Monday, November 15, 2010

On Painting Women


Terry Strickland
Women Painting Women


Have you ever walked into a workshop to take a class with a favorite teacher, laden down with canvases, paints, and brushes, just to have the instructor greet you and tell you where to go to disrobe? Have you ever earned an award for a work of art you created, and for which you were justifiably proud, just to have your peers accuse you of seducing the judges to get the prize? If you are a male artist, then you are likely to answer each of these questions with a “no,” but if you are a female artist, situations like these are painfully all too familiar.


Nicole Moné
Inspiring Figures

Stanka Kordic
Women Painting Women

Linda Tracy Brandon
Women Painting Women

Lee Price
Women Painting Women

Catherine Prescott
Inspiring Figures

Sharon Sprung
Inspiring Figures


The truth is, despite advances in our societal views toward women, female artists still find inequitable treatment within the art world. In 1963, in Jansen’s History of Art, not a single female artist was featured in the 572 page volume.¹ In 2006, according to the fall exhibition schedules for 125 well-known New York galleries, only 23 percent of the 297 one-person shows by living artists focussed on female artists- a meager improvement over the 19 percent representation from the year before.² Of the 399 objects in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection galleries of painting and sculpture, only 19 items on view in 2006 were by women (less than 5%)³; after the public was made aware of this under-representation, the displays were changed, but for the worse - only 14 of 400 pieces the following year were by women (3.5%).⁴ At the Guggenheim, between 2000 and 2006, only 14 percent of the museum’s solo shows were devoted to women.⁵ All of this data finds itself in direct opposition to the fact that women have made considerable contributions to art over the past century, and that currently, women, according to a survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2008, represent nearly 50 percent of all art directors, fine artists, and animators in the country.⁶


Adrienne Stein
Women Painting Women

Ellen Cooper
Inspiring Figures

Grace Mehan DeVito
Inspiring Figures

Laura Sanders
Inspiring Figures

Alexandra Tyng
Inspiring Figures


Sara Scribner
Women Painting Women

Cynthia M. Feustel
Inspiring Figures


Female figurative artists probably find themselves more disenfranchised than most others. Having only gained the opportunity to study the human form in art schools at about the turn of the twentieth century, female artists who wished to work representationally had only a short period of freedom before Modern Art movements took hold, and made of realist art a less desirable endeavor. Even now, it seems among female curators there is an opinion that women who wish to create figurative work should be disregarded for working in painting or sculpture - fields which, for so long dominated by men, should be considered misogynistic by contemporary women and not worthy of pursuit. During some periods in the last century, it even seemed more fashionable in the upper art echelon for a woman to exploit their own gender, rather than just focus on art which exhibited quality.


Jessica Dunegan
Women Painting Women

Haley Hasler
Women Painting Women

Jennifer Presant
Women Painting Women

Jane Lund
Inspiring Figures

Sherrie McGraw
Inspiring Figures

Danielle Richard
Inspiring Figures

Karen Kaapcke
Women Painting Women


Instead of dwelling on these negatives, more and more female, figurative artists are forming groups to create their own opportunities, enabling them to attain better exhibition prospects and more public recognition. Two such recently formed groups, The Cecilia Beaux Forum and Women Painting Women, have each used 2010 to launch a successful exhibit featuring some of today’s most skilled, representational, women painters.


Carol Arnold
Inspiring Figures

Amy Lind
Women Painting Women

Jennifer Balkan
Women Painting Women

Mia Bergeron
Women Painting Women

Jennifer Presant
Women Painting Women

Diane Fiessel
Women Painting Women


In the show, Inspiring Figures, artworks by twenty members of The Cecilia Beaux Forum were selected by jury to hang in the prestigious Butler Institute of American Art as exemplifications of the quality figurative work being produced by today’s female artists. Those twenty pieces were joined by another dozen-and-a-half works culled from the museum’s collection, and from other successful Forum members expressly invited to participate in the exhibit. In total, 38 paintings spanning 120 years of art-making were brought together in this celebration of women’s contribution to portraiture. In its own way, the exhibit attempts to reforge the links in the art history timeline, showing the progression of female artists from Mary Cassatt and Cecilia Beaux herself through those artists working in 2010.


Sharon Knettell
Women Painting Women

Candice Bohannon
Women Painting Women

Lisa Gloria
Women Painting Women

Lauren Tilden
Inspiring Figures

Ali Cavanaugh
Women Painting Women

Jennifer Nehrbass
Women Painting Women


The Cecilia Beaux Forum, founded in 2005, is a sub-group within the Portrait Society of America, the organization from which it draws its members. Under the leadership of Judith Carducci since its inception, the Forum has been making strides in its efforts to educate the public as well as its members about women in the arts, and to offer up-and-coming artists the chance to find mentorship from within the group’s ranks. This is the Forum’s first large scale exhibition of its members’ works.


