Linda Nochlin is a feminist art historian who in 1971 wrote a famous essay called, “Why Are There No Great Female Artists?” I think the essay should of been retitled, “Where are all the great female artists?” But of course, Nochlin wouldn’t have known the powerful women of the 70’s had even existed thanks to the abundance of rights they’d been given. I am blogging about this in particular because even after 40 years, the same question “Where are all the great female artists?” is still being asked.
In 2010, 83% of the artists in the Tate Modern were men and in the Saatchi gallery 70% were men. (figures from the guardian newspaper). This appalling information raises so many questions but considering i am interested in female ideals, the idea i want to discuss is, “what is the status of the female body in society?” I want to know how a womens status effects her rights and is it whats stopping women from moving forward in terms of their careers and socially. I feel this can be answered by looking in detail at the way women have developed their say throughout history and how artists such as Cindy Sherman and Orlan are using a rather… different form of medium to protest for a stronger, more independant woman.
There has never been an abundance of powerful female figures but women have throughout history been oppressed. Because of this, throughout history women have fought, protested and rioted for their rights and after generation after generation of head strong women, we are finally getting closer to becoming a more equal and harmonious society.
It was the 1970’s when woman began to really ask questions and therefore a huge feminist art movement began. Women began to protest for their right to be equal to men. This was something i first began properly looking into in 2011. I was researching how Women picketed for the (mostly male dominated) Art Workers’ Coalition to support protests for female rights and for galleries showcase female artwork.
I find it inspiring how women wanted to shun their idealistic “housewife” way of life and stand up and fight for equality. I began researching for this blog looking at a massive influence in feminist history, Paula Rego. For me, Rego is a hugely influential artist who uses her powerful position as an artist to manipulate the female position in society in her paintings. She is fearful and controversial and is not afraid to stand and fight for her beliefs. She does this by using story telling in her paintings and often switches up gender roles to make the female the more dominant and powerful character.
A collection of paintings i pay particular attention to when relating Paula Rego to feminism is her ‘Dog women’ series in the early 1990’s. In my opinion, Rego’s paintings portray women as ferocious creatures which is a massive contrast to the usual ‘domestic’ and ‘controlled’ view of women at this time.
1994, Pastel on canvas
120 x 160 cm
“To be a dog woman is not necessarily to be downtrodden; that has very little to do with it. In these pictures every woman’s a dog woman, not downtrodden, but powerful. To be bestial is good. It’s physical. Eating, snarling, all activities to do with sensation are positive. To picture a woman as a dog is utterly believable.” – Paula Rego