because the comment was meant to be a bonding joke, but it illustrates one of the differences mentioned above. The same comment made to a male artist painting female nudes wouldn’t be an equally good material for a joke.

 

Sexism in Western Art
by Diane Edwards, Fort Collins, CO, USA

 

San Jose Arches pastel painting 26 x 15 inches by Diane Edwards

“San Jose Arches”
pastel 26 x 15 inches
by Diane Edwards

As I read this article it occurred to me that the value of women’s art vs. men’s art changes depending on the part of the country or world in which you are showing your art. For instance, I live in Colorado, and the artists here are somehow expected to be male due to the “western” aspect of art here in the West. I have many women friends who are fantastic artists, have signature memberships and sell well in galleries and yet, they are rarely, if ever, INVITED into any of the big shows here in Denver or the Governor’s Show, etc. Sometimes a male artist moves into this state and is invited to participate in one of the big shows that very year! A show well-known women have been petitioning to get into for years. It just boggles the mind. And, believe me, any amount of positive thinking isn’t going to change that. I think Sara is wrong, it IS a feminist issue. And, I also feel you are wrong, sometimes women MUST put on their own shows just to get seen at all in this very, very, sexist higher level invitational show circuit.



There is 1 comment for Sexism in Western Art by Diane Edwards

From: Liz — Sep 23, 2008

I agree with you concerning the “traditional” painting scene and bias towards cowboy men. I am delighted to say that as I move into a more contemporary art scene that there is much less bias against women, which is quite refreshing. I also just finished a plein air Paint-out and found most of the men to be very single-mindedly competitive, which made me that much more determined to succeed.

 

Prejudice in the art field
by Joe Rosenblatt, Qualicum Beach, BC, Canada

 

oil painting on canvas 24 x 30 inches by Joe Rosenblatt

oil painting on canvas
24 x 30 inches
by Joe Rosenblatt

It depends on what gallery a woman artist is with, as gender discrimination, subtle or blatant varies in the art game, and what a game it is. Suffice it to say, sexism exists as does ageism — an experience I now find disconcerting. I think it would be very interesting if some academic conducted a survey on sexism in the art field. It is a sad fact in life that people in positions of power, whether it is the sphere of private, or public galleries, hold sexist prejudices. I would advise Suzanne to soldier on, try not to get bent out of shape when confronted by this bigotry, and do what she likes best, produce art. She will prevail.

 

Preconceived notions
by Pam Craig, Memphis, TN, USA

 

Balance oil painting on canvas 24 x 30 inches by Pam Craig

“Balance”
oil on canvas 24 x 30 inches
by Pam Craig

I used to sign my paintings with my full name starting with Pamela, middle name, maiden name and then married name, very pretentious I am sure most would think. I just wanted to cover all my work from youth to later age. I shortly decided that it was too long to place every single time on each and every painting I produced, so I shortened it to the initials PAKC. I didn’t think of this signature as a generic name; nor one that did not produce any gender or age-related concepts, it was just simply my initials. The difference in my sales was immediate, though nothing else had changed. When the sales were handled by the gallery there was never a mention of “she” but always “the” artist. I guess it allowed them lead way in how to market my work. I didn’t mind, I just liked the revenue coming in. I did mind, though, when I was introduced to clients who would look disappointed and often say, “OH, I thought you would be a man,” or when some would laugh and say, “PAKC is a woman?” That particular reaction made me feel as if the general public does have the misconception that only men can produce powerful works or passionate works, and here I stood as a woman, through default, proving their ideas incorrect.

Women do need to fight this uneven playing field, starting with the gallery curators, the media critics, and then finally with our male counterparts who want to protect their domain but should stand up with us and support our efforts.

 

Evolution of our species
by Margot Hattingh, South Africa

 

Flight Instructions wax encaustic artwork by Margot Hattingh

“Flight Instructions”
wax encaustic artwork
by Margot Hattingh

I agree that the art world is not a level playing field — what world is? Human society, world wide, is riddled with discrimination against sex, colour, religion, political beliefs, nationalities, age, and anything else you can think of.

To go on my soapbox a bit — it astonishes me that despite all our awesome technological/ intellectual advances, our general inter-personal relationships, reactions and emotions are stuck in the Stone Age. Fundamentally, we haven’t really evolved at all. Even the teachings of Buddha, Christ, Mohammed etc have been distorted to create more discrimination. Intensely competitive, we seem to be completely, genetically programmed, to turn everybody (and every other living thing) into ‘Them or Us.’

The fact is that we, the super predators, right at the very, very top of the food chain, together with all other living creatures, live on a tiny, luscious, covetable ball of matter suspended in an immeasurably huge inhospitable universe. This really should turn every human as well as every other living creature into ‘Us.’

Off the soapbox and back to the art and gender topic. To deliberately try and subvert the gender thing, I only use my surname to sign my work. However, in this country, my surname immediately puts me into a certain cultural and racial group, which I also object to. I’m thinking of signing my work with an X and a thumbprint. If Zorro can do it, why can’t I?

 

Women in charge
by BJ Wright, Tunnel Hill, GA, USA

 

Fort Keys Waits oil painting 8 x 10 inches by BJ Wright

“Fort Keys Waits”
oil painting 8 x 10 inches
by BJ Wright

My husband started using my initials instead of my name long before I began painting seriously. I sign my paintings, business letters — everything using my initials. I’ve found it curious that while coordinating paint-outs, art fairs and other events, when someone calls the posted phone number (mine) and find they’re talking to a woman — there’s sometimes a long pause. But in the conversation they find that, yes indeed, a woman is in charge AND she’s an artist AND, yes she knows what she’s doing. I sometimes smile as I sense the change in attitude. It just takes some people longer than others to accept that women are planners, organizers, artists… and we’re good at what we do.

