Archive for January 19th, 2008

where my ladies at/art?

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

So it’s been about damn time that some fierce women’s art shows came down the pipeline. There are the two shows I just posted about at Traywick and QNA, but that’s just the beginning! It seems like the West Coast hell-raising was kicked off last year by the various spring 2007 exhibitions and events down in Lo-Cal (WACK! at MOCA in LA’s Little Tokyo, Exquisite Acts and Everyday Rebellions at CalArts, Shared Women at LACE, Multiple Vantage Points at the LA Municipal Art Gallery), and are reverberating up to us here in No-Cal even as we speak.

Not to suggest that No-Cal follows Lo-Cal: gawd forbid! (Maybe we’re just more fashionably late.) But what’s with the timing? What did I miss? I mean, it’s not as if a new generation of women artists have suddenly come out of the woodwork here, or as if feminism is suddenly de moda again. Maybe I’m just noticing it because I’ve been thinking about it more lately? Perhaps a number of people, both women and men, have realized that we’ve been getting pretty complacent about what equality and shared responsibility look like, and whether progressive change is still occurring, and perhaps that’s renewing some conversations that were never resolved to begin with. Well, one can hope.

On the fabulous Praba Pilar’s site, she posted the stats below which I’ve often referred to for a reality check, especially when I’ve looked around a supposedly progressive, liberal art world and have still seen the distribution of opportunities/gender roles still looking suspiciously old-school.

67% of Bachelors in Fine Arts go to women.
59% of trained artists and art historians are women.
66.5% of PhD.s in Art History go to women.
60% of the MFAs in Fine Arts go to women
5% of works in museums are by women.
17% of works in galleries are by women.
26% of artists reviewed in art periodicals are women.
Women artists’ income is 30% that of male artists.
* These statistics are from Women’s Action Coalition Book WAC STATS and apply to the U.S.A.

I don’t know what year these stats are from (Praba? When?), but my own informal, subjective poll suggests that it’s still pretty accurate. I remember reading this Jerry Saltz piece last year about the dearth of representation for women artists in galleries and museums, which he backed up with similar stats. What was really interesting was another follow-up piece he wrote where he discussed the incredible hostility and denials he received in response to his article! This aligns pretty closely with the some of the responses I’ve received in conversations regarding the relative homogeneity (in relation to race/class/gender roles) of the US art world. Folks get aggravated/highly defensive when confronted by discomfiting news they don’t want to have to contend with, apparently. (Yes, yes, things are better than they’ve been. No, no, they’re not good enough, not by a long shot.)

So here’s the steese: there are some awesome-looking shows showcasing women artists this spring. You don’t even need to be female to see ‘em! (And please don’t go to that “oh, feminist/identity art is so passe” place in your brain. It’s stale, condescending, and such a cop-out.) Anyway. Check out Mills next week, check out YBCA in March. Check out the two aforementioned shows at Traywick and at Queen’s Nails Annex. The mix of artists in these shows is excellent, the curators are formidable, and they’re all opening up some new conversations that are long overdue.


Mills College Art Museum, Oakland
January 16 – March 16, 2008
Opening reception: Wednesday, January 23, 5:30 – 7:30pm
curated by Marcia Tanner

Continuing its commitment to the work of women artists and curators, The Mills College Art Museum presents ‘We Interrupt Your Program‘: a group exhibition of video and new media works by fourteen emerging and mid-career female artists: Maria Antelman, Maja Bajevic, Maria Friburg, Nina Katchadourian, Marisa Olson, Julia Page, Shannon Plumb, Jean Shin, Renetta Sitoy, Julianne Swartz, Stephanie Syjuco, Claudia X Valdes, Anne Walsh, Gail Wight with Retort.

The works in ”˜We Interrupt Your Program’ intervene in, reconfigure, augment, and/or re-contextualize dominant narratives of war, power, science, technology, and gender from what are arguably distinctively female and feminist perspectives. Spanning a range of media and aesthetic strategies, the exhibition includes computer-manipulated video, digital animation, video installation, interactive sculpture, and photography. All of the artists in ”˜We Interrupt . . .’ respond to contemporary mainstream media””including network television, mass market feature films, instructional science videos, and online communication platforms such as email and chat rooms””interrogating them as restrictive vocabularies and structures that routinely exclude the female voice and point of view.
“THE WAY THAT WE RHYME: Women, Art & Politics”
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
Opens March 28, 2008 and runs through June 29, 2008
curated by Berin Golonu

Organized by YBCA, this exhibition showcases the politically charged work of a new generation of women who use creativity as a form of empowerment and a means for making social change. Emphasizing performativity, collaboration and coalition building, the artworks spotlight the daring of women who unapologetically assert themselves, and project their identities out into the world to address a range of issues from the personal to the global. While the works are influenced by the feminist ideologies and activist movements of the past, including the anti-war, pro-choice and environmental movements of the 60s and 70s; the gendered, multi-cultural identity politics of the 80s; and the rebellious Riot Grrrl punk music movement of the 90s; they also speak loudly and clearly to the issues facing women right now.

Artists include: Lisa Anne Auerbach, Andrea Bowers, Nao Bustamante, Tammy Rae Carland, Vaginal Davis, Eve Fowler, Deborah Grant, MK Guth, Taraneh Hemami, Miranda July and Shauna McGarry, LTTR, Leslie Labowitz and Suzanne Lacy, Aleksandra Mir, Laurel Nakadate, Shinique Smith, subRosa, SWOON and Tennessee Jane Watson, The Counterfeit Crochet Project organized by Stephanie Syjuco, The Toxic Titties, Jessica Tully, and RiotGrrl zines from the Independent Publishing Resource Center, Portland.