Breaking the curse


Dear Artist,

Recently, Achola Rosario Odido of Uganda, East Africa, wrote, “Here in Uganda women are supposed to be seen and not heard — a kind of passive doll who only calls attention to herself to get a man and then retreats into the marriage shadows. We have very few women artists. They give up after marriage, or do not put themselves forward. I market myself aggressively. I’m called a show-off, celebrity wannabee, and a ‘Westernized Girl’ (i.e. spoiled). My hard-hitting socially-conscious painting style, dreadlocks and tattoos on a pretty face do not alleviate matters. Do you have any ideas how the curse of discrimination might be broken?”


“Woman of colour I”
by Achola Rosario Odido

Thanks, Achola. It often comes as a shock to Westerners that women in other cultures have such a hard time. We are inclined to believe that our “progress” is more or less universal. Our eyes have now been opened to the injustices suffered by women in countries like Afghanistan. It remains all the more important for Westerners to act responsibly within our own cultures and not allow ourselves to be spoiled or even to appear so.

Cultures that limit free learning or are unable to provide higher education tend to foster and imbed chauvinism and gender prejudice. Some of these tendencies lie deep in tribal roots and traditional practices and cannot be extirpated in one or two generations. In our culture and yours, the only thing we really have to work with is ourselves. Your dreadlocks and tattoos may actually be interfering with the acceptance of yourself and other women artists. It’s my personal prejudice that art can be as wild as you want to make it, but artists themselves, male and female, at least need to consider having an understated presence. Curiously, in our culture it’s mainly the weaker artists who resort to the likes of dreadlocks and tattoos. Stuck with inability, they resort to showmanship.

I believe that quality art eventually triumphs over all. In the long run it’s art that measures cultures. My theory has many flaws, not the least being its complete failure in some environments. Nevertheless, responsibility is our greatest need and obligation — more than ever these days. Our human family needs to work to reduce fear, ignorance, hatred and prejudice. Horizons need to be cleared by enlightenment and education. Beauty and grace need to triumph. It’s not just the future of art, it’s the future of all of us on this blue and beautiful planet.

Best regards,


PS: “Whatever women do, they must do it twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, it’s not difficult.” (Charlotte Whitton, former Mayor of Ottawa)

Esoterica: I can see my inbox already lighting up with alternate points of view. Among them will be protests from female artists who feel they have a rough enough time in Western cultures. Here in Canada women only got the vote in 1917. In Australia it happened in 1902, the UK in 1928, the USA in 1920. In these countries there are now far more women artists than men. On the other hand, sales success and popular acceptance is closer to 55-45 in favour of men. Cries of “You’ve come a long way, baby” are still not enough to generate satisfaction all around. In art and in civilization, time and patience are our partners in progress.


Staying true
by Adrienne Stone, Cookeville, TN, USA

I was in a gallery in Alabama where the owner/artist said he thought it would be to my advantage to sign my name with a first initial only so it would not be apparent that a female had done the painting. It was a suggestion I did not take.


Finding success against the grain
by Taurus Burns, Beverly Hills, MI, USA


acrylic painting, 36 x 36 inches
by Taurus Burns

I am a tattooed, dreadlocked artist who has experienced a relatively steady stream of success and accomplishment over the years due largely to the fact that I am an extremely talented, creative artist. While I can understand your point that being dreadlocked and tattooed can be somewhat of a hindrance in this culture, the point should be made with the understanding that in our American, largely conservative, still white-male-centric society, dreads and tattoos are still taboo, yet they are not in themselves problematic. I imagine that, like mine, her dreads and tattoos are her own personal rebellion against a conservative, oppressive system. It’s not her that needs to change, but her culture’s prejudiced attitudes.


Blurred identity
by Anonymous

I have a friend who feels she became successful only after she stopped using her first name and started using only her initials. The galleries that represent her are quite vague in their ‘blurbs’ as to her gender, everyone just assuming she is a man. This has led to some rather humorous situations during receptions. Most men seem fine with it once they get over the shock that, yes, women are fully capable of painting images that are as ‘strong’ as those done by men. The women, of course, are delighted.


Profitable anomaly
by Linda Blondheim, Gainesville, FL, USA


“Econfina River”
oil painting, 18 x 24 inches
by Linda Blondheim

This is absolutely true in my opinion. Women artists are still considered to be second class in the international world of art. Strangely though, in my town the most successful landscape painters are almost all women. It is interesting. We have a little piece of the landscape market here in north Florida. I have no explanation for this anomaly, but I am glad to be a part of it.