 

The art, not artist’s gender, should take the prize
by Louise Francke, NC, USA

 

Revelations ink drawing 19 x 13 inches by Louise Francke

“Revelations”
ink drawing 19 x 13 inches
by Louise Francke

I’d like to tell you about an exhibit of NC Artists at a DC notable gallery. During this period of my life, I created extremely strong lithographs which pertained to women and our feelings when we have been extracted from a marriage. These lithographs received a lot of press attention and they even landed in an exhibit at SECCA where it isn’t easy to get exhibited. At the opening, a man came in and reviewed the art work; then, he wanted to meet the gentleman who had created the lithographs. The Director pointed me out and said “She is standing over there.” He couldn’t fathom that a woman could emote such emotions, my question is don’t we feel things just as strongly, or more so than the male gender. I believe that an art work should stand on its own. The gender of the creator is irrelevant. What is important is that it is a strong piece of art, the subject is handled well, and that it holds its place on the wall. That is all anyone can ask. As life rolls by, I still exhibit these works but my imagination has taken me beyond the pain into different themes and different causes which need our attention more than our gender. It is not the resume, the gender, but the ART.

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Cindy Revell, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

'Wind-blown Aspen by Cindy Revell, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Wind-blown Aspen

plein air oil painting by artist
Cindy Revell, Vancouver, BC, Canada

 

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Jeanine Fondacaro of Orange, CA, USA who wrote, “I love the visual I got from what your daughter said. I literally am going to write out an eviction notice to the squatter I recently discovered hanging out in my head. The little bugger was hiding well, but will be given no safe-haven any longer.”

And also Katherine Spencer Harris who wrote, “For your next show, Suzanne, send a husband, brother, or some male representative to man your booth. If anyone asks “Are you the artist?” have him reply “No, the artist (NOT “she”) couldn’t be here,” or “No, I represent the artist.” Sign your paintings S. Lee if possible. If you’re showing in a town where you aren’t known it’s worth a few days of subterfuge, isn’t it?”

And also David Glover of West Hollywood, CA, USA who wrote, “Just look at a Berthe Morisot or Emily Carr. Try and rationalize that theirs is not great art no matter the gender.”

And also Tinker Bachant who wrote, “Sara’s statement is not just about artists. This is a very insightful statement and should be posted on the wall and burned in the brain of every female, artist or not.”

And also Ed Pointer who wrote, “E. Charlton Fortune was a California woman who painted some very nice pieces but used her first name initial rather than her first name — Suzanne might try that, it can be quite successful. Meantime, Suzanne, keep working, most artists are more talented than they think they are and you’re probably one of them.”

And also Kate Jackson of Merced, CA, USA who wrote, “You wrote, “I don’t think painters should be standing there at all.” Ouch. I rarely disagree with you Robert! I just had a lovely artist’s reception last night in which people were excited and interested to meet me, the artist, talk about the art with me and seemed grateful I was taking the time to be there to meet THEM, the appreciators!”

And also Norman Ridenour of Prague, Czech Republic who wrote, “My daughter is on my case, not because I told her she could not do things, but because I did not especially tell her she could do them. Small town boys like me do not have the social skills of a city-born middle class upbringing. Sex, color, social class; one takes the cards one is given and plays the hand… ”

And also Jeannie Kwasnycia of AB, Canada who wrote, “While I appreciate the message that perhaps there is a double standard in the art world, was it really necessary to take a shot at the Catholic Church with the Nun / Pope comment? And speaking of leveling the playing field, why did you choose the oft-attacked religion of Christianity and not some other religion to make your point?”

And also Jim Cowan of New Westminster, BC, Canada who wrote, “Dare I say it? Could it be in this instance that the art that was produced by artists who were, yes, male… was considered better just because it was considered better? And the four to one ratio. Not sure it counts. Look at the field of horse-riding (pun intended). Men are hugely outnumbered and yet do disproportionately well when it comes to events. Not saying there isn’t any prejudice. Just think it’s dangerous to think there always is.”

And also Joy Hanser of Vancouver, BC, Canada who wrote, “Yay! Every word of that is true! As women artists, our work takes no back seat, rather we shine and let it show, regardless of old school attitudes, which we tend, because of the very qualities you mentioned, to unconsciously internalize from early days on. Thanks for your succinct analysis and above all, for taking some responsibility to end outmoded ways of thinking yourself. Sara’s comment showed good insight on the part that’s it’s an “inside job,” never to be underestimated!”
 

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Level playing field?

 

 

From: Katherine S. Harris — Sep 18, 2008

Just a comment- I fail to see how a simple math question like 1+1 can prevent spammers.

From: Comments moderator — Sep 18, 2008
From: Marianne Mathiasen — Sep 18, 2008

I am from Denmark one of the countries in the world who claim to be democratic, where women’s rights are held high, but even here women’s art is sold for less money than art by men.

Women painters also outnumber men in Denmark, so perhaps women have to fight each other harder to get a piece of the cake. I agree with Robert that we should not support discriminating exhibitions. We are all humans so we should all be treated the same way.

