Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Politics of Art: Part I (mea culpa)

OK, so we've gone a few rounds about Political Art, but what about the politics of art? There are plenty of folks fully engaged in a dialog about who gets exhibited where and when and next to what, who makes it into the history books, and who gets yanked out them, but I'm not at all sure where it's heading. Perhaps no one is.

There was the seemingly obligatory scene in Art School Confidential where the students complain that all the work they're being shown was made by Dead White Males (DWMs) to which the instructor (played by Angelica Houston) slyly responds that they weren't actually dead when they created the work, but I was struck by how little mileage we've made since the emergence of that sweeping misguided vilification. (I mean, belittling the dead is not exactly a promising foundation for a more balanced future, IMO.)

And yet, when faced with the statistics, I'm floored at the inequality, still, in this day and age. I mean anecdotally it seems like more women and people of backgrounds other than European are being exhibited than ever before, but from Greater New York, to the Whitney Biennial, to the galleries of Chelsea, the numbers speak for themselves, at least with regards to the disparity between men and women artists. I'm not sure what the numbers are for artists of non-European backgrounds. (anyone?)

And, I'll confess, we've been part of the problem. Our gallery has slightly more men than women artists (although we're getting close to equal) and far more artists of European backgrounds than other (although, again, artists joining the fold soon will add more balance), but there was no overtly conscious decision to make it unbalanced or then to balance it actually. That's simply how the program has evolved. Shamefully, as our Associate Director Max reminds me, we don't represent one single gay artist (despite Bambino's encouraging all our artists to reconsider their orientation...just kidding...really, he's never done that). Again, though, that was not a conscious decision. We've worked with plenty of gay artists in group exhibitions, but somehow that never led to representation.

But my defense of "conscious decisions" doesn't satisfy me. What about my subconscious decisions. Am I perpetuating bias by not actively seeking balance? I don't like the implications of that actually. I like the standard of choosing the art that makes the most sense for the program. Choosing the art, not the artist.

And yet I sense a zeitgeist among my peers. More of my colleagues seem to be sensing the need to expand their programs (this might have more to do with the hotness of the market, but I think it's also increased exposure to a more global clientele and the ever-shrinking art world). So maybe we're on the right path, but it's simply taking longer to get there than one might have expected when Identity Art first started shaking up the establishment.

In the end, I like to think the best art always wins, but when the numbers lean so heavily toward the traditional, it's tough to accept there's not something ingrained in the system. And if we're not actually, if frustratingly slowly, making progress, what else can be done to achieve more balance?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the artworld loves a cute white boy, its ingrained in the genetic structure, so when a good looking white boy enters a gallery or meets a curator or gallery owner, they almost always respond differently to them than someone else. i have seen it firsthand, there is a salivating. i know that women are showing more, but if one looks at the current art forum, for instance, and really COUNTS the names in group shows, or looks at the ads, its pretty much all men, men, men. something i saw in there made me ill, a show at the Kunsthalle Zurich i think, a show of about 4-5 white american men (the much ballyhood wade/guyton, walker etc al), same story, these guys are all over the place, young, working the career, dont care a bit for women, just working the career. yuch, i am generalizing, but its the feeling it generates almost every time i open the mag. i guess i shouldnt even look. look at Barnstormers report. do you know that there are women,above the age of 45 say, who have had museum shows, do really great work, mature, interesting, taking chances, really out on a limb that cannot even get a gallery? i am not talking about my self by the way, just in case the silly people out there think i am "bitter". its not bitterness, its RAGE.

5/16/2006 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Isn't it also, partly, how many clients/buyers an artist can bring in the door. Those white males dead and breathing may still have an edge here.

5/16/2006 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Ok, add cute white males to the list, although we should link pictures here.

5/16/2006 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

the artworld loves a cute white boy, its ingrained in the genetic structure

Actually, as Edward Albee argues so brilliantly in "The American Dream," it's ingrained in the genetic structure of the nation, not simply the art world part of it. Maybe it's impossible for the art world to reflect anything other than the reality around it. Maybe the reason progress is so slow is that, even with artists leading the way, the art world can only go so quickly, dragging, as it does, the reluctant behemoth of our entire culture behind it. Or maybe that's sloppy thinking on my part. Does the same disparity exist in television, film, music, etc?

5/16/2006 09:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe we don't have to belittle the dead. maybe we can just wish that others could join them.

5/16/2006 11:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

join them in the afterworld or join them in the history books?

5/16/2006 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

This is the problem with anon commenters, you appear bi-polar.

5/16/2006 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous ml said...