Global change begins with the individual
by Tiit Raid, Fall Creek, Wisconsin, USA


“Railroad Bridge Reflection”
acrylic painting, 8 x 26 inches
by Tiit Raid

It is interesting to read the comments of Achola Rosario Odido regarding the status of women and women artists in Uganda. Generally speaking, it was not that long ago that female artists in the USA and Canada have been given a more equal status with men. But, there is a ways to go yet. And in developing countries like Uganda the road to equality is much, much longer. Old customs, like old habits, are hard to break.

It seems to me, the only way that we can make progress in changing centuries-old traditions and customs is to realize that they are our inventions. I’m not sure how to bring this about on a massive scale, but I sense that it starts with the individual. And here I rely on one of my best teachers, Jiddu Krishnamurti… “Look what is happening in the world — we are being conditioned by society, by the culture we live in, and that culture is the product of man — there is nothing holy, or divine, or eternal about culture.” And, “If we want to change existing conditions, we must first transform ourselves, which means that we must become aware of our own actions, thoughts and feelings in everyday life.”


Judging the art, not the artist
by Karl Leitzel, Spring Mills, PA, USA


“Wild Elderberry Wine”
oil painting, 8 x 10 inches
by Karl Leitzel

I have had numerous female artists here in the U.S. tell me that they still have a harder time being accepted as serious artists. Some intentionally sign their work and market themselves in a way that makes it less readily apparent that they are women. I think part of the problem is in subconscious cultural expectations that we all fall victim to in some degree. When we tour a major museum and look at the Rembrandt’s, Monet’s, Picasso’s, etc. on the walls, and virtually all the celebrated artists of old are male, it’s easy to subconsciously expect museum-worthy (ie. serious) artists to be male. As you said, these patterns may take several generations to shift. We as artists, especially as artists’ organizations and networks, need to be diligent in not feeding that pattern. I do not believe in quota systems to force social change (inherently unfair and can create a backlash of resentment), but we need to make sure that we truly judge the quality of art and artists without prejudice to gender, race, cultural point-of-view, or anything else, but rather on artistic vision and execution. That can be a tall order but, as in many things, we need to help lead the way in this cultural shift.


The marketing of Warhol
by Tracey MacDougall, North Gower, ON, Canada


“The cold shoulder”
oil painting
by Tracey MacDougall

You’ve touched on several items that I have strong opinions about. When you say that artists who lack the talent or quality rely on showmanship and things like that, it brings me to the subject of good or bad art. Who determines what is good, acceptable artwork? How can we define that? We can’t really. If it is original who can say it is wrong or bad? Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Many critics hate and hated Warhol. They say he really was just another commercial artist. Much of his now famous work was not even actually created by his own hands. But, supposedly, they were his ideas. He was brilliant at marketing himself. He definitely was guilty of showmanship, it seemed. Or maybe he was just being Andy and not even trying to get attention. But, it certainly worked.


Acceptance is irrelevant to art-making
by Carole Ann Borges, Knoxville, TN, USA

While your personal perspective may help this woman artist become accepted, I might suggest that “acceptance” is only one part of art. If acceptance eliminates personal satisfaction and personal choice, then what results can’t help but be a fraud. Fraudulent art, (art created mainly for acceptance) is everywhere, but does it move anyone? Does it uphold the responsibility I would hope all artists have to forge ahead into new territories or express individuality?

I think we all have different goals. We can work in a way that comes from a deep urge within or we can work in a way that allows us to get shown in a gallery or published in a high-quality magazine. We might also work to gain the respect of peers we see as masters. Knowing what our own goals are helps us point in the right direction. Perhaps this woman is most interested in expression? Because in spite of her frustration at not being accepted by her conservative culture she has persisted in painting what seems relevant to her. Not every artist has acceptance as a main goal.


Charitable works promote equality
by Patricia Peterson, New York, NY, USA


“Cape Cod Marshes”
pastel painting
by Patricia Peterson

I believe that artists, as they become ever more accomplished, need to partner with charities supporting education of girls worldwide within their cultures — in other words provide education that acknowledges their cultural heritage and contributes to it.

Artists should find it in their hearts and minds to partner their creativity with charitable and other concerns promoting the education, well-being and peace of mind of every girl. It would foster their ability to provide richly for their children and the culture into which they are raised. And we knit a world less likely to starve the potential of more than half the population commonly treated like a minority.


Only part of the whole
by Cigal, Switzerland


“Lofty Peak”
mixed media painting
by Cigal

Act and think primarily as human being: your gender is only limited as for the physical reproduction of mankind, it should never interfere with the ‘higher motives’ of humanity! Contribution, and active contact to societies and each of its members, confronts people with the possibilities to over-think prejudices, drop their fears and to broaden their minds. Naturally this involves much effort and human engagement at no cost at all, but it is personally very rewarding and it constitutes a ‘higher’ global goal. When I am personally confronted with non-acceptance, it really is a personal chance to over-think, to revise and to get very small and humble. This is (for me…) the best base for a constructive and creative new start. This is of course no recipe for getting rich and famous, but maybe a recipe on how to improve the world by tiny steps?