I think that men needs rights too, perhaps less men paint, because they are not supported enough when they try to be creative?

The big difference between male and female painters is that the male painter seams to be more professional about their work. Female artists love the creative part of being a painter, but they forget the business part, and that includes my self. I never asked a gallery if they would sell my art, and I only took part in very local exhibitions, but I can’t blame that on the male painter, I can only blame my self.

Another issue could be the buyers; perhaps more men buy art than women, so they look for art that they can relate to. It would be interesting if we could ask male and female buyers to choose art works, with out telling them if it was painted by a male or female painter. Perhaps men would go for male art? I know that here in Denmark women buy the less expensive decorations for the house, and men will buy more expensive things like art.

From: Faith — Sep 18, 2008

You stand corrected, Bob. The uneven playing field has been there since time immemorial. But study the current election fever in the USA to see it in full swing now! People are still judged by skin colour, gender and religious beliefs and we are currently getting a show of what a woman can do when instrumentalized. The frightening part is how many women go along with this heirarchy. Equally frightening is the fact that women seeking for or in power have to take on the less admirable traits of their male peers if they are to survive in what is still “a man’s world”. The only place I have ever experienced equality was on the opera stage, simply because a male would be really challenged if he had to sing any one of countless roles intended for the female voice. And even that is really a novelty. Castration was quite common until the late 19th century.

On the question of the rise of the “weaker” sex, one tiny problem may be that these days women tend to survive childbirth. Go into any old English chapel and read the memorial stones. The average “gentleman” got through 2, 3 or even 4 wives. And today we are confronted in the media by aging male stars and celebs taking on their umteenth spouse – not for the intelligent conversation, but because it boosts their stance as males (also see your epistle on male hormones and one or two of the comments thereon).

But let’s console ourselves. Cloning is on the horizon. And of course, the old adage holds true – if men had to bear the children, the human race would long since have become extinct.

Getting back on track….. The networks propagating male success work better than anything females can get going, not least because males are congenitally protective of their “superiority”.

From: Bob — Sep 19, 2008

You say “More value was put on their work in terms of prices paid.” Don’t prices paid relate directly to prices asked? Were you not allowed to ask as much for your work as the men?

From: Consuelo — Sep 19, 2008

Another hornet’s nest has been whacked with a Louisville slugger; Oh how I do look forward to the responses to this letter Bob.

From: Susie Maguire — Sep 19, 2008

I passionately support your daughter, Sara’s view and comment! And I support your choice to include it in your letter! Thank you!

From: Carole Pigott — Sep 19, 2008

Your daughter is very lucky in that she has had you for a mentor and to open doors for her that are not available for women artists on their own. I think it is lovely that she has not been discriminated against, but it is not the way with the real world.

From: Nathaniel — Sep 19, 2008
From: Sandy McMullen — Sep 19, 2008

This thought had never crossed my mind before now. I wish it hadn’t. There are enough ways to separate us from one another and each one has a cost to our compassion and openness. I am going to go on as I was before by focusing on painting.

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Sep 19, 2008

Robert, your daughter is lucky. She’s never seen a prospective buyer looking at her painting, smiling, then, upon seeing the signature, stop smiling comment, “Oh.” and then walk on away.

From: Steven — Sep 19, 2008

Your daughter is wise beyond her years.

We are, in large part, what we perceive ourselves to be. If we perceive ourselves to be victims, we are indeed victims – victims of our own doubts. If society, in whatever nefarious way, projects victimization onto a group and that group convinces itself of the truth of it, whether true or not, the perception may be adopted as if true. And, the perpetrators of the resulting prejudice also become part and parcel to the perceived victimization. If you want to be a victim, there are plenty of bullies out there willing to step up and take advantage.

Of course there are always exceptions – that is, those who refuse to perceive themselves as victims and those who refuse to see them as victims. The group mentality can be a difficult thing from which to break away. It’s those who separate themselves from the crowd of victims that achieve greatness – the Helen Frankenthalers, Hedda Sterns, Frida Khalos, Margaret Thatchers, Indira Ghandis, Marie Curies of the world.

Maybe as a male I have an advantage – the advantage derived from not casting myself as a victim, of not being mired in self doubt, of confidently DOING.

From: Jason — Sep 19, 2008

I do some art shows and am in some galleries and I must say that I have not noticed this kind of prejudice or inequality, but then I may not have looked close enough. All I know is that there are plenty of women artists who are priced above me and can outsell me like crazy. I totally agree that people should buy what they like, not caring so much about who painted it and especially what gender or race they may be.

As a devout Catholic I must comment on the nuns becoming pope. This is not an issue of sexism. Many like to view it that way but then they don’t stop to consider what the Church teaches and why. It is a deeper theological issue that goes all the way back to Christ and who He chose for to be apostles. For anyone who still wants to say the Church is sexist I suggest they study the incredible reverence the Church shows to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is considered to be the most important and dignified figure in Christianity next to her Son. The greatest in the Church is not the priests or even the pope. The greatest in the Church are the Saints and this office is open to anyone regardless of race or gender.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Sep 19, 2008