Truth is beauty; beauty, truth. The confluence has been around for a while. Read the ancient Greeks.

Beautiful people, regardless of sex or nationality, always have doors open for them. Think about the press received by the "hot" girls who paint. I do agree with Edward, though, that ultimately the work, the quality and universality of the work, will be all that matters. Vermeer was not successful for centuries. We tend to lose sight of the cycles of history and think they do not apply to us. That said, it is always interesting to see how the prejudices we are trained in impact our decision making and preferences.

5/16/2006 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Camille Paglia has said there have been no female geniuses. I think what she meant was that genius, by definition, overcomes all obstacles, and clearly women of antiquity rarely did.

I'm not saying I agree or even understand what Paglia meant. I just find it an interesting thing to consider when talking about the whole Dead White Male thing in art. It makes an interesting thought experiment for me: Imagine for a moment that European men dominate the culture because there actually is something inherently better about them.

Again, I don't agree. But it helps stretch my brain to try to pretend.

Personally, I wish I had some undue influence as a male of European descent. If women over 45 can't get gallery representation, then it should be easier for me, right? But I think my membership card in the White Male Power Structure got lost in the mail.

On another note, I'd switch teams for Bambino.

5/16/2006 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

...when faced with the statistics, I'm floored at the inequality, still, in this day and age

Edward, it's reasonable to expect the demographic mix of artists exhibited in galleries and museums to reflect that of the population as a whole, but it ignores an important question; what is the demographic mix of people even trying to have careers as artists? I don't know the answer to this, but not asking that question may make the system look more biased than it really is. Which is not to say that there's any real "fairness" taking place (in the art world or the world in general), just that many artists are excluded, across the demographic spectrum.

There are other factors, mostly economic, that probably influence someone's decision to pursue an art career. Clearly there are inequalities in this area (economic), and I'm sure that affects the demographic mixture of potential artists. Someone who grows up in a family struggling financially is more likely going to want to become a doctor or a lawyer than an artist. I remember a classmate of mine in grad school, who was conflicted about his potential career as an art professor, saying to me, "I'm not sure I can feel good about making a living teaching a bunch of middle-class kids how to be poor."

do you know that there are women, above the age of 45 say, who have had museum shows, do really great work, mature, interesting, taking chances, really out on a limb that cannot even get a gallery?

Anon, do you know that there are plenty of men in the same situation? Even white ones of European descent, believe it or not. Maybe this says something about galleries wanting art students rather than experienced artists. Or it might just be that there are way more artists out there than there are available spaces to exhibit.

5/16/2006 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

David sex:
Someone who grows up in a family struggling financially is more likely going to want to become a doctor or a lawyer than an artist.

Anecdotal confirmation of this: My father was an auto mechanic with severe back problems. I never considered us to be poor but if we qualified for middle class, it was at the very low end. I was never given the idea that I could make a career of being an artist: I had to have a day job.

Fast forward almost fifteen years: I'm still paying off my college degree in computer science, I've had what used to be more charitably called a nervous breakdown, and I'm trying to make it as an artist while being supported by my wife's salary as a teacher.

My point is not to complain, but to note that, yes, lower income families do not generally encourage their kids to become artists. I lost almost twenty years to trying not to be an artist. Now I expect to lose the next twenty to trying.

5/16/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

"David sex" should obviously be "David sez". Damn this keyboard!

5/16/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

"David sex" should obviously be "David sez". Damn this keyboard!

Chris, I may want to hire your keyboard to manage my career :)

5/16/2006 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

I know that female contemporary artists have a hard time getting professional recognition. But since you're bringing up Paglia, I have to point out that there are plenty of "genius" women artists in museums, and always have been. The problem is, they're mostly anonymous. For centuries, creative women have turned their talents to textiles and decorative arts, rather than to painting and sculpture. The Bayeux tapestry wasn't embroidered by men. Those fabulous Persian rugs in the Islamic wing at the Met weren't woven by men. And so on.

Not that any of this helps a 45-year-old woman looking for a gallery. But I want to nip in the bud any suggestion that women are somehow ill suited to create art.

5/16/2006 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger highlowbetween said...