Don’t change yourself, change your approach
by E. Melinda Morrison, Denver, CO, USA


“Street Passion”
oil painting, 20 x 24 inches
by E. Melinda Morrison

In many cases, men can get higher prices for their work than a woman artist of equal talent. Many of my mentors, successful male and female artists, agree that discrepancies of success between male artists and their female counterparts still exist. The art world still holds to very traditional ways of doing business and is slow to change in their perceptions in this 21st century. So, as women, we need to continue to support each other in this journey and to say it is possible to achieve our goals despite what obstacles we have to overcome. The good news is, with the trend of more women artists entering the art arena, there are also more women gallery directors on the scene as well. Many of my gallery directors, with the exception of a couple, are women and have been huge supporters in my success.

Although I agree with you that personal presentation can influence gallery staff and, to be successful, it helps to understand how to approach a gallery with professionalism, the quality of art an artist brings to the table has the greatest influence of all. A unique, great talent observed in a body of work that might have been painted by a dreadlocked, tattoo-laden artist still has a greater chance of representation versus a body of work that speaks of mediocrity painted by a “professionally, conservatively-dressed” artist. So, if personal presentation becomes an issue, I would advise someone to use the Internet and email to overcome objections that might happen in a personal face-to-face situation. The benefit of the Internet’s tools is that the focus is squarely put on the art.


Breaking through the glass ceiling
by Sharon Cory, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

I’d like to pass along something written by the Guerilla Girls:

“The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist

Working without the prospect of success…
Not having to be in shows with men…
Having an escape from the Art World in your 4 free-lance jobs…
Knowing your career might pick up after you’re eighty…
Being reassured that whatever kind of Art you make, it will always be labeled feminine…
Not being stuck in a tenured teaching position…
Seeing your ideas live on in the work of others…
Having the opportunity to choose between career and motherhood…
Having more time to work when your mate dumps you for someone younger…
Being included in revised versions of Art History…
Not having to undergo the embarrassment of being called a genius.”

There’s still a glass ceiling, even in the Art World, but of course some women have broken through and become more than tokens. It’s the younger generation of women, like your daughter, who are redefining what it means to be a female artist and achieving success on their own terms and within their lifetimes.


Evaluating the culture barrier
by Lynn Connel, Toronto, ON, Canada


Beginner painters in front of their Remembering Wall created in Lynn Connel’s African workshop. It celebrates the lives of those lost to AIDS.

I have just returned from 4 months teaching Art Workshops and participating in local HIV/AIDS and Home Care workshops in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya. While I encountered much poverty, illness and despair in almost every person and family I worked with, I also experienced a love and exuberance of each other, of community, of life itself… a joy and resilience and strength seldom seen here in our culture.

I was a little dismayed by your suggestion to her that her dreads and tattoos might not be appropriate for her as an artist, (woman or not) presenting herself within her community. We have no right whatsoever to impose our Western views upon people in other countries. We do not understand them, their culture, or the reasons they do what they do. It reminds me on a small scale of what the USA has tried to do in Iraq, in Afghanistan. It does not work. We need to support artists in other cultures; empathize with them and their situation.


Women-only exhibits
by B.J. Adams, Washington, DC, USA


“Variations on H” (Hands)
free-motion machine embroidery
by B.J. Adams

Your letter brought to mind two exhibits here in Washington at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The current exhibit is titled Italian Women Artists from Renaissance to Baroque. This show has much written about these great painters and why some were never as famous as the men, while many of their paintings were just not shown… many reasons and explanations that I found fascinating. Some became the main supporters for their families or convents.

Last year this same museum had the work of current Aboriginal women painters with descriptions of these women (along with their beautiful artwork) and the fact that they had, since the 1960s become the bread winners of their families… earning more than the men. Maybe these two rare shows are of interest (to me) as these women are of different eras and locations. We can only hope to see more exhibits like these.




