Forces Of Nature At The Stables

Forces of Nature opens at the Stables Gallery this Saturday.

Featuring the work of four female Taos artists, it is a variation on a theme begun earlier this year with the highly successful exhibit at the Harwood Museum (Work by Women), co curated by Janet Webb and Judith Kendall.

Soon thereafter, Maye Torres too, showed work by women at her new gallery (Studio 107 b),  although the list of women artists working in Taos (she compiled), proved too long to be accommodated in her space.

“I’ll just have to do more shows,” she said at the time.

Clearly there’s no shortage of women making art, why then are so few represented in museums and galleries worldwide. Compared to their male counterparts?

The assertion by the feminist artist Judy Chicago that only 2.7% of art books concern female artists, is disheartening.

So are the stats; It‘s estimated that only around 5% of the work featured in major permanent collections worldwide is by women.

This isn’t a new problem, or an unexamined one. Vogue recently highlighted female artists tackling gender bias in the industry and just prior to that, the Huffington Post announced that “For the foreseeable future, art fans venturing to NYC’s palace of modern art will be ogling over male artists, and a lot of them.”

Last year, The Guardian declared the art world has “airbrushed” women artists out of history.”

While all of these pieces point out the disappointing numbers, they don’t explain why the ratio from art school to the real world ends up being flipped so dramatically.

Why are there so many female art students, and so few female artists being exhibited?

“Sexism,” say most women in the art word.  A NYC gallerist friend who prefers to remain anonymous, told me that  “as far as women being encouraged to pursue their careers, they absolutely are,  but they are just not being given the same opportunities after graduating.”

“And If you are trying to break into a market that is already predisposed to men (70 percent to 30 in the gallery world), for instance, your chances of success are significantly less,” she said.

“The entire system is already stacked against women artists.”

“Besides, the fact that we’re still asking this question,” she explains, “is a reminder, that now more than ever, we still live in a patriarchy.”

It’s clear that there’s a major problem in the art world — but how do we solve it?

Contemporary curators of all genders must strive to bring this work (by women), forward,” my friend continued. “But the more business-focused parts of the art world — as an industry, not just a creative art form — continue to exclude women.”

It’s been my observation too, that women artists juggle both motherhood and career, while their male counterparts are far more blindsided when it comes to their art; I’ve never seen a male painter put down his brush to change a diaper, for example.

Artist Marina Abramović has even stated that she purposely avoided having children in order to maintain her career. In a quote from an interview, Abramović says, “In my opinion that’s the reason why women aren’t as successful as men in the art world. There’s plenty of talented women. Why do men take over the important positions? It’s simple. Love, family, children—a woman doesn’t want to sacrifice all of that.”

The glass ceiling in art still exists, then – but women in the arts are determined to break it.

Meanwhile here in Taos, women artists, continue to defy the odds, both in the studio as well as in our local galleries and museums, and this show at the Stables is no exception. Women are nothing if not forces of nature themselves!

“Forces of Nature” opens on July 14th at 5pm at The Stables Gallery.  The show will run for one week only, featuring the work of four female Taos artists:Beverly Branch-oil painting, portraits in situ, Shera Maher-oil paintings, abstract, Kimberley Henkel-bronze sculpture and jewelry and Noel Anderson-sculpture, assemblage.

For more information please visit the TCA site linked below.


All images thanks to the artists.

2 thoughts on “Forces Of Nature At The Stables

  1. For a start its not a level field. It took many hundreds of years for women to even be allowed into art classes so there’s a lot of catching up to do. Even when the Birmingham Art School opened, the first purpose built art school in England, (apparently) women were in full force there but it was still not accepted that a woman could fully ‘be’ an artist, as if her sexual identity stopped this as a matter of logic! Even Steiglitz said of O’Keefe that if she became a mother ‘it would destroy her purity, as an artist.’ And there we have something. The idea of the possession of a womb and its maturation being impure. That women belonged to the lower, earthly realms, not that I think sky has any precedence over earth in any case. It’s a very hard road to make your living as artist, writer or musician. Even in the nineteenth century the sons of wealthy parents were seriously disencouraged from pursuing an ‘Artist’s’ life. Often if women wanted to be in ‘that world’ they took on the role of model, muse or mistress, despite often being skilled artists themselves. In contrast to that today anybody who makes a mark is called an artist. I think some criticism has to take place. Some encouragement but not to soften the excellence. We have got deep into the postmodern ‘anything goes’ idiom but there is a small movement emerging to try and bring back classical drawing and painting teaching. This having been chucked out of art schools in London at least, since the sixties, during our what I call ‘dross’ of the nihilistic Brit Art of the nineties, otherwise often known as ‘conceptual’ work. There were of course some interesting artists and Tracey Emin has certainly made her point. I prefer Georgia O’Keefe’s attitude, that she was primarily an Artist, not a woman Artist. I fear these tags and nomenclatures are divisive and reduce women to a category that often makes the situation worse. Yes, we can ask the questions and try to get answers. But you cannot force things in a politically correct ham fisted way. I think Art should be judged as Art and not as being done by an oppressed or disadvantaged half of the population. I want good art, serious art, I hope that serious drawing and painting teaching picks up its long history again and continues the thread that was broken in the sixties in the UK. New ideas are not necessarily going to be polite and neat in the way they affect us and change often involves breakages of one sort or another. But when we look at the 30,000 years tradition of mark making and then the break from that, it means that many students have been deprived of learning and building from that wonderful historical tradition. There are many good ‘women artists’ and they have definately often been overlooked. The numbers are growing. Lastly in many ways the issue is that respectable women were supposed to be kept by their husbands. Only working class women worked. Men have the support of family, wife, parents, other artists, women often do not. It is almost heresy for a woman to devote herself to the pursuit of her life and to put marriage, husband, children and the propping up of society to one side. They are considered abnormal, ‘manlike’ selfish, unnatural. How many women can survive as artists at present if they are not supported by their husbands, and how many husbands would do that in the same way a wife automatically does that for a husband? One is treading on dangerous ground here. Much like Jeanne D’Arc was more or less arrested for the heresy of wearing men’s clothes and riding horses in an unnatural way, so do women who do not conform to the dictates of the status quo. There are not many women compared to men who put their love of art or writing above their love of husband, family and children. It is ok to ask the question why are there not more women artists but that is perhaps not the right question. It is more to the point to ask why do women happily support men before themselves? The reason is often that men earn more money and the women are dependent on it as are their children. And until recent times most women have lost the knowledge of birth control that was wiped out in the rise of the male dominated Medical profession. Hence ‘witch’ persecutions. The structure of our society, dependent on capitalism, based on the male dominated nuclear family (although the wife often wears the britches) does not support many women artists. The life of an artist, part revolutionary, iconoclastic, on the periphery, with the drinking, the often rough living, the hard times, the good times has been based on the male model and most women would not want to live like this unless very rare. They would not be considered respectable. That’s the first judgment. Once toppled off their pedestal of bourgeois respectability, a woman artist would then be considered a harlot, not suited to polite society, whereas a man would be admired for his irreverance. Society makes prostitutes out of women very easily and in many ways women are still bought and sold in the cattle market. You could say we are all wage slaves. Even the most successful Artists have to comply with patrons and do their commissions to order. There are the Artemisia Gentileschi’s, the Angela Kaufman’s, the Cornelia Parker’s but these are very very rare birds. Just my thoughts.

  2. Thanks for your excellent and eloquent observations Maggie. I could take this subject much further, but this is a blog, not a book and I hesitate to overload my readers.

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