Another very relevant post and a hard issue I think to get a handle on. It is truly shocking to look at those numbers - I believe Saltz did a similar survey of current shows a couple of months back. A paradox in all of this is also the fact that I believe (based on experience not stats) that women far out number men in art schools. Does anyone have a stat on that? I'd like to see a breakdown based on undergraduate and graduate ratios. I think the class issue as mentioned by fellow commentators is key to the debate too. The 'cute white boys' and the 'sexy white girls' seem not to be working class kids to me. Quite the opposite, which is why they are art world darlings I suppose- rich youth and sexy slumming sell in every sector I'm afraid. What makes it so frustrating for so many is the shared feeling that the 'art world' should be a refuge against that, soemwhere equitable and serious. Its not obviously to anyone who has to work to support their studio practice and is trying to get into a viable gallery situation - regardless of age, race or sex. I do think more diversity of artists is happening and more will with global markets but will the diversity of art collectors match that? Do people tend to buy art made by people like them? Who has the most capital to put towards art purchses? What social demographic finds this appealing in the first place? In the end good work survives and I think quotas would be misguided from a gallery standpoint, but the issue is real and I for one am glad it is being discussed. We are living through the most prosperous period ever for the arts and it seems that largely the artworld equivalent of the Republican economic top tier are getting the biggest cut. It seems like it anyway - there are many of us looking in from the outside. Or for those artists in the industry, inside looking in!

5/16/2006 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous jen d said...

its not bitterness, its RAGE.

I love you, anonymous, and I couldn't agree more.

re: highlowbetween's question about how many women vs men are trying to be artists, according to the 2000 US census, slightly more than half the people calling themselves "artists" are women.

Data from art schools is hard to get, I know because I've been trying. I read recently that art school enrollment is tilted strongly toward women, but I haven't been able to get the numbers myself.

I don't know if quotas are the answer, but certainly people responsible for writing about or exhibiting artists should be examining their own unconscious prejudices, as Ed is bravely doing.

Thanks for the great topic, Ed.

5/16/2006 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

A paradox in all of this is also the fact that I believe (based on experience not stats) that women far out number men in art schools.

That was my experience in art school too, and I considered it my first real reward for being an artist :)

The thing I'm not sure of is how many of those art students kept at it after graduating, and what the demographics of that are. I remember reading awhile back about the huge number of people with art degrees, not just undergrad but MFAs too, that have completely stopped making art within 5 years of graduation. I have a day gig in the film industry and many of my co-workers have art degrees, but I'm the only one I know here (at the studio I work for) that also has an active career as an exhibiting artist. A lot of them tell me that they need to get back to their painting, photography, whatever, but they never seem to get around to it. It's a juggle. You have to be pretty obsessive to keep doing this stuff.

5/16/2006 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Alanna Spence from angrypirate.com sent me this link awhile ago. They are interesting stats that she came across while doing research for a paper. It's a bit out of date, but still.


5/16/2006 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Sorry, I don't know how to make that into a link in a comment. Computers aren't my thing.

In response to David's comment about women staying, or not staying with art, in my case and with most of the women I knew in college, either they have moved into different areas of the art world or they have families. It is very difficult to meet the needs of a gallery while birthin' babies, at least for a few years. Most of the women artists that I show with are like me, they have waited a few years until their children are grown to continue their careers. This gives us the double whammy of being a female artist AND an old artist.

5/16/2006 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

good God, those stats are depressing...but, back to my last question in the post...what's to be done? Quotas might work in schools, but there doesn't seem to be the same disparity (at least not along gender lines) there that we see in other institutions. You can't force commercial galleries to balance their programs (really, you can't...you'd kill them) and museums that focus on anything other than contemporary art have centuries of discrimination to fall back on (i.e., show me the woman parallels to this or that and that or this man artists during xx century) in defending their choices.

So do you research the women making work back then that was just as good? Is that work still around? Lisa points out how much work in museums was made by women, but is installed anonymously...do you demand research to discover who those women were?

And moving forward? I do think public pressure helps, but it moves things along at a glacial clip, so...?

5/16/2006 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

"In the end, I like to think the best art always wins, but when the numbers lean so heavily toward the traditional, it's tough to accept there's not something ingrained in the system."

I can't believe anyone can honestly say "the best art" makes it into the gallery system. Maybe it depends on what one means by "best" though. We know that who you know, and who you are lucky enought to meet, is a HUGE part of the process. Success in the arts is largely random, but constrained by location, opportunity (which itself is constrained by class, gender ,etc.) and market appeal. Let's not kid anybody, if work doesn't have commercial appeal, it will rarely "win."

5/16/2006 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Robert Anton Wilson reports on a feminist type person who claims that all of Beethoven's music is about rape. This woman claims to have found music written by women of the same period, and she says it's better than Beethoven. Wilson still sides with ol' Ludwig, though.

So I don't think you'll find the female Raphael or Michelangelo or Da Vinci, Edward, if that's what you mean. If they existed -- and some would argue they did, and some would argue they didn't, I'm not taking a stand on this one -- their work is probably lost to us. We've lost so much of what we wanted to keep, never mind stuff we never intended to hold on to.

