Women dismissed—until now

In Australia our Federal Minister for the Arts is spraying the arts community with shrapnel from his canon of arts classics. His Western canon of arty favourites is, by definition, almost exclusively male dominated, created in past centuries and embedded in European culture. You’re a fool Brandis, but more about that in a later post.

At the same time the New York Times is celebrating a very small sampling of the female artists now in their 70s, 80s and 90s we should have known about decades ago.

Works in Progress – NYTimes.com.

I’ve taken some liberties in paraphrasing from the text with some of the stories of these ‘persistent’ women.

Carmen Herrera, 99

…studied architecture in Havana, Cuba. She exhibited several times at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in Paris in the mid 20th century and worked alongside noted artists Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock in the USA. Although Herrera’s work wasn’t recognised in the same way as her male counterparts, she continued to produce work and  was granted a small show at El Museo del Barrio in 1998. During a gallery group show in 2004, Herrera sold her first painting, at the age of 89.

Agnes Denes, 83

…says My work was never really understood. It was shown because it was exceptional and beautiful to look at, which is a trick of mine in order to make complex ideas more easily swallowed. Her work is inspired by interests in philosophy, mathematics and science, including intricate diagrams and “map projections” of the planet Earth onto an egg, a hot dog and — a form that has inspired her for decades — a pyramid. She is a recent recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Dorothea Rockburne, 82

…was in the middle of a dance performance with the Judson Dance Theater when she realised how her love of mathematics and painting could be combined in a unique take on geometric abstraction. I wanted very much to see the equations I was studying, so I started making them in my studio, she recalls. I was visually solving equations. Rockburne worked without exhibiting for many years because she deemed her work ‘not good enough’. She feels that it is now time to curate a retrospective of her work.

Etel Adnan, 90

…is a Lebanese-born artist, poet and writer who did not gain international renown as a painter until her late 80s, when her small but powerful abstract works garnered acclaim at Documenta 13. Hans Ulrich Obrist, the co-director of exhibitions at London’s Serpentine Galleries, has called her one of the most influential artists of the 21st century. Her advice for young artists is to Do what your inner soul tells you to do, regardless of any money or success it will bring you.

It’s unbelievably disheartening thinking about someone like Rockburne believing that her work isn’t good enough to be shown until she is an ‘elder’. How might she have inspired other women if she had shared her process decades before?


I grok Susie Bubble

susiebubbleimages3wI’ve added a whole heap of inspiration to my plate in recent months, including fashion and fashion blogs. I’m also a new convert to the term grok which hadn’t crossed my screen until recently.

For anyone else who hasn’t seen the term grok used, it means to understand something intuitively, or to establish empathy and rapport with something or someone.

So, I grok Susie Bubble—I really get her. I can go to her Style Bubble fashion blog and find inspiration every day. Sometimes I think our thoughts and images are meshing in the ether. When you grok something or someone, I assume it’s close to aesthetic ‘knowing’—kind of inexplicable and personal. But why do I grok Susie Bubble?

1. She posts an eclectic mix of new and vintage, of simple and ornate, of wildly colourful and subtly neutral, of stupidly unnecessary and completely functional.
2. On the one hand she loves detailed patterns; on the other, she loves colour-blocking.
3. Her favourite artists are all expressionists, colourists, symbolists.
4. She admits to having multiple creative projects and resolving few.
5. She loves sushi.
6. (even though I hate them) She loves period dramas. Good to have a point of difference!
7. She uses metaphorical language and lots of exclamation marks!
8. Immersed as she is in her style world, she sees and articulates broader social and political commentary.