Saturday, March 1, 2008

Independent Women

For February, to celebrate Black History Month in the United States, I decided to ask, “Which of the following African-American artists is your favorite?” :

Romare Bearden and Kara Walker tied for the top spot with 7 votes each. William H. Johnson and Henry Ossawa Tanner tied for second with 4 votes each. Aaron Douglas, Horace Pippin, and Martin Puryear all garnered 3 votes. Jacob Lawrence scored 2 tallies. Beauford Delaney and Kehinde Wiley brought up the rear with 1 vote each.

For March, to celebrate Women’s History Month in the United States, I decided to ask, “Which of the following women artists is your favorite?”:

Cecilia Beaux

Mary Cassatt

Judy Chicago

Helen Frankenthaler

Artemisia Gentileschi

Frida Kahlo

Käthe Kollwitz

Paula Modersohn-Becker

Louise Nevelson

Georgia O'Keeffe

I must stress that cutting this list down to just my ten favorite was really, really hard. Rosa Bonheur, Louise Bourgeois, Lee Miller, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker, and Pan Yuliang just failed to make the list. The longer I thought about it, the more names I came up with until I just decided to go with my first instincts. If I’ve left the name of your favorite off, it’s not out of malice but simply my own honest ignorance. Please feel free to point out any omissions in the comments.

Women artists have been on my mind a lot recently, especially with the Cecilia Beaux exhibition at the PAFA and the Frida Kahlo and Lee Miller exhibitions at the PMA all currently running in Philadelphia, making it one of the hottest places in America to celebrate great women artists. (A photo of Kahlo in her studio appears above.) I just recently got an iTouch with video podcast capability and enjoyed MoMA video podcasts of lectures from last year by Linda Nochlin and Griselda Pollock as part of a conference on "Feminism and Art." Nochlin’s lecture especially attuned me to the special problems of feminism and art and opened my eyes to the possibilities of “feminism” in the art of men. I’m not sure that I’ll ever earn the title of “male feminist,” but I hope that I’ve reigned in my inner caveman enough to give the wonderful ladies of art history credit where it is so sorely due.

[BTW, if you’re interested in a crash course in the history of women’s art, Whitney Chadwick’s Women, Art, and Society is a good place to start. For a caustic, irreverent history of women’s art and its continuing struggle to find a place in the art world, read The Guerilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art. Another podcast in the same series as Nochlin and Pollock’s speeches featured two of the founding Guerilla Girls, who go by “Frida Kahlo” and “Kathe Kollwitz,” give an angrily entertaining illustrated lecture on the history of the Guerilla Girls and their struggle, which, ironically, began with a protest at the MoMA. Seeing those two women speak both eruditely and hilariously from beneath gorilla masks is why video podcasts were made.]


Giovanni Gasparro said...

Rosalba Carriera?
Elisabetta Sirani?
Elizabeth V. Le Brun?
Sofonisba Anguissola?

Bob said...

Thanks, Giovanni.

I actually thought about Le Brun, too. And thanks for introducing me to those great Italian women artists.


Michelle said...

Edmonia Lewis?
Augusta Savage?

As you said, the list is long. These two African American women sculptors are not well known, but had immense talent.

Bob said...

Thanks, Michelle.

I see your two great African-American women sculptors and raise you one Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, the pride of Philadelphia's African-American community until her death in 1968.

Please keep the names and memories coming!



Anonymous said...

Why have a hierarchical listing at all. How about an alphabetical listing?

Elizabeth Catlett
Camille Claudel,
Sonia Delaunay
Mary Heilmann
Agnes Martin
Lee Krasner
Joan Mitchell
Berthe Morrisot
Elizabeth Murray
Alice Neel
Lenore Tawney
Suzanne Valadon
Kay WalkingStick

Griffin said...

A great book on women artists is also Elsa Honig Fine's, 'Women and Art 1550-1950'.

It's always good to see Women artists of the past getting some recognition.