But Edward, I think the solution is simple. Judge the art. The end. You can't help because you're not a woman or an artist (unless you're hiding something), so just do what you do as best you can. Let the women do the work as best they can, and that's that. What else is there? There are women -- the Militant Art Bitch comes to mind -- who are pushing the issue. I'm sure there are women curators and gallerists (I've mostly met women it seems) who are pushing this. Let them.

I think, in the end, the art is everything. Everything else is going to vanish eventually. So stand by that: Make your judgments on the art. Whatever might go in to your judgment, it's yours and it's all you've got. Don't start second-guessing yourself. Just be who you are.

5/16/2006 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Lisa sez:
But since you're bringing up Paglia, I have to point out that there are plenty of "genius" women artists in museums, and always have been.

I found Paglia's original quote, and when she says genius she means "Pascal, Milton, or Kant". Kind of a different level of genius than artistic genius. Apples and oranges, really.

Here's the quote, from Sexual Personae:

Male conspiracy cannot explain all female failures. I am convinced that, even without restrictions, there still would have been no female Pascal, Milton, or Kant. Genius is not checked by social obstacles: it will overcome.

Anyway, I don't disagree with you, Lisa.

5/16/2006 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Ed, I am wondering, of all of the submissions of art that your gallery receives, approximately what percentage is work by female artists. (hope that's not too personal). Are women and men trying to equally hard to get in or is there a disparity there too, I wonder.

5/16/2006 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It feels about equal Tracy, but then until I saw the stats, the number of women I saw in galleries in general felt about equal too...I'll run a short survey later and report back.

5/16/2006 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

OK here is a solution. When someone offers to purchase a work you expain that Plus Ultra has a policy and that each work must be purchased in a pair with a work by an artist of a different gender. Or works could come in sets of paired examples of each ethnicity included. A work by a gay man would be paired with a work by a lesbian and these woud be then paired with a pair of hetero artist's work.

Another possibiity, you could require each of your collectors to complete a sensitivity course before they could buy work from you. Then hold seminars each week where artists could tell their tale of woe, then the collectors could bid on works by the artist at the end of the evening while the pain is still fresh in there minds.

Or a collector twelve step program . . .

5/16/2006 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Re-attribute all the work through-out history to have been done by a couple ala Van Bruugen and Oldenburg or Jean-Claude and Christo.

This might be the most honest fix.

5/16/2006 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Regarding the Bayeaux Tapestry: we dont normally attribute work to the actual people who did the crafting, we have had this discussion elsewhere.

Who designed it and who made it happen? I have no idea.

If we are going to change that rule then I may turn out to be world famous afterall.

5/16/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Tim had his tongue in his cheek when he wrote:
Re-attribute all the work through-out history to have been done by a couple ala Van Bruugen and Oldenburg or Jean-Claude and Christo.

Dali, for a while, signed his work with both his name and his wife's, claiming that she was as responsible for the work as he was.

I could do the same with my paintings, I guess, except a) I don't think my wife wants her name attached to my work and b) I've been told I'm not supposed to sign my work these days.

5/16/2006 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Nancy Baker, aka Rebel Belle said...

One of the worst offenders of underrepresentation of women artists is MOMA. When you look at their permanent collection, you don't even see any women until 1950, and then they are so poorly represented that it is an outrageous disgrace. Are the curators really telling us that there were no significant women on the scene until the post modern era? MOMA has a lot of power and influence, and when their egregious gender policy goes unchallenged, it sends a very strong message out into the art world, and that message is "We don't give a damn".

As a 50 year old female artist, I can say that I am one of the lucky ones (Thank you Ed). And yes, Tracy, being a mother sets you WAY back in the time frame.

5/16/2006 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Boy, I sure agree with you about MOMA, Nancy. I recently went there and it was totally depressing to go through their collection and see so few women represented.

Another observation though, regarding galleries. In looking at NYC (and other big city galleries like Boston and Philadelphia) it's easy to see that women (and minorities) are not equally represented, however in galleries in smaller communities, the ratio is much more equal. In the galleries that represent my work the ratio is pretty equal, and yes, I have spent hours counting the names. So unless galleries outside of NYC don't count (I suppose some may have that opinion), I think that things are a bit more positive than it may seem at first glance.

5/16/2006 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

I should have added to the above post that none of the galleries that represent my work are in NYC.

5/16/2006 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger carla said...

Ditto for Indianapolis. I haven't tallied the stats, but in terms of showing work, women may well outnumber men here...but as for who is making a living at it? well, very few.