Discrimination rooted in ignorance
by Shawn Hardy, Holt, MI, USA


“All That Remains”
acrylic painting, 14 x 14 cm
by Shawn Hardy

Doesn’t this just rehash the age-old question, “What is art?” Groups of artists all over the world have been discriminated against since the beginning of time. Women artists have been discriminated against throughout history — it’s why many women authors took male pen names. But it’s not just women who were the brunt of jokes, or who were ridiculed for not following the norm. Many famous male artists took a proverbial thunk-on-the-head and caused uproars amongst cultural prudes. James McNeill Whistler, for one — one critic accused him of “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.” What about Marcel Duchamp and his “Fountain?” In 1917 people must have been outraged at the site of a urinal passing as art. What about all the wonderful artists whose work was seized by Josef Goebbels’ Reichskulturkammer after Hitler’s rise to power, and later exhibited as The Entartete Kunst exhibit, or Degenerate Art Exhibit? There has been much reaction against many kinds of art by men and women — even now, we all have individual ideas of what is good art and what is bad art. It boils down to personal opinion, but there is always going to be a societal norm. In some countries that norm will just be less accommodating to daring artists.

So what is “quality” art? What defines a piece of art as being better than the next person’s piece of art? I read the words of Achola Rosario Odido and because I don’t know much about her culture, I can’t judge anything. But I can say, with a fair amount of certainty, the curse of discrimination will never be broken — anywhere. Discrimination is brought about by ignorance and unfortunately, ignorance will rear its head until the end of time.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Breaking the curse



From: Margi Lucena — Jun 22, 2007

I love reading your letters and the responses, and always learn something from them. But, I was disappointed and a little surprised to read your response to Achola Rosario Odido. She is the only one who can decide who she is, and I didn’t get the feeling she was unhappy with her looks or her personal style, just frustrated with the prejudice and oppression of others in her culture. But Robert, you are correct, it is your personal prejudice that makes you believe that an artist who is not “understated” in their personal style and, God forbid, “resorts to the likes of dreadlocks and tattoos,” is, or could be…maybe?? somehow inferior…? I think you really missed the boat on this one, friend. Without individuality, there is no art. It wouldn’t matter. No one would care. And, by the way…I am an artist in my 50s, a grandma, no tattoos or dreadlocks, and I want to say to Achola…Keep creating, keep hitting hard…the world needs you.

From: Natasha Isenhour — Jun 23, 2007

This is certainly not a protest from a “Western Artist” that happens to be female, declaring that I have a “rough enough time” in my own culture of making a go at an artistic career. I would not even begin to compare my experience to Achola’s. Her bravery and determination are something for women in all cultures to aspire to, artist or not. I have been to Uganda and other areas in Africa and spent time living with a Kenyan university professor and her family. I have had only a taste at what their life is like trying to swim against the tide of adversity there. What surprises me most, Robert, is your shockingly shallow notion that artists who “resort to likes of dreadlocks and tattoos” are “stuck with inability” and resorting to “showmanship.” I really enjoy your newsletter as a rule, but it almost sounds as if you are on vacation and have someone sitting in for you while you’re gone! I have NEVER met an artist who, after trying to gain acclaim for his/her artistic ability, has “resorted to” running out to get dreadlocks and tattoos as a last ditch effort for notoriety. For starters, most of an artist’s work is presented to the public by a mediator (gallery owner etc.) so if the artist were paraplegic, painting with a brush in her teeth, then the patron couldn’t be swayed to buy their work based on what the artist looked like. Get my drift? Absolutely NO disrespect meant there, merely illustrating a point. Taste in art varies as widely as the collective, “good” and “bad” artist’s works do. If a collector only buys work from women who have green spiked hair, does that make her/him any less of a collector? I would like to think that we are free to present ourselves the way we feel most comfortable. And rest assured that I will never be guilty of assuming Ms Odido or anyone else is “stuck with inability” based on their appearance. In fact, it is my experience that people who enjoy alternative fashion exude confidence, quite the opposite of someone failing and on their last resort to fulfill their dreams. Please don’t fuel negative stereotypes.

From: Celeste — Jun 25, 2007

I am an artist and live in a very progressive and art centered town. A lot of good, well established and successful artists show here, and all have quite different personalities but it’s the artwork that really stands for itself. Personally, I think the more gifted an artist is, the more understated the personality because of their introverted natures. I’ve also never seen an artist’s gender be an issue and I often circle the galleries to keep up with the other artists’ art and careers. What I have noticed time and time again is that the percentage of successful men artists is much higher than women. The quality of the art by men is also much better. I have to say this, as a woman artist myself, and after searching for other good women artists as role models, very rarely do I see successful women combining a successful art career and also acting as home maker or mother. It is usually when the children leave the nest, or the absence of children all together that a woman can concentrate fully on her artwork to aquire the skills needed to compete at a higher level and make a decent living (it’s expensive raising a family). Take Georgia O’Keeffe, one of the country’s first women to successfully compete at the same level as the men, she never had children nor did she even feel compelled to live with her husband once she discovered the West and moved to New Mexico. I have children and often feel frustration because I can’t work on my painting as often as I want to. My father is also an artist who has reached a good level of success. Growing up, I remember how he’d spend many hours, day and night, locked away in his workshop while my mother, also an aspiring artist, was left to raise the kids. My mother never did reach the same level of success in the art world as my father.

