Women are rarely taken seriously in the art world.
As a student at LREI, who has prominently art-based interests, I have found consistent and challenging barriers for women in the art and music community. I love to paint but I grew up accustomed to the work of Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, and Degas, all white men.
At school, I know many talented and passionate girls who love the arts, yet the students I have heard the most about, have been male. I constantly hear about former students such as James Oliver and Eli Tamarkin, both extremely talented artists, but I rarely hear about the work of alums who are young women such as Cheyenne Tobias and Sage Adams. Even here, we perpetuate the notion that only boys and men can be acclaimed artists.
From my personal experience outside of LREI, this gender imbalance has also not changed at the few art based programs I have attended and visited at the high school and college level. There are always more male teachers than female and more female students than male. The male to female ratio in summer art programs I have taken have been roughly 2 to 10. I have also noticed this gender imbalance while looking though my favorite art magazines and books. The only artists who are the household names in my references and inspiration journals as well as calendars for sale in gift shops are of white men.
I admire the work of Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun and Kara Walker, both strong women artists. While some may recognize their work, often we fail to remember them. Learning about Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun really inspired me, as she was the first female painter of acclaim whose work I learned about. She was commissioned to paint all of the official portraits of Marie Antoinette, by the queen herself. She was separated from her husband and supported her child alone.
I loved learning about Le Brun during an art program I took in France, for it’s something still relevant today that many women can relate to. While there are few white female painters with acclaim there are almost no famous women of color or LQBTQ plus women of color who are recognized widely, even though they do exist.
For example, Kara Walker is a contemporary artist who is a MacArthur Fellow whose silhouettes featuring the history of enslavement have been displayed across the country. These cut outs explore race and sexuality and the sexual abuse of Black women throughout the history of slavery. They are set during the time of the Civil War and are heartbreaking images of injustice and pain. Seeing these images online in the wake of Trump’s impending presidency is frightening, because the actions portrayed in these works are still happening to women of color.
I am so upset by the negative atmosphere that discourages women from recognition within the arts. I’ve recently had conversation with my female peers about how we all want art to be a part of our lives. During our discussion, I thought of the Impressionists, a group of friends connected though their style of art, and how we, as a group of talented and empowered women wanted to be the next generation of artists who could gather together in our stylistic vision. We all want to break boundaries. For example, Talia said that as a musician, she wants to break boundaries in both the music industry and fine arts.
I strongly believe we are going to break boundaries because I am tired of seeing women on the sidelines. This is something I love and want to pursue, and it shouldn’t be impossible. Our work should not be discriminated against due to our gender, race, and sexual identity. The struggle is not over.