A negative interpretation is that women are allowed equal representation only when 'it doesn't matter' financially.

Or perhaps it means that they are equally motivated to make art regardless of situation.

5/16/2006 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

I'll bet the equality stats are even lower if you factor out "ghettoized" women-only shows -- the theme shows about body image or "women's issues," etc. With men, art exhibitions are about art. With women, it's still largely about gender, even for the successful artists.

5/16/2006 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where the hell is edna?

5/16/2006 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Angela Ferreira said...

It doesn’t matter how amazingly good art is, if the artist has vision, talent, innovative ideas, already have a network of fans, successful private sales and commissions, is the most talked artist of the town, galleries won’t be interested if the style doesn’t go with the image and line they portrait. They not interested in making money first they have to keep up the reputation.

5/16/2006 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

being a mother sets you WAY back in the time frame

So does having a fulltime job. I can't believe how much time I've wasted over the years just making a living. Ed, couldn't you just give us all a bunch of money so we can create?

5/16/2006 05:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Angela Ferreira said...

Oh and by the way everyone being a mother is not an excuse to set backs, check this out: www.motherangel.blog.pt

5/16/2006 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous jen d said...

I think one thing that can help address the imbalances is that it can become unbearably embarrassing for galleries & institutions to exhibit virtually exclusively male artists of european descent. I didn't read any print reviews of the Whitney Biennial that mentioned that it featured only 28% women artists. But it was on the blogs, which seem to be the future of criticism, so perhaps there is hope.

Toward that end, this type of discussion, Edna's Militant Art Bitch blog, the Brainstormers' work, etc, are a great start.

5/16/2006 05:34:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

If everyone who attended art school remained an artist their entire lives and showed at a regular rate, then there would be more art galleries than churches or liquor stores. But would there be more collectors?

5/16/2006 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous jen d said...

And to those above who protest it should be "about the Art", I completely agree.

But I think we have a long way to go before we get rid of the prejudices (conscious and unconscious) that get in the way of it actually being about the art.

I think that deep down it is still just easier for most of us to attribute genius, talent and brilliance to male artists than to female ones. The idea of genius is still male in our culture.

5/16/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

About that Paglia quote...

I don't care for much of her work, but she does have a point with this one, albeit a slim, hardly substantiated one. I work in a very male environment doing very masculine work, and I am a tiny, skinny blonde woman. So, naturally, I think about this all the time.

Men are raised to take risks and do stuff by themselves. Women are taught to be good and to do it "right". Women are not taught to do genius things, like take risks or fail. I fight this aspect of femininity constantly, inside myself and with students. Teach a sculpture class. The women are, generally, going to be competent, listen really well, follow through and will not hurt themselves. You'll want to give them all A-minuses, because they did *all* the hard work. The men are, generally, going to think they know what they are doing before they do, hurt themselves, hurt the tools, and listen poorly. And somehow, in doing all this flailing around and failing and putting the grinder into their hands and cutting their fingers and showering everyone with sparks, one of them is going to do something slightly profound, something that breaks a rule. You are going to want to give this kid an A, even though he didn't even hand in one of his assignments, and this is the problem.

Men are generally confident, even when they shouldn't be. Women are generally competent, even when they shouldn't be.

This is what Paglia is talking about, I think, and it's true. I see it every time I teach and I see it in the park. Not with every single person, but it is a generalization I feel comfortable making. I see it in myself--I can't lie, I worry about whether I am doing it "right" even though there is no such thing all the time. Is this because of how I was socialized? Is it inherent to me? I don't know.

I can say that I don't feel like I am wasting my time, or that this is set in stone. Men and women have a lot to learn from one another. I like being able to be confident and competent.

5/16/2006 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

This may get me pilloried, but here goes--

Women and men's brains work differently. I believe that at least part of the perceived problem is that women do not always pursue a 'career' in the arts with the same single-minded, damn-the-torpedoes focus that men do; we naturally tend to juggle fourteen things at once. This can be an advantage in the very long term, but in the short term we tend to progress less rapidly.

In addition, I have noticed that a large number of female gallerists, collectors, curators and art professors tend to get their jollies by collecting a stable of flashy young male artists, while regarding most talented young women artists as competition. Women have no business complaining about being oppressed when we are the ones doing a large part of the oppressing.

Conversely, a lot of the 'woman-centered' art showing, as Lisa points out, tends to have a ghettoizing effect, plus being wrapped around the notion of 'woman artist as victim,' which is off-putting to any dealer, artist or collector with a modicum of self-esteem.