From: Theresa Bayer — Jun 25, 2007

I had totally forgotten about my being a “woman artist.” It’s interesting to look back and say, oh yes, there is this issue and that issue about being a female maker of art. I could think about that stuff but it would be a distraction. OK I’m going back into my studio now, it’s time to focus on… what? Making art!

From: Caroline Simmill — Jun 26, 2007

Good luck and good fortune to Achola on her artistic journey. The important thing whether you are male or female is to invest your energy into making your own artistic statement. It is after all a personal journey. Whatever your goals are, there are going to be hurdles to overcome whether you are male or female. What is being successful? It must be different for each of us. Could it be to walk out one morning into a beautiful landscape and have the freedom and gift to put that perfect moment onto canvas and walk home singing with happiness because the result of that entire day is a personal success (even if the painting is not sellable). Or could success be, that many people will sing our praises as good artists and part with their money to buy our best works of art. Let us just paint, write or do whatever we feel inspired to create and not let obstacles such as weather, poverty, outward appearances, day jobs, other commitments or indeed Gender prevent us from expressing our creativity.

From: Carole Shaw — Jun 26, 2007

Usually….your comments, Robert, are fair, provocative, and encouraging. I pass them along to artist colleagues and I urge them to sign up for your newsletter because of your strong stand on staying true to artistic vision, understanding the history of art, and so forth. Now…I’m a bit concerned. As a woman of color, I found your comment equating dreadlocks and tattos with mediocrity puzzling and scary. It was a further reminder that racism, however, unintended, is alive and well here in the U.S., not just in so-called developing countries. I don’t question your intentions…but I hope that you are aware of the impact of such a comment on dreadlocked, tattooed serious artists.

From: Tinker — Jun 26, 2007

I live in what has become, in the past few years, a very art centered area. It’s interesting to me that the artists who aspire to become “well known” do indeed adopt a persona. Either clothing or hair style, or something to “stand out” in the crowd. I’ve also noticed over the years that in a competition,the female judges will gravitate toward the male artist. I don’t know if having a rather generic name has saved me since I’ve won a fair amount of awards, but it was so evident in recent show in which I had several entries, (no sour grapes, I won an award) to see that in all the categories, if there was a male artist entered, he automaticaly won an award regardless of the quality of work. When it comes to competing, at least in art, women apparently do not “stick together”.

From: Jane Champagne — Jun 26, 2007

In Canada, women painters often had to sign their paintings, “By a Lady” for fear of embarrassing their husbands. If you can find it, read the book by that name subtitled “Celebrating Three Centuries of Art by Canadian Women,” written by Maria Tippett, long out of print (Penguin 1993). It is an eye opener –but even here, iconic contemporary women artists such as Doris McCarthy, Pat Fairhead, Anne Meredith Barry, are omitted. I’m fortunate in that I’ve never knowingly met discrimination as a woman artist — possibly because I wouldn’t recognize it if it happened.

From: Mike Hill — Jun 26, 2007

I’ve breathed the air on this earth for 2 days past 51 years – and this is the first time that I have ever heard that a dislike of dreads and tats is “racist”. I don’t particularly care for either myself – does that make me racist? – No, it just shows that I have a differing opinion. Why? I guess in some part, I have never met anyone with both that would have anything to do with someone like me, but more due to my heritage and upbringing. They are not in my heritage and I feel no compulsion to buck tradition. No need to – too much effort. What shapes my life and my life’s journey is something much deeper than the way I look or whether I express my individuality, or whether I “rebel” against “society”. With that being said, living in America, you thankfully have the right (fought over and won by the blood of our ancestors and instituted by our founding fathers) to express yourself freely (but hopefully with some public restraint out of respect for the children and those who don’t want “indecency” in their lives) and I fully support those rights (granted, by the way, by persons of largely oppressive, conservative viewpoints)! Not trying to put words into Robert’s mouth, but what he was probably trying to gently and kindly say was that when you buck status quo, tradition, heritage, “the norm”, etc…expect people to have a different opinion. And opinions are all they are. One or the other might be right, but neither is necessarily right or wrong. Why, because they are opinions. Like emotions, they change. Funny thing about opinions, they never see both sides of the line. When a rebel bucks “the norm” and is not accepted, “the norm” is deemed intolerant or any other of a string of largely derogatory and four-lettered words. However, when the rebel doesn’t accept “the norm” he/she doesn’t consider themselves intolerant, bigoted, racist, etc…..I’m much more of a rebel than you would expect of me, I just don’t expect others to necessarily accept my opinions, the way I act, or the way I live. I wouldn’t be upset about not being able to enter an acrylic in a transparent watercolor show/contest, I’d just go find a show/contest that accepted acrylics! Simple! Gender discrimination in art – until it was brought up here, I did not realize it existed. I thought it had more to do about how one markets or is marketed! I did not think artistic talent had much to do with success. Talk to people in the music business for their opinions on that! Do I like Warhol’s art, Rothko’s, Pollock’s, Kinkade’s (well a little) or a long list of others (including some of my art instructors) – no. But I do respect them if even just for knowing how to fool – er – persuade others into thinking what they produce is desirable, important and something to sink thousands and possibly millions of their hard-earned money on. Talk about “discrimination”. When was the last time you saw an overweight, gray-haired, past middle-age, WASP, watercolorist in the realist tradition highlighted in any major art magazine, publication, etc…I must confess, there may be, I don’t keep up with any major art magazines, publications, etc…I’m a rebel!