Katherine Fraser
Women Painting Women

Karen Silvestro
Women Painting Women

Michelle Dunaway
Women Painting Women

Kay Polk
Inspiring Figures

Rachel Constantine
Women Painting Women

Abby Heller-Burnham
Women Painting Women

Kerry Brooks
Women Painting Women


The other organization, Women Painting Women, is an example of how the internet can be used to reach a large audience quickly, and offer much needed exposure for the paintings of an under-represented group. Founder Sadie Jernigan Valeri and co-founders Diane Feissel and Alia El-Bermani began the Women Painting Women Blog in 2009 as an online resource specifically showcasing the varied treatments of the female form as painted by female artists. In the short time their blog has been online, they have featured over 260 female figurative artists, and the considerable positive response the site has garnered has left them overwhelmed with high caliber artwork still left to post.


Sanna Tomac
Women Painting Women

Lenka Rubenstein
Inspiring Figures

Hilarie Lambert
Women Painting Women

Sadie Valeri
Women Painting Women

Wende Caporale
Inspiring Figures

Cindy Procious
Women Painting Women


Currently on view at the Robert Lange Studios Fine Art Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina, the Women Painting Women Show is the most ambitious exhibition the gallery has yet curated. It features 80 paintings of women by a group of over 50 female artists from around the world. The exhibit runs through November 30th.


Kate Sammons
Inspiring Figures

Lea Colie Wight
Inspiring Figures

June Glasson
Women Painting Women

Joyce Polance
Women Painting Women

Rose Bartolini
Inspiring Figures

Adrienne Stein
Women Painting Women


Personally, I have mixed feelings about all-female shows. Though I see a need for such exhibits, and for the social networking and camaraderie such events create, I would much rather see the art of these talented women in all-inclusive shows. And I am not alone in my feelings. Most of the women who participate in these all-women shows have similar mixed feelings; they don’t wish to be isolated from other artists, and yet these gender-specific shows do just that.

I am not so naïve as to think subjectivity can be entirely removed from competitions, gallery dealings, and from the decisions of museums’ acquisition departments, but we do need to find a way to at least move closer to a point of objective equality. This means no exclusions based on gender, ethnicity, or political views, and no inclusions based on pure percentages or quotas. Judgements based upon the superiority of the artwork, no matter how difficult that is to quantify, should supersede any biases against its creator.

Like many other artists, I am competitive; I hold the quality of my artwork up to the standards set by the great artists of the past and present whom I admire most. If my own work is to stand the test of time, then to me it must be compared against ALL work being created, otherwise, as critic Jerry Saltz stated, “more than half the story is going untold.”⁷  If an entire segment of my peers are prejudiciously removed from my circle, then not only have those people been robbed of their just opportunities, but so have I.

The French Romantic writer Alfred de Musset once said, “Great artists have no country.” Differences which rend other groups of people, don’t exist for artists when we stand before a great piece of art. Excellence is the common voice among realist artists, and no one in our choir should be silenced.


Ellen Eagle
Inspiring Figures

Elisa Rossi
Women Painting Women

Patricia Watwood
Inspiring Figures

Leslie Adams
Inspiring Figures

Stephanie Rew
Women Painting Women

Marina Dieul
Inspiring Figures

Alexandra Tyng
Women Painting Women


------------------------------------------------------------



Leona Shanks
Inspiring Figures


Artists Featured in The Cecilia Beaux Forum’s Inspiring Figures Show Include:

HISTORIC
Cecilia Beaux
Isabel Bishop
Colleen Browning
Mary Cassatt
Lily Harmon
Violet Oakley
Alice Ruggles Sohier
Edith Stevenson Wright

INVITED
Wende Caporale
Rose Frantzen
Nancy Guzik
Jane Lund
Mary Beth McKenzie
Catherine Prescott
Rhoda Sherbell
Sharon Sprung
Dawn Whitelaw
Mary Whyte

JURIED
Leslie Adams
Carol Arnold
Rose Bartolini
Ellen Cooper
Grace DeVito
Marina Dieul
Ellen Eagle
Cynthia M. Feustel
Sherrie McGraw
Nicole Moné
Kay N. Polk
Danielle Richard
Lenka Rubenstein
Kate Sammons
Laura Sanders
Leona Shanks
Lauren Tilden
Alexandra Tyng
Patricia Watwood
Lea Colie Wight



Alia El-Bermani
Women Painting Women

Artists featured in the Women Painting Women Show at the Robert Lange Studios include:

Sharon Allicotti
Jennifer Balkan
Helen K Beacham
Mia Bergeron
Candice Bohannon
Linda Tracey Brandon
Kerry Brooks
Ali Cavanaugh
Rachel Constantine

Michelle Dunaway
Jessica Dunegan
Alia El-Bermani
Diane Feissel
Sandra Flood
Katherine Fraser
June Glasson
Lisa Gloria
Haley Hasler
Abby Heller-Burnham
Karen Kaapcke
Anna Killian
Sharon Knettell
Stanka Kordic
Francien Krieg
Hilarie Lambert
Lacey Lewis
Amy Lind
Francesca Marzorati

Suellen McCrary
Jazz-minh Moore
Kirsten Moran

Karen Ann Myers
Jennifer Nehrbass
Joyce Polance
Gail Potocki

Jennifer Presant

Catherine Prescott
Lee Price
Cindy Procious
Stephanie Rew
Elisa Rossi

Shannon Runquist
Tiffany Sage
Lique Schoot
Sara Scribner

Karen Silvestro
Adrienne Stein
Terry Strickland

Katherine Stone
Stefani Tewes

Sanna Tomac
Alexandra Tyng
Sadie J Valeri


Lacey Lewis
Women Painting Women

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¹ Lauren Harris and Gordon Wetmore, "Inspiring Figures", in American Art Collector, no. 58 (2010), Scottsdale, American Art Collector, p. 70.
² Saltz, Jerry (2006).  Where the Girls Aren't.  Retrieved November 14, 2010 from [http://www. villagevoice.com/2006-09-19/art/where-the-girls-aren-t/]
³ ibid.
⁴ ibid.
⁵ ibid.
⁶ Bahr, Bob, "The Growing Power of Women's Art Groups", in American Artist, vol. 74, issue 814 (2010), New York, Interweave Press, p. 73.
⁷ Saltz, loc.cit.

23 comments:

Kate Stone said...

I really enjoyed this posting. It is a controversial thing, to have women only shows. How would it sound to have men only shows in this day and age? But the thing is that there is some serious catch-up to be done, and shows like these two help to do that.

georgiegirl said...

Matt thank you for calling attention to the imbalance and more importantly for showcasing the beautiful artwork on your blog~ this work needs to be seen and you are helping achieve that. Congratulations to each and every artist that participated, such beautiful and diverse work. i agree that many women do not wish to be isolated from their peers, male or female, and it would be nice to think that this inclusivity could happen in the real world. i have never understood why it should matter whether the artist were male or female as long as it was great art. The two exhibitions discussed for women artists is a start in a positive direction~ hope galleries will address the imbalance and make it more representational of what is happening in reality. Thank you for introducing us to more incredible artists working today.

Stanka Kordic said...

Thank you Matthew. Made my day this morning..

Michelle Dunaway said...

Thanks for the post Matt,
I agree with what you so eloquently stated:
"we do need to find a way to at least move closer to a point of objective equality. This means no exclusions based on gender, ethnicity, or political views, and no inclusions based on pure percentages or quotas. Judgements based upon the superiority of the artwork, no matter how difficult that is to quantify, should supersede any biases against its creator."
As people, as society we've thankfully moved past any idea that age or race plays a factor in the quality of a work of art, but gender and separation because of gender, is still unfortunately prevalent today. I sincerely hope to see that change in my lifetime. I believe it is changing, especially when people such as yourself speak up on it.It is disheartening to work hard on a painting and to be met with surprise that I did it because I'm a girl (which happens more frequently than I'd care to admit.) I am proud of the women and men that are challenging such ideas of separatism in the art world. As a painter, I paint from my spirit, my soul, and the human spirit is beyond gender, beyond race or age or any such limitations.
Thanks for your informative and always inspiring blog

Crystal Cook said...

This is quite simply the most fantastic blog post ever. And the work here is awe inspiring. Thanks for taking the time to post this, you've got me thinking. :)

Sadie J. Valeri said...

Matthew thank you so much for posting this.

Terry Strickland said...

Thank you Matthew for thinking and writing about this topic. I am always shocked when I encounter prejudice of any sort. You are right that women would rather be in more inclusive shows, always the first choice! However, sometimes shows such as these are a wonderful opportunity to remind the rest of the art world that there is real talent out here. We are artists with drive, passion and an undying dedication to our craft that has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with the work.

Alexandra Tyng said...

Matt, thank you for your thoughtful statement on the subject of women-only shows, and for posting some of the work in these two particular shows. Like Terry, I have never ceased to be shocked when I encounter sexism, and it seems to be especially rampant in the current world of realism.