Sara is a wise young woman. But she is wrong when she says this is an issue of self-esteem and not a “feminist issue.” Feminism is not just about external forces of discrimination: it is about how women empower themselves to meet those forces, and self-esteem is a key factor in being able to do that. As another respondant observed, one of the factors that perpetuates the disparity is that women have been acculturated to accept them, and often do not even recognize them. Even when we do, we often are baffled about how to effectively address them. Sara’s response was glorious, simply because it contained one of the key answers to that hidden question: self-esteem itself. Her words are proof that the women’s movement has created an atmosphere in which young women are no longer automatically questioning their own worth. We do not need to be complicent with the discrimation, but we do need to find and use ways to counter it that serve us in a positive way. Celebrating women artists is one way. Celebrating our own talent is another. One problem is that we — both women as artists, and the art world in general, are often ignorant of the history of women in art. I just had the privilege of seeing an exhibit of Mary Cassat at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, along with some works by artists influenced by her and who influenced her. I came away with a much stronger sense of my own ability and worth as an artist — and my freedom to deviate from what is expected. (Something to ponder: what is the source of the assumptions that creators of beautifully accomplished cave art were boys, simply because the handprints are small? Why not the more logical assumption that the artists were women, which makes more sense both contextually and in terms of the obvious skill of the paintings? This is an example of the silly bias still extant in our culture — and note I said our culture. We cannot say this is universal, nor can we claim it as age-old.)

From: Sue Belcher — Sep 19, 2008

I have found the same prejudice Suzanne has experienced. Unfortunately prejudice is part of the human condition and anyone who denies this is burying their head in the sand. I have no problem with “women’s art”. I was appalled by a women who was very excited by an artist’s work because she (the artist) painted “like a man”. What is that? Vivre la differance! I say. Every artist has their own voice and that should be celebrated. Woman artists have increased in numbers dramatically over the last 20 years and their work is strong and wonderful! I have found some of my strongest supporters to be men, however, Mellisa’s experience is not new to me.

From: Rick Rotante — Sep 19, 2008

This isn’t so much an art question as it is a social question. The whole idea of the relationship of men and women throughout history has to be brought into question when we look at the “value” of women’s contribution in society in general before we can be specific about pricing artwork.

It has been the established fact for generations that a women’s place was in the home and producing children. ( easy girls – read on before you crucify me) This wasn’t created to suppress women as much as it was the way the genetics worked it out. This “arrangement” was necessary to get humans this far in history. Women nurtured while the men hunted to feed the family. Not too hard to figure out. It was necessary to continue the life cycle. Biology was the issue not feminist.

There are many reasons for what started the change where women started to take a bigger more public role in society. Mind you women have been in the thick of it but behind the scenes, quietly in a non-public way forever. The norm then was women supported their husbands publicly and worked privately for change and both thrived as a family.

As we progressed and technology made life “easier” we now have more “leisure time”. Women have had the burden of homemaking and childbearing eased from their shoulders. It’s now accepted women/men don’t necessarily have to have children. It’s also more acceptable for women not to marry, have more say in society, and vote.

The pill changed much to give women freedom and take on a more public role longer.

What is taking time to change is this perception of women as homemakers, child bearers.

As many women as men still hold to this idea.

When women took to the art world, their work was looked upon as dilettantism. Something they did to while away the long hour at home. What holds women back is not their ability or dedication or creativity, it’s this (societal) notion that they will eventually marry, bear children and take care of the home and give up art.

In many respects men are still bringing home the bacon, but what has change because of economics is so are women. Early social mores didn’t allow for men to be other than the breadwinner. Men’s role in society isn’t as easy as most would have you believe. Every time there is conversation about suppression of women there never seems to be a balance of what happens to the men when women attain freedom and confidence and give up more traditional roles men and women have held for centuries.

We now are finding that men would love to stay home and raise their kids. This is a new concept in society, but again the common thinking in the work place is the women is the nurturer and the man goes to work.

All this is changing of course, but as much as things change, until technology and biology changes and women give the fundamental essence of what makes a women a women, there may always be this “inequality.”

From: Bill McEnroe — Sep 19, 2008

Descrimination is WRONG – everywhere ! Re: artists should not stand by their paintings : I once showed a very abstract pntg of a spring tooth harrow in a museum show, and standing beside it, heard an old man tell his lady, “It`ll never work.” Guess I got the word from the Horse`s Mouth.

From: Suzette Fram — Sep 19, 2008

Evething that Sara said is true, BUT in this context, I think she is a little off the mark. I believe that male artists, and their work, are generally taken more seriously. But that is an ‘outside factor’ whereas self-esteem and confidence are ‘inside factors.’ Right or wrong, there is not too much we can do about what others think. All we can do is persevere to be the best we can be, act with dignity and assurance, and hope that those perceptions improve over time. In fact, I believe they are improving, albeit slowly.

PS: Why does it take 2 or 3 tries before my comments are accepted? I seem to always get the message ‘your comment was not submitted, please re-submit’ at least once every time I post a comment.

From: Robert Redus — Sep 19, 2008

I’ve reread “Leveling the Playing Field” many times since receiving it and find that the issue of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, color, persuasion etc. has absolutely no place in the world of art. Once artists define themselves as some “Special Interest Artist”, they have taken the first step to pull the attention from the “Work” and apply it to themselves. For what ever reason this exists is not only the flaw but also the tool that perpetuates these mentalities and keeps them alive in galleries and shows and within artists as well. As artists, isn’t what really matters is the “Work” and only the work. In terms of Suzanne’s feelings of value of her work compared to the male artists, my question is, who priced the work? If she was unhappy with the pricing structure, speak up and change it, that is her responsibility. I think what I am missing here is, was her work in line price-wise with the other artists, what sort of relationship has she had with this gallery and the group she was showing with, are these all artists of equally established careers, was the work comparable in theme, there seem to be many variables missing that supports this notion of prejudice. Robert mentions, “Fact is, women painters currently outnumber men four to one.” my question is what does that matter; this is a statistics that establishes some measure of separation and continues this absurd notion we need to keep this concept alive. Just paint or sculpt or blow glass or weave, that’s it, the rest of the debate is brutally incompatible with the act of producing the art.