So how can this be corrected? Well, paying attention to one's personal state of integrity is a good place to start, and it looks like Edward is starting there. Also, the dealer's job is to get the collector excited about an artist's work, and by extension, the artist's life. To do so, the dealer has to be excited about this artist's work and life himself. So getting to know a lot more women artists as friends seems like the way to go.

As I said, women seem to work differently--how about exploring the ways those differences manifest themselves?

5/16/2006 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Jen d:

I would say that it's not that the idea of genius is male, it's that males are taught to do genius behaviors. IMO, if every single little girl was left alone to figure things out for herself, and if women were expected to fail and live with their failures in the same way men do, then there would be more women geniuses. More little girls would get hurt, but there would be more women geniuses.

5/16/2006 05:57:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

If everyone who attended art school remained an artist their entire lives and showed at a regular rate, then there would be more art galleries than churches or liquor stores. But would there be more collectors?

I doubt it, but with all those extra artists around I'd think seriously about opening another liquor store.

5/16/2006 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

"I think that deep down it is still just easier for most of us to attribute genius, talent and brilliance to male artists than to female ones. The idea of genius is still male in our culture."

Unfortunately, this statement can be applied to many occupations, not just art. The male dominance in the art world is not so different than in business, medicine, etc. etc.

5/16/2006 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Are we seriously debating whether women have the mental capacity to create works of genius? There's your answer right there, Ed.

Excuse my while my head starts spinning like The Exorcist.

5/16/2006 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Lisa, I read that remark as to imply that our culture attributes genius to males rather than women, not that only males can be genius. I certainly don't think only males have the ability to create genius works and didn't mean to imply that, but sometimes I do think our culture makes it looks as if they do.

5/16/2006 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

it's that males are taught to do genius behaviors.

No, I'm sorry, but no, no, no. Are you seriously suggesting that genius can be taught? Have you no experience with raising, teaching, or observing children at all? Genius may be stifled, certainly, but it cannot be injected.

However, our definition of what constitutes genius can certainly stand some examination, and perhaps some expansion. Lisa, I so empathize with your head-spinning.

5/16/2006 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

And just to clarify, I am not one of those loathesome women who seeks to ingratiate or shock by deprecating my own gender. I merely seek to recognize what our strengths genuinely are, and to play to those strengths, rather than trying to re-construct myself and my fellow women in a masculine paradigm.

5/16/2006 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

I certainly am not debating whether women have the mental capacity to create works of genius.

I am saying that women are not socialized to do all the behaviors we reward in artists:

1. fail brilliantly
2. do it yourself, your own way, not the right way
3. break rules well and knowingly, with confidence and flair

This is not a news flash, and it is not particularly deep or some kind of indictment. What we value in art is specific to our culture and somewhat arbitrary. What we teach girls and boys is similarly arbitrary. I don't feel like the ship is sunk, but it's silly to have this discussion without being honest:

Of course there are more women going to art school and more men becoming famous artists. Women don't do what MOMA values in art as often or as comfortably as men do. I don't think it's right, but it's just true. Not admitting it isn't going to make it go away.

And FWIW, I think Paglia is off her rocker when she says there are no female geniuses:

*Simone deBeauvoir
*Dorothy Parker
*Eleanor Roosevelt
*Louise Bourgeois
*Elizabeth Streb
*Gertrude Stein

The list goes on and on.

5/16/2006 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Fisher6000 sez:
And FWIW, I think Paglia is off her rocker when she says there are no female geniuses...

Apples and oranges again. Pascal, Milton, Kant -- a whole different kind than Dorothy Parker. I think Paglia does stack her deck, though. She's defining genius a certain way. She also notes that there are no female Jack the Rippers, and thinks the reason for both is the same, and it has to do with, to some degree, socialization.

Again, not saying I agree. I haven't read Sexual Personae and probably won't. Paglia's got great taste in poetry, though: see Break, Blow, Burn.

And Edna's not here because we beat this topic to death on her blog already. By the way, I'm an evil misogynist over there, and a pathetic illustrator who relates badly to women, in case you were wondering.

5/16/2006 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

I know that you are merely a pathetic illustrator who moonlights as an evil misogynist...

...but you are right about Kant v. Parker. I was feeling a little longwinded and didn't go there. I do think that women are geniuses differently than men are. I guess that's my whole point.

I know this sounds ridiculous coming from a woman who is smellier and dirtier and has more calluses and knows more about fixing stuff than most men... but the problem I see with this is that we are still expecting women to act like men and be man-like. Paglia is so out of left field that she winds up having a point: we defined all kinds of success and power according to masculine roles and strengths, and then wonder why women are still lagging behind.