Although the concept of a women-only show can be troubling to some because of its complex implications, the reality is that female artists need and deserve more exposure and opportunities to show their work. I'm looking forward to a day when shows like this are not necessary, when the playing field is equalized. Maybe that won't be in my lifetime, but I'm sure going to try to do everything I can to make it happen.

Kyle V Thomas said...

Beautiful work! Thanks for this post Matt. It is important. These are great artists. Their work challenges me to be excellent just as much as all the great artists of the past and present.

I agree that we need all the voices in our choir.


from another artist without a country.

jenl* said...

Congratulations to all those wonderfully talented women who inspire and pave the path for our future women. Perhaps a stepping stone for all to be inclusive when equality has finally reached its peek.
Matthew, as always a wonderful post with invaluable information.

My Pen Name said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sophie said...

Wow, what a great post. Not just because of the wise words but also because of seeing all this amazing art together. Although I would not want to be segregated as a woman either I do believe women portray women differently and it is nice (relief?) to see how ‘we’ do that. Again, great post. Will share on FB.

Aleksandra said...

Beautiful blog! :)

Love2paint said...

Your article brought more awareness of the plight of women artists to me today. In viewing all this fabulous, superior quality art by women, I feel that we are pushing harder in these modern days to become more excellent artists and to be recognized for it. It is a massive feat, one which can not be expected to turn the tides so to speak for decades more. Many generations of older thoughts still exist, for example, `it`s a mans world', much to my dismay. So, I will continue to put on a smile at art exhibitions, receptions and public events where both male and female artists compile. I will judge my art as it is the best I can do and be content for the moment until I make an even better painting the next time. In due time we will make a mark in history, but until then I will enjoy my life in the present as a female artist. I will respect all the most highly regarded male artists that I so admire without hard feelings. I am sure some of the male artists have respect for us. If they teach their children that both are equal, there comes a change someday. But the institutions will be the hardest to change. If the mass consciousness changes toward equality in all artists, we create equality, as simple as that.

Woodward Simons said...

Wow, what a beautiful collection of artwork. I am somewhat disturbed that I had not seen or heard the names of many of these fine artists, but each is certainly worthy of international recognition. Kudos to those who are making the effort to bring these important works to attention.

Diane Feissel said...

Thank you SO much for this thoughful and articulate post on this subject - it's really appreciated!

Lori Escalera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lori Escalera said...

What a tremendously valuable and fantastic blog and collection of work. Thank you for doing this.

I, myself, have been aware of the historical gender discrepancies in art since college in the 70's. However, I hope that one day a world of equality and equal opportunity will exist. But, since men and women will always be different (thank God), I still will look forward to curated and focused shows, representing specific gender perspectives, an enlightening event.

Mona said...

Matt, thanks for speaking to the issues, and sharing just a fraction of the gorgeous art that women produce. From my own experience as a former illustrator I know that gender biases have plagued women illustrators; shocking stats there too. But I sense I will live to see a better day for women in art, just from how you are speaking on this topic. Some excellent men in my own life as an illustrator, and currently as a fine artist, have also mentored me and been my staunchest supporters along the way, for which I'm very grateful.

The path of any artist with vision is a difficult path to walk, so I'm willing to bet many women artists feel as I do: while we are aware of gender bias, our assumption entering the scene is basically an optimistic one. We possess a greater sense of equal entitlement to share our vision than people may realize. It makes us persistent creatures! And ultimately it's that feeling of entitlement which will help us overcome the gender bias wall.

Johnnie Sielbeck said...

Thank you for posting this.

laura_martindale said...

While I loved the show, I must say that as a female artist, I feel I am on an equal playing field with male artists. If there is a bias, I thankfully, have not encountered it. I am more thankful to be an American, free to make a living as an artist.
In comment to the show, I was surprised to still see a number of nude female paintings. I am a prude by no means, but I think that we are so accustomed to seeing females painted unclothed (as in the past, as sexual objects by male artists) that some still believe that is the acceptable way of painting a woman.

reese,pam said...

Thank you for this post Matt, I loved viewing the talented women artists' paintings and will search out more of their works.

Stanka Kordic said...

Yes Laura, your point is well taken regarding the female nude. I have often thought the same thing. However, in many of these cases here, there is a matter-of-factness about the figure that supersedes the imagery. The sexual tension is not as evident, compared to many male versions of the nude. Perhaps.

My biggest concern is slightly different...(As I've said elsewhere)..there is so much great art out there. I get tired of seeing the same players, painting the same way, covered everywhere. It's almost as if the press, the competitions, the galleries, are myopic and are 'validating' only this, and then the trend becomes the standard. They need to open their eyes and (hearts for that matter) to see the breadth and scope of expression that exists amongst us all-regardless of gender.