To address your stand on this Robert, given the 4 to 1 ration you speak of, it seems the statistical analysis doesn’t support the claim of “Uneven”, or rather uneven in which direction? Art buyers as you well know are discriminating, and whether they are purchasing a painting to match the fabric on a couch, collecting for investment, or purchasing for the sheer aesthetic, the idea of gender hardly falls into play. I’ve never sold a painting because of being a man nor have I lost a sale because of my gender. I support artists, and I don’t care about anything other than their work, nor do those who buy my work. My circle of compadres produces art without any overt reference to their plight. They express their unique nature, ethnicity, gender, story, heartaches, loves, and religion. You name it….all by means of a well trained eye, a good sense of translation and a very well defined artist statement. Your response seems a bit placating to Suzanne’s situation. You elude that “Taste” and “Confidence” are somehow gender based and the obvious explanation for this dilemma. You knew you’d get a load of responses I applaud you for taking the hits….

From: Lady — Sep 19, 2008

Rick, does anyone write things to you and says someting like “easy boy, read on…”?

From: Rick Rotante — Sep 19, 2008

Lady – because when I make what seem like inflammatory statements – I want to “nip in the bud” any emotional responses before having a chance to expound further.

And “yes” I’ve had respondents call me on some things. It wasn’t meant to inflame, as it seems to have done with you.

One other thing I neglected to mention is this sparring between the sexes that will never stop no matter how advanced we think we are. Ego is a strong factor. As women take on more, men’s egos will invariably feel the pinch. We are still learning to live with it. Until biology can be altered change will come slowly.

From: Diana — Sep 20, 2008

Dear Robert, I am somewhat dismayed at your analogy -“…before a nun gets to be pope”– how does this compare? I think the “Big Guy, upstairs” is the only one who has control over this. I guess for my opinion-this is (albeit innocent) a perfect instance of why my Faith is in Him.

From: Terry Mason — Sep 21, 2008

Ah, but I will support the all women’s shows. And I will continue to send money and join the national organizations for women in the arts and the national museum for women in the arts.

Here is why. Unless the oppressed group organizes and fights, then we will not get our place at the table. Janson’s History of Art finally listed a woman artist in….are you ready for this….1966! And yet, we have always been painting. We lacked instruction…it was denied to us. Until one hundred years ago, we often were not allowed to learn to READ. Elizabeth Cady Stanton started an ALL women’s organization that led to the right to VOTE. Have you looked at the membership roster of PAPA or any of the painting groups out there? Do you really think that there are just more men in these fields that are better? Really? There are more plein air men painters that are better? I don’t think so. There are men who were noticed, bought, and put forth. There were always women just as good. And if we do not organize, if we do not fight, then we will simply NOT be at the table. It won’t be handed to us, it never has been handed to any oppressed group. When Martin Luther King organized for blacks having a place at the table there were many of us white people who backed that effort. And there are men who back the effort that women have to take to get noticed. And sometimes that is all women’s shows, all women’s art organizations, and all women museums.

We invite any men to that table that will back us to be accepted on the local and the national level in a level playing field. And we will continue to have all women’s shows, National women’s arts organizations, and museums celebrating our contributions until the day when there is a level playing field.

All women shows are merely a tactic to help us level the playing field. And until the playing field is leveled we must organize and do what we can to make that happen.

Otherwise, what we do is simply wait until the men invite us equally? That the galleries invite us equally? That the organizations invite us equally? Never in history have rights been won by the group with privilege suddenly inviting the group that was not included. NEVER. It has always been that the group not included has had to struggle for the place at the table. And all women shows are just a part of that struggle to be recognized equally throughout the art world.

We would welcome your support. But we understand when you say that to support that is to give us special favors. We have heard that one before.

From: Shannon — Sep 21, 2008

So much of the focus is on “the fight” instead of the product. Artists, like all other professions, develop.

Let’s get to work. God loves us all.

From: Gavin Calf — Sep 21, 2008

I think Sara has a great mind. Just being a full time artist takes it all to the limit anyway, gender issues aside. Smile. Serve doubt and negative thoughts their eviction orders and paint!

From: www.danielpoisson.com — Sep 21, 2008

My home base is in Whistler BC. I am currently in Panama City , Panama on a 3 month art commission project.

Whistler has an abundance of artists, both male and female of all genres and styles if one had to categorize it. I completely agree with the fact there are more female artists than male, but I must point out, that the male artists do tend to be more successful, or at least the number of successes are equal to the women who have a higher artistic population. The fact that if one narrows it down to men being quite logical thinking and females are generally more emotional thinking, makes the male artist more business-oriented, promotional-based, and labour intensive beyond the actual act of painting or creation. I see that the female artist is proud of her work, loves the art and gets excited about creation. When the female artist goes beyond this, and into the promotion, business and distribution of her work, she becomes very successful.

The work I see and love from both males and females regardless of quality, style, materials and whatever, is completely on par with one another. If anything, women have the upperhand for being so loving of the artistic process.