From: Jeanne Rhea — Jun 26, 2007

Respect or no respect. Money or no money. Success or no success. Recognition or no recognition. I would not trade my being female with any man in the world. For that matter, I would not want to be any other human in the world. I would only want to be myself—but younger! Not too young though—just replay the ages of 35 to 45 over and over and over.

From: Sam Liberman — Jun 26, 2007

Before becoming and while becoming an artist I was a civil rights lawyer working on a daily basis to take on race, sex and age discrimination. I like to try to put that work out of my mind and concentrate on painting. I feel that someone else needs to carry on the struggle for justice, because I just got tired of it. However, the subject keeps coming up. I think there is a bit of discrimination in the market against us older artists who have delayed in starting our careers, which works doubly against women who are now forced to raise children at the same time as having paying jobs in order to support their families. As with other forms of discrimination, I tend to look at what we used to call “the power structure” to see how and why it supports and encourages various forms of discrimination. Who is gaining or holding power and wealth by supporting discriminatory attitudes and actions? For instance, the immigration policy or non-policy in the United States is basically to the advantage of the financial and certain business leaders who, despite what they or their representatives in Congress may say, benefit hugely from keeping the labor market stocked with underprivileged and very poor workers. I believe that the art business and many of the ideas, attitudes and prejudices which float around in it is based on a long history of using the magic of art to promote power and financial interests. For centuries in western culture the church had a monopoly on art. which it has used to make people believe that it was connected to a God or Gods who could not only make life better for its followers, but could doom people to everlasting torture and pain for those who might not believe. Art was used to rescue the stale mythology of religions, because “a picture is worth a thousand words.” I would say a billion at least. Religion allied with wealth and military success still rules most of the world for the primary benefit of a relatively small group of wealthy and powerful people and a larger but still relatively small group of us hangers on. This is evident in the marketing of art. Millions of dollars are spent on a few hyped up masterpieces, and the path to success is loaded with galleries, dealers, critics all trying to make a living off the wealthy purchasers. Have you ever gone into a gallery say in New York or Santa Fe and seen how the clerks fawn and manipulate the customers? It is a disgusting sight and the worst of it I am sure goes on in unobservable places. The average person, who does have a kind of repressed interest in art is taught not to respect her or his own judgment when it comes to buying art work. My own personal problem with marketing art is that I don’t usually like even the feeling of being in a gallery, and I certainly don’t like the idea of cultivating and buttering up the same group of people that I used to sue in court. I think the problem is larger, and goes to the whole marketing system and the idea of value that has been created for the benefit of keeping the wealthy and powerful in charge of what art is worth buying or owning. Fortunately, I also think that it won’t require a revolution to fix this, but it will require somehow educating the consumer to trust in his or her own judgment. I think teaching more of our children to be able to participate by regularly making some art of their own would be a great help.

From: Asta Dale — Jun 26, 2007

While I agree with many of the comments that are being submitted here, I do not agree that it is always discrimination against women as such. I agree with Sam Liberman that it is a kind of power-struggle, which is a normal procedure in our life-cycle. I look on it as a challenge to either overcome or learn to ignore, because it is taking away my energy which I need in order to perform in my studio. This energy combined with the concentration that is necessary to create good works, is what we all should be looking at to help in our painting-career. As Robert pointed out in one of his letters, there is no quick way to success; it takes a lot of hard work to become a good painter, even with talent. But the ‘good work’ will in the end give you recognition.

From: Ellen Poole — Jun 26, 2007

I, too, was thrilled by the inspirational words of Emily Carr — which ultimately led to a far greater appreciation of her artwork. So glad we share that personal experience.