What I am trying to say is that asking Edward to make his stable more diverse is fighting the wrong fight. Another way to fight this (that is more fair to small-business owners) is for the society to decide what it wants. A more holistic definition of the word genius would be nice. So would practical steps like leaving little girls alone more, letting them get hurt, and not pressuring them to be good.

5/16/2006 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/16/2006 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

No, genius can't be taught, but do you seriously consider genius to be part of the "male paradigm"???

I also dispute your characterization of women as risk-averse good girls. That certainly doesn't apply to me or any of my friends (and we have the Permanent Records to prove it).

5/16/2006 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

Lisa--I think you've misread me. I was not suggesting that genius is a 'masculine paradigm,' but that the recognition of women's genius lags far behind the male version. Our brains work holistically, not linearly. Surely you've noticed this in yourself and in your brilliant female friends? The male 'genius' brain tends to grab hold of one subject and drill a hole through the planet. The female 'genius' brain tends to gracefully integrate, balance, and dance among all sorts of topics and disciplines, in time as well as in material.

This is obviously a gross over-generalization, but think about it, and observe yourself as you go through your day. I'm saying that women don't give ourselves enough credit for what we're good at, and the ways in which we're good at it.

Also, if you read back through the comments, you'll see that it was not me who characterized women as 'risk-averse.' I've got my own lengthy Permanent Record. ;-)

5/16/2006 08:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just read your post now edward - what struck me most is that you have provided an extremely superflous and overbearing definition of WHITE GUILT.
dont worry, ed, no one blames you for anything.

5/16/2006 09:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont mean for this to sound obnoxious, or self aggrandizing or anything, but i've read all of the very thoughtful and intelligent comments on here - i felt like a certain perspective was absent.
i am a white male artist. i come from a working class family, single mother, deadbeat dad. someone suggested that the children of working class parents have to make a choice, and would less likely choose being an artist over a doctor.
i dont think that i made a decision or came to a crossroads. i only knew how to make art, and i was not adept at or willing to tolerate having to do anything else. i knew that i had a singular ability to make compelling images, and i had no choice but to develop that and actively try to make a living from it. the last time i worked for someone else i was 24, right now i'm 33. the last 9 years have been about constantly being poor, coming up against obstacles, having bad health, and trying to make work and get it seen. while i'm white and a straight male, i don't think i'm 'sexy' as described previously, but if i have been able to transmit sex appeal in the past, i think it would have much more to do with my confidence than my clothes are my looks. i think that if many of the people writing above saw me at my opening, they would think, hey, another rich white kid, hipster, with some sweatshirt and cool shoes. but i've never made more than 10 thousand dollars a year since i quit my job, i live in the what is basically the ghetto, and my relationship with the art world is primarily through email. when i have a show, then i am there to mingle and whatever else is needed. the rest of the time i'm far away in my city where there is really no art world. i'm represented by 4 galleries. the sort of galleries that take out ads in artforum where my name is surrounded by many other male names. but i don't have any money. i'm still in the ghetto, still trying to make a living - yet it seems to me that most people would assume i'm successful, making money, and then resent me for it. call me a yaley or something, when in fact i went to a shitty regional art school and dropped out. i think it's unfortunate that i have an advantage over women, or my friends who are indian or black. but i don't feel bad about it personally, and i don't concern myself with correcting it, other than recommending my friends work to people when i can. i'm too busy trying to survive, and i have always been absolutely single minded and driven about one day not being fucking poor. if that's shallow, so be it. i haven't been to the dentist in 3 years, but i have a show in berlin next month. i think the point i'm trying to make is that there are many many stories.

5/16/2006 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger Fabio said...

I have come way too late to this thread, but here's a simple proposition for Ed:

Why not stage a group show by early career artists but remove the name from all the art work?

Have the show be divided 50/50 tween men and women. Try to have each artist contribute their strongest peice. Price equivalent works at the same level (e.g., oil paintings of roughly the same size are priced the same). Sign a contract with the artists saying they won't reveal their authorship until the show is over.

Who do think will sell more paintings?

Anyone daring enough to pull this show off?

5/16/2006 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger brent hallard said...

It's all dance around semantics. My two shoe.