From: Esther J. Williams — Sep 21, 2008

Boy, did this hit a sore spot with me. I have noticed the imbalance for years in southern California and wasn’t liking it, especially when I did a head count on how many men were invited to the special plein air painting invitationals. I do try harder than the men and I think I am leaping hurdles in my art expertise. I was cut down and told to give up and get a real job. It hurt badly, but I got mad and fought off the discredit. It has taken me years of endless hours of painting without much recognition until recently. I also have a famous name that people think I changed my name to it so I can gain instant fame. Hah! Male artists have asked me to not sign my full name so people won’t judge me by it. Since I was born with this name, I have gone through over fifty years of signing it and I am not about to change it now. I am over the feelings of inferiority at this time in my life as an artist and woman. I feel equal to the men out there, call it courage, call it confidence. Maybe it’s all the experiences in life that taught me to focus on the successes, not the failures. I relate to the male artists on a level neither above or below. I haven’t one iota of bias anymore, no prejudice. I am over the feeling of lack and I think it’s because I believe in myself now. Woman artists have to raise kids, take care of a house, feed the animals and that includes the husband, just kidding! Men artists get up early in the morning and take off and get to come home anytime they want. No need to worry about anyone to care for. Woman can do it all and despite the heavy load they carry, they still find time to pull off an incredible work of art. Who’s to say men are better and deserve more credit? I was reading Georgia O’Keeffe’s book last night and she was extremely successful and even men placed her up on a pedestal. I have become friends with many male artists who do not hesitate to give support and kind advice. It’s all good now. My advice is to not let it get you down, you will only recede if you believe men are getting all the breaks. Look deep within yourself as an artist with a gift, then work like heck to draw it out. Believe in and be true to yourself first, then everything falls into place.

From: Chris Everest — Sep 22, 2008

Sexism, Religion, the vagaries of the market, the ethics of reform, the creativity of the individual. And then we lost the Ryder Cup. Paint on guys….

From: Lorna Dockstader — Sep 22, 2008

Although I no longer remember who said “All unhappiness is caused by comparison”; I believe it to be true. An artist who is able to remain focused, work forty hours a week, and produce quality work, will become successful. A pleasant disposition and a smile does wonders for any artist present at an opening, as also does taking an interest in your clients. Signing your paintings with your first initial also works quite well, as others are unaware of whether a man or woman painted it. It’s fun when they get to meet you, and I’ve learned that that gender doesn’t make a difference.

From: Jim van Geet — Sep 22, 2008
From: Carol Allison — Sep 22, 2008

I think the public has image of what an artist should be like from various books and films. Usually this image is male and women artists are left out of the history of art to a great degree. Because of this I think it is harder for the art buying public to view them as seriously as men. It can be very discouraging even if you go by the philosophy of Eleanor Roosevelt that “No one can make you feel inferior unless you let them.” Women artists still need to afford housing, food, and health care, etc. in order to be as productive as is necessary for making a living as an artist.

From: Vicki Ross — Sep 22, 2008

Once again, Bob. You hit the nail on the head…I don’t want to be involved in ANY competition that is an unlevel playing field. I try to follow the rules of competitions (prospectus), and also think others have, too. When I see winners whose work is obviously inspired by other artists, or a ‘style’ that is inconsistent with the amount of time an artist claims to have been painting…or of scenes that are remote and unlikely to have been visited by the artist…I want to cry foul!

However, I try to put my head in the studio, vow to keep ME clean, study with the best instructors/tutors and not worry about others’ interpretation of the ‘rules’ of competition.

From: Sandy Davison — Sep 22, 2008

Jackie Phelen held workshops for women-only training for mountain bike racing. A reporter asked why she made them exclusive to men and the reply is excellent: Because men have a place, it’s called the world.

From: sitting by the river — Sep 22, 2008

Yes, Suzanne, the discrimination against women in the art world is real.

1. Take a good look at that thick tome “the History of Art” that you studied during your student years. NO women included.

2. 92% of artists who have gallery representation are male. This includes artists represented by galleries owned by women.

3. Many female artists have use initials or other gender-neutral means of identifying themselves, in order to circumvent the discrimination.

4. Look at the famous women artists of the 20th century: Lee Krasner, Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo. They received attention and achieved fame due to their close proximity with a famous male artist: Jackson Pollock, Steiglitz, and Diego Rivera. so there you have it.

From: Caroline Simmill — Sep 22, 2008

Over here in the highlands of Scotland I can say we are fortunate enough to have women artists selling their paintings for the same prices as the men. I hadn’t thought about gender when looking at paintings in one of our best galleries. During their artistic career women artists have had families to look after and so their working day was often interrupted. Yet with a determined spirit they produced some incredible work of a very high standard equal to that of a man artist. I believe Sara is right in that self belief and confidence is what inspires an artist to work to produce a professional painting, whatever your gender.

I have always found it extremely important to keep my eye on my goals and not let self doubt get me down. I think as an artist who is serious about her painting career there are a lot of important things to think about. How I conduct my working day, making new galleries contacts, working towards an exhibition and project goals and most of all thinking about how I am going to tell other people about what my artistic career means to me. I have found that it is important to talk about my work to other people. By doing this they can become involved and also interested in my work. It is not always an easy thing to do as I can be quite shy at times. But after some practise it does become easier.

Life is full of challenges, let us keep our eyes firmly on our goal. Whatever our gender let us share our artwork with others and speak out about what interests and motivates us.