From: Danielle — Jun 26, 2007

Vancouver’s Gallery Jones represents 33 artists, only 7 of whom are female. You do the math.

From: Janet — Jun 26, 2007

Today,before I read your letter, I was emailed a Utube of Paul Potts competing in England. His method of creativity is his beautiful voice. Working in a simple setting and completely unknown, his art remained hidden. Fortunately for us, he entered a contest and has won! I felt the awe in your voice as you spoke of Emily Carr and her majestic art. So many great talents were not recognised until after their lives had ended. Having seen this man triumph, and reading your letter, has spurred me to try that “damn” rosebud one more time. Thanks so very much

From: Janet — Jun 26, 2007

You must think me balmy! My response was regarding your letter about Emily Carr! Meanwhile, back at the palette….

From: Faye Facer, West Creton BC Canadaa — Jun 26, 2007

Way back when Inspectors visited rural schools to evaluate the teachers and student progress; I have two of my best pieces of art taken by the Inspector for ‘exhibition’ ??. He also made me sign the art with an initial ‘so they won’t know you are girl or boy’. I was 12 at the time. Never saw the painting again. To this day I sign my art with an initial and it has made a difference on many occassions whether the art is accepted at a gallery or not. This difference shows up at juried shows too. Things have changed very little in the last many decades.

From: Dave Wilson — Jun 26, 2007

I was relieved when Tracey mentioned those critics who did not like Mr. Warhol’s ‘art’. His ‘success’ in no way signifies that he was a ‘good’ artist. His fame seems to have very much been due to the absurdity and unlikelihood of his fame! He was as a conversation piece, and I gather he didn’t mind, enjoying his 15 minutes. He was famous for being famous. I once saw a drawing of his in an early ’50s medical text… in a psychiatric ward. The book had to stay, but I got out!

From: Anonymous — Jun 26, 2007

If you lookup to the ‘glass ceiling’ mentioned by Sharon Cory, you will see the dirty souls of big feet. How could a woman, for example, really know if she was beneath that ceiling ‘just for being a woman’ or if she was beneath that glass ceiling because she wouldn’t ‘play ball’ with the big boys? There are lots of us, men and women, who will never trod the up-side of that ‘glass ceiling’. Don’t worry about it, though. They don’t admit the need for toilets there, and have none whatsoever!

From: tammi otis — Jun 26, 2007

shame on you robert! when you say essentially that painting tattooed, dreadlocked people is by artists with little talent; you are really descriminating! do you have alot of info to back up those statements, or is it a personal problem you have with the tattooed? i would suggest a cruise on the net. there are many fine artists out there creating great work that contains tattooed folks! michelle torrez is one; in fact, her portrait of a girl who happens to be tattooed was well done enough to grace the cover of frontier airlines magazine for the month! the name of the piece is resoviour ((excuse my spelling). i was very disappointed with your letter. i thought you were above that sort of thinking. tammi

From: Dave Wilson — Jun 26, 2007

Re: Danielle’s letter above, about the Gallery with lopsided gender numbers. Surely you observed the kinds of things they put into that gallery? That’s the kind of place I stay in for a while, so as to not reveal my humiliation and embarassment- that I was really so stupid as to have ever walked in the door! The relative non-attendance of women in there should not bother women in the least. (There are about two artists whose work I do admire, in there: 2)

From: Sujata Tibrewala — Jun 26, 2007

This is true that discrimination exists, even in western society. Though women enjoy equal rights in the society, how many have actually reached the top? For example, the US has never had a woman president. Whereas the countries and cultures who are otherwise conservative have seen women at the top. For example the first woman prime minister was in Bangladesh. Any comments on this anamoly?

From: Sharon Reed — Jun 27, 2007

I have to admit I am pretty shocked about your comments. I, too, think that education is important…We should educate against illiteracy; educate against spiritual illiteracy…which is the critical crisis we are at in the world today. Belief systems that separate, divide and conquer. We are not separate from anything. We are all connected. Humanity is missing the mark in its attempts to create a world of peace and harmony and happiness…and we’re missing the mark to experience Oneness with each other. I would repond to her by saying your message is your life, lived. Your message is your self divinely expressed. Allow your Self to be expressed in your own unique world so that the rest of us can know you held nothing back; that you didn’t fear failure, and you saved nothing for later. Don’t hide your light under the bushel, but let it so shine that we all can see the wonder of you and therefore know the wonder of ourselves…..for there are many that might see their own possibility in the reality of you. Go out and be a model for your world. Be the hope of your community and the hope of humanity. For those that wait for conditions to be perfect are continually waiting for someone else to take the steps. Come on now…let’s raise our consciousness and awareness and take a deeper look at belief systems that have hardened into place. Sharon Reed

From: Victoria — Jun 27, 2007

Now, I’m confused. I thought that Achola was saying that she herself was tattooed and wore dreadlocks and that her persona, while expressing her own uniqueness and style, was not being received well by galleries and her paintings were not being shown as a result. If this is the case I think that Robert was right in saying that if the culture in which you live and have to make a living does not accept your flamboyant style it might we wise to tone down your own individuality so as to not deflect interest from the paintings that you are attempting to sell. This does not however mean that you should stop trying to change, in whatever way you can, the discrimination which is inherent in the culture’s reaction to you.