Of course they’re small geniuses and big ones. A small one usually has a very focused agenda on which they bore holes through the earth, as Serena points out, however I think it’s not just a guy thing. However the metaphor as great as it is, is lacking slightly in that in order to go in deep and hold the focus, as entry and singularity, the small genius side kicks in when it’s not this singular, singular singular, a bombastic singular, that makes dust out of ironstone. It’s quite the opposite. Singularity is two cones massively unequal in size and in volume, with each smallest end joined. The balance lay in the intense short journey at the beginning, the pinhole opening at the end of the first tiny cone, let there be light, the dance navigating a vast new space focus rebounding.. Reverb …hang on, hang on…. That’s a gramophone. Sorry Wrong number.
Anyway the multi-agenda geniuses tend have this ability to deeply focus no matter where their attention lay. They defy time. They defy everything because they are rebuilding. There are no risks for them because a M.a.g doesn’t think that way. What gender the big or small is probably has a lot to do with a long historical culture agenda. An imbalance. A gramophone.
I think culture is part of nature, and if nature is here to be followed, it has a wonderful way of recording and rebounding: Irreverent thing is.
Anyway, we’re all OK

5/16/2006 10:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to the community at large: i notice that among the careers of the people i graduated from grad school with (a good school) that the guys are doing well across the board, and the females are not getting shown as much. ALREADY. and we graduated six years ago. i dont know what it's from, sexism, nurture, or nature, but it's already evident. my conclusion: get your male friends to start encouraging people to come to your studio, ladies, because you are going to start noticing a difference right away. maybe if your guy friends go around talking about how great you are it will help.
and to ed: sorry but i heard about a woman painter who was told she was having a show at your gallery in brooklyn and then bumped from having the show without even being informed-- only knew because she read the list of coming shows and she wasnt on it. uh: HELLO?!

5/16/2006 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

someone suggested that the children of working class parents have to make a choice, and would less likely choose being an artist over a doctor

Anon, I'm the one who above suggested that one's economic circumstances in childhood might influence their interest in becoming an artist. I think that's true. But I certainly didn't mean to suggest that those were the only factors, or even that it's always a conscious "choice" to follow that path. Your dedication is admirable. Good luck w/ your Berlin show.

5/17/2006 02:58:00 AM  
Anonymous jen d said...

hi working class white male anon:

I don't think you should worry that anyone resents you personally or individually. All of us have straight white males in the ranks of our favorite artists and best friends. And everyone knows that snap judgments made about how much money someone has aren't likely to be very accurate (but that doesn't stop us from making them in weak moments, and if you're wearing $150 jeans with that sweatshirt I can't promise I won't roll my eyes).

ps from what I hear, many wealthy parents are some of the most oppressive and unsupportive of their kids' decision to be artists. My middle class parents have been pretty great about my "choice", but maybe there are no safe generalities one can make here either...

5/17/2006 08:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there are a lot of stories, yes, but to the guy whose name is surrounded by other guys names in artforum, i hope you start selling your work, no doubt you will. think about when a woman peruses the same magazine, and sees over and over again, the lists and lists of male names, only sometimes to be inserted by a mostly dead or the occasional woman over 70 years old added to the "lists", i guess sometimes i want to know what people think of those mostly male lists of names that we are bombarded with month after month. as a woman who does show and struggles to make a living from it, it is so hard to bear sometimes to be left out, knowing that your male peers so to speak are being considered for everything and you for not much. i cant bear to look at art magazines that much for that reason. also to constantly see the boyz getting serious articles written about them, as a new discovery etc. or being rediscovered whatever. i know many women who "count" when looking at art magazines, the number of women in the "lists of mostly males names".

5/17/2006 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Fisher6000 sez:
So would practical steps like leaving little girls alone more, letting them get hurt, and not pressuring them to be good.

Is anyone still reading this thread?

Anyway, just a point from a guy who is raising a girl, currently seven years old: You do what you can, but nature and nurture are their own forces. I thought, before I had kids, that as a parent I'd have some measure of control as to what kind of people my kids would turn out to be. Having watched them grow for almost a decade now, I think I was totally wrong. Many of their personality traits were there the instant they popped out of the womb and they haven't changed. Anything new seems to have had nothing to do with me or my wife except genetically. My daughter, for example, loves to wear make-up. I don't like make-up for me or my wife, and my wife almost never wears make-up for any purpose. (I have personally never met anyone who looked better with make-up than without.) Where did she pick this up? TV? School? Grandmom? Jung's collective unconscious? Who knows? Make-up is just one example: Both of my kids have developed various gender-based proclivities despite my best efforts to keep them as gender-neutral as possible.

My daughter, by the way, is a genius. Take that, Camille Paglia!

5/17/2006 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I have personally never met anyone who looked better with make-up than without.

Except maybe Gene Simmons.

5/17/2006 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

Fabio - a variant of the show you suggested exists:


5/17/2006 11:42:00 AM  

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