From: Linda Blondheim — Sep 22, 2008

There is no doubt about the uneven playing field, and women artists perpetuate this by idolizing their male peers oftentimes. However, in the north central region of my state, where I live, it is the women landscape painters who dominate that subject without question. I must confess it feels good.

From: Sharlene Lee — Sep 22, 2008

This is certainly an interesting topic for debate. Is it ever a level playing field? My husband is coaching a children’s soccer team and had an interesting e-mail this evening regarding the same. I have worked in a male dominated industry before and know what sexism looks like. I can honestly say that I don’t feel that I have been subjected to any type of a sexual bias as far as my art. I think that as individuals our work speaks for itself. Most everyone can think of a talented artist who has not been accepted into a show (both male and female). Is it the artist, or the art they are producing? All of it is subjective. People like the work, the style, etc. or they do not! Perhaps it’s not the sex of the artist, but the likes and dislikes of the viewer. Oh, yes, I feel the sting of rejection at times, but it makes me stronger and makes my work better! Will I be paid the same as an XY for my work? It would be nice to think so, but I’ll paint regardless, because I must!

From: Susan Burns — Sep 22, 2008
From: Cheryl Webster — Sep 22, 2008

It never occurred to me to even think about this subject. I’m not sure what this says about me but I hope it says that I am secure enough in myself not to even wonder about these things. If things change for me as I grow as an artist, I’ll let you know.

From: Pirjo Raila — Sep 23, 2008

I am a woman architect and painter. (though I am listed at this site as a male). I have encountered sexiesm in both professions.

I have been taking part in an exhibition that is exclusively sea and boat related. The organizer told me straight up that the patron who buys work every year, will not buy my work simply because I am a woman. It annoys me, but I will rather sell to someone who will appreciate the paintings for what they are.

From: E.Andersen — Sep 23, 2008

Terry Mason hits the nail on the head. “Uppety women unite!”

From: Janine — Sep 23, 2008

Thank goodness most women know the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.

From: Angela Shogren — Sep 24, 2008

I was horrified to read Katherine Spencer Harris’ advice to have a male family member stand in for ‘the artist’ and to not admit to the artists’ sex!

It is one thing to try use initials, a last name, etc to be gender neutral (and I don’t know that I agree with that) but quite another to deliberately hide the fact that you are a woman. And she should stay backstage and let her male family members ‘represent’ her is beyond ridiculous!

Maybe in the short term it will sell her a few more paintings, make a few more dollars – but what does it say about us that we’re willing to hide who we are in order to do that. If we feel the need to hide the fact that we are female then we are communicating that we also perceive it to be a flaw. We need to stand by our art proudly and let people see that women create all types of art – be it giant, bold abstracts or flowery needlepoint!

We need to confront sexism head on – not hide who we are so that it doesn’t affect us! Especially not behind Daddy, our brothers or our husbands! Good grief – we don’t want to go back to the Victorian Age!

From: Bob Ragland — Sep 27, 2008
From: Nancy Bea Miller — Sep 27, 2008

I appreciated your raising the issue of gender discrimination in the arts. Suzanne is certainly not being delusional, this inequality is hard cold fact: as invidious and pervasive and harmful as any other prejudice. There are serious works of scholarship devoted to the issue (“The Obstacle Race”, “Old Mistresses” “Anonymous Was a Woman” etc ) and groups (in the US) which crunch the numbers and keep tracks of the trend (Guerilla Girls, Women in the Arts Foundation, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, etc.)

I have always signed my name with my first two intiials and then my last name, because I hate signing my name on paintings and the shorter the better, but using only all initials seemed like it could cause future confusion. So, while a student, one of the school administrators led a distinguised older gentleman up to me at a student show and introduced us saying to me “Mr. X has just bought your painting of the stack of books.” Mr. X visibly started ,gulped and blurted out “YOU painted that? Oh, I thought that was by a man!” Seeing the confused and undelighted reaction his words were creating he hastened to reasssure me ” Well, my dear, it’s simply amazing. You paint like a man!”

He obviously meant this as the highest accolade. But did he ever buy another piece from me? No, he did not.

Only today I discussed my pricing with someone in charge of such things, wondering out loud why a male artist I know of similar “rank and file” is getting significantly more for his work. The answer came, honestly but a little apologetically, “Well, you know of course, part of the problem is that men are still, even today, perceived as the main bread-winners. It is felt that they need to earn more, to support their families.”

And with these all-pervasive prejudices in place, that men are, if not more talented, at least more worthy, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, having said all this, an artist who is a woman can’t let these thoughts enter her head while she is working. She needs to be aware of the prejudices and the obstacles when her work has left the studio, to try and not take things so personally: any successes will taste all the sweeter. And of course, there are some women who will never feel the subtle sting of prejudice. There are a lucky few in every generation: usually lifted over the obstacles by painter fathers or family friends/connections in the art world. I say more power to them. Just don’t let them be used as “evidence” that the very real inequality most women artists face is non-existent.

From: Tony Angus — Sep 27, 2008

I find it hard to believe that gender discrimination still exists in the art world. With the example of Emily Carr in our own back yard it is shocking. My niece and one of my long time friends (female) are slowly becoming bigger frogs in their ponds. Neither has felt slighted because of gender that I have heard and both, time permitting, could easily make a living from their art. They are strong women who do not feel threatened if an exhibition includes more men than women. The work on the canvas is what counts. If it’s good gender, race, political stance,religion or any other bias is irrelevant.