From: Beverly Chieffo — Jun 27, 2007

Good art needs no promotion or excuses. It exists no matter who made it. Art in a commercial market is another story. Why not take away all the signatures and let it run free to enrich the world.

From: Pam Flanders — Jun 28, 2007

I was first acquainted with Emily Carr in “The Forest Lover.” Are there other books about and/or by her that you could recommend?

From: Mike Hill — Jun 29, 2007

Whatever happened to making a decision and living with the consequences? One must decide what is important to them in life; i.e. supposedly showing your individuality by having tats or having success in certain markets. If you decide that tats are more important, then why the dismay when you fail in that market? Given the circumstances, the logical and “right” conclusion was realized! Why does one feel compelled to have to change the opinions of a bunch of people in order to justify their decision? And if you take a look at what is quite often the definition of “discrimination” nowadays, that rates right up there! Tammi, if you read carefully, Robert did not say all tattooed and dreadlocked artists. Also, just because you are disappointed and disagree with someone’s statements does not mean that there is not a lot of truth in what they said. Sujata – if you ask a lot of the voters there are actually, a vast number of reasons, that most people would not vote for a woman for president and most have little to do with “discrimination”. And no this does not come from a decades-long, exhaustive study of thousands of people’s opinions – but from observations of working campaigns and their studies. I have heard it said that a woman has to be twice as good as a man to “make it”. Unfortunately, there are times (and unfortunately it has been every time that I have had a female superior in my career), the woman is as talented and knowledge as any man, but the only thing she is twice as good at is being rude and mean. In no way am I saying that every woman with success in the business world is that way – but it should be a concern of every woman aspiring for the top. Victoria, Asta – 3 thumbs up Dave – 3 thumbs up and one “been there, done that”. Jeanne – instead of 35-45, make it 25-35! I want a “do over” for that decade. LOL







Laundry Day

oil painting
by Aleta Gudelski, Durham, Connecticut, USA


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 Paol Serret of Australia who wrote, “It is a shame that we humans are so stuck in our own prejudice and ignorance.”

And also Moncy Barbour of Lynchburg, VA, USA who wrote, “When the beauty of the internal and external woman can be transformed into making art, we male artists have not a chance.”

And also Kate Landishaw of the USA who wrote, “I believe Martin Luther King Jr. called that ‘the bitter pill of gradualism.'”

And also Jenny Phillips of New Zealand who wrote, “For your interest, women in my country, New Zealand, achieved the right to vote in 1893.”

And also Gerri Bradford of Colorado who wrote, “Showmanship is part of marketing oneself, I would think. Artistic ability should have nothing to do with appearance. The only person Achola needs to be twice as good as is herself, striving to produce quality art to the very best of her ability.”

And also Lynda M. Kelly who wrote, “You certainly have the gift of the gab as well as a brilliant way with that brush.”

And also Lara Huntsman who wrote, “I do like tattoos but yes… artists should be understated. Inability and showmanship are linked. It’s compensation.”

And also Jane Champagne of Southampton, ON, Canada who wrote, “In Quebec, women didn’t have the right to vote until 1940. Interesting, eh?”

And also Sara Jean Gray who wrote, “What do you do when another artist admires your work and wants to trade pieces with you, but you don’t want a piece of their work?”

And also Doris Osbahr who wrote, “I noticed many mature women (either divorced or widowed) restarting their lives as artists, usually too late to really make a difference in the art world.”

And also Sharon Cory of Winnipeg, MB, Canada who wrote, “Do you think you would be held in such reverence if your name was Roberta Genn?”

And also Euleta Palser of Boulder, CO, USA who wrote, “That would be like me telling you that I really don’t like the gray hair and beards and if you would be “more understated” perhaps your work would be better accepted. I think the weaker artists resort to beards and gray hair.”

And also Sherry Purvis of Kennesaw, GA, USA who wrote, “As a female artist, I understand the need for tattoos and dreadlocks. Men traditionally can paint flowers and fru fru, but if women go this direction they are looked upon as hobbyist and not real painters.”

And also Judie Burge of CA, USA who wrote, “I don’t feel a gender gap for artists in the United States.”




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