From: Sara — Sep 27, 2008

There must have been an OVERFLOW of testosterone on the trading floors in the last two years to have gotten us into the pickle we’re in

From: Claudia Roulier — Sep 27, 2008

I agree with your daughter but I also hedge myself by only using a first initial and my last name….I don’t want people to judge my work based on my gender when they first see it.

From: Jo VanderWoude — Sep 27, 2008

In my opinion, one of the best ways to negate this problem is to continue to work diligently, be alert to new learning experiences and refuse to be sidetracked. Focus on what can be changed – not what can’t (gender). Cream will rise to the top.

From: Jill Paris Rody — Oct 04, 2008

Robert, I love what your daughter shared; about self esteem and a belief in oneself as an Artist and a ‘worthy’ person. We all have a story to tell, and there will always be someone who needs to “hear” what we are saying in the work we do. There will never be a way of pleasing everyone in the art-viewing world, but if we bless at least a few people over the years, we are fulfilling that calling that keeps us reaching out to share our art. It is very important (to me) to show emotion in my work. Being on a road of discovery as to ‘how’ to do that, via technique and skill is one thing; but we all have in us, what’s needed to tell an important story. We WILL grow, change and improve if we are moving forward. We’ve just need to leave the ‘arrival’ time to the powers that be.

From: Sara — Oct 04, 2008

I recently put a birdfeeder on my terrace and I even get hummingbirds feeding on my hosta flowers! I took some money from some legal expert work I do, which is NOT fun and I had a pond built in my backyard in the country. Of course I’ve been too busy working to see it but my friend out there gives me reports. I’m going to get my fish in 2 weeks and I’m going to name them after artist’s. Yes, it’s too bad about being a woman in the art world, but try MY predicament, an emerging OLDER woman artist! Any tips for us? Years ago I lived with a painter and just before we found out he was terminally ill, I asked him on a whim “what would you want me to do with your art if something happened to you!”. We had no idea he would be dead 8 weeks later at 39, He wisely said, “I don’t even care what happens to my art after I do it. I ONLY care about what happens to ME WHILE I’m doing it!”

From: Linda Johnson — Oct 04, 2008

I have, over the years, sent in numerous slides, accompanied by a completed entry form, for an exhibition opening in the near future.

I’ve stood by the mail box daily awaiting the results. Some were positive and some not. After reading articles on how work for an exhibit is chosen, by a juror’s particular style, I decided to start using strategy in choosing the work I entered. When the ‘call for entries’ were posted, I imminently set out to research the juror all I could. I knew their likes their dislikes their personal style and their past choices. I finally felt like maybe I had a little power in the whole jurying process. At the same time, I feel like I was being underhanded and unethical in some way. I really need some advice to my role, as an artist, in exhibition entries.

From: Amanda Day — Oct 04, 2008

Just wanted you to know… I think there already was a female pope – Pope Joan.

From: Judy Wray — Oct 04, 2008

It is not just the men… its the women too. Putting each other down with a vengeance. It is entertaining and you do better to rise above it and let it wash on by.

From: BJ Adams — Oct 04, 2008

I totally agree that shows and groups should have no discrimination based on anything. That is why I was against the National Museum of Women in the arts when it first opened in Washington DC and didn’t join it. However, I have now seen wonderful art from so many women of the past, the Renaissance, and some earlier, native arts of third world countries and contemporary art from everywhere at that museum and I’m beginning to think that it is unique. I am not sure much of this art would ever be shown in our other museums. Some would and I don’t think there is a need for a National Museum of Men in the Arts but this museum does serve a purpose for now. Maybe someday it will open its doors as so many single sex campuses have and we won’t have that need anymore.

From: Martin Blanchet — Oct 04, 2008

Your wonderful daughter is very wise. Painting is my passion. If it were not I would have given up a long time ago. Now that I am fifty-six I am beginning to make headway and hope to maintain some regular hours. I have just opened a Gallery/Studio in my home town, Legal, AB (pop. 1100) and we will be celebrating next Saturday with a Grand Opening. I trained (before I went to university to become… a lawyer, of all things — didn’t make it) at Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney, Australia. Yes, we moved a lot when I was young. I only had about a year and a half at the school, and I shut down for about thirteen years before I met my marvelous Martin, but the knowledge I gained has been built on ever since. It is like another language… doesn’t take up much luggage space! In the meantime I keep putting one foot, or is it one brushmark, after the other and I feel like I am flying!

From: Lori Standen — Oct 04, 2008

Lake O’Hara…..How lovely to be there! I know you will treasure this time with your daughter. From her comments in ‘Esoterica’ I see she is as well-spoken as her dad.

From: Louise Cardella — Oct 04, 2008

I have been dappling in painting for close to 20 years now. It’s always been my passion but never thought to take it further until now that I am in my 50s. I am now faced with having to find employment when I wish I could spend my days painting. Two of my recent paintings were accepted into a well-known auction benefitting a hospice in the area. A gallery representative apparently said my paintings were “very good. Unless she seeks gallery representation, she will always be an amateur.”

When galleries take 50% of the sale, how does one get ahead? What’s your take on gallery vs. Internet, amateur vs. professional?

From: Mayanna Howard — Oct 04, 2008

As a female artist, who happens to work in watercolor, I feel I am discriminated against doubly. I would like to read your views on gallery and client discrimination toward watercolor as opposed to oil, or even acrylic.

 

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