Women are often well represented in art museums, or at least their bodies are. They are pinned right there to the wall.
Ensemble of posters, Guerrilla Girls American artists, active since 1985 variable Centre Georges Pompidou, Museé national d’art moderne, Paris, T2011.206.101
Women artists are not so well represented
The current show at the Seattle Art Museum takes aim at that issue. Anchored on the groundbreaking Paris exhibition, Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris, Elles puts the focus on the vision and craft of female artists. Just as our understanding of history changes, expands, and takes on new depth and texture when the voices of women are added, so to does the addition of female artists change our understanding of art history, as well as informing history itself.
This show does not attempt to represent women from all cultures everywhere throughout history. The scope and breadth of such an ambitious project could no more adequately represent women around the world, than it could men. Just because female artists were largely ignored does not mean they were not prolific. This is a showcase of mostly European female artists in the 20th and 21st Centuries. There is a need to address art created by women of other cultures and times, but that necessitates not just one, but many more shows. I hope someone gets busy curating some of those shows soon.
The Seattle Art Museum is coordinating with a number of organizations and venues throughout the Seattle area to celebrate women artists, ongoing through January 2013, including musical events, films, lectures, and a symposium.
Espagnoles, (1920-1924) Oil on canvas Natalia Gontcharova Russian, 1881-1962 36 1/4 x 28 3/4in. (92 x 73cm) Overall h.: 37 3/8in. (95cm) Overall w.: 29 15/16in. (76cm) Centre Georges Pompidou, Museé national d’art moderne, Paris; AM 3111 P, T2011.206.135
Elles showcases the work of more than 75 women artists. I’m tempted to wax on philosophically about each of these pieces that I’ve selected, but each time I return to these images, I have something additional to say. I’ll never get this post up at this point, so I’ll just leave you with a few of my favorites. If I could take one home and just sit and stare at it all day long, it would Espagnoles (above). It just pulls me in.
La Chambre Bleue (The Blue Room), 1923 Oil on canvas Suzanne Valadon (born Marie-Clémentine Valadon) (born Marie-Clémentine Valadon) French, b. 1865, Bessines-sur-Gartempe, France; d. 1938, Paris, France 35.4 x 45.7 inches (90 x 116 cm) Centre Georges Pompidou, Museé national d’art moderne, Paris State purchase and attribution 1924, T2011.206.1
On the other hand, there is, La Chambre Bleue (The Blue Room), above. I hated this piece at first. It was featured on much of SAM’s promotional material, and I couldn’t figure out why. It really bugged me. But, the more I look at it, the more I see. The picture has grown on me, and now it’s one of my favorites.
The Frame, (1938) Oil on aluminum, reverse painting on glass and painting frame Frida Kahlo Mexican, 1907-1954 11.2 x 8.1 inches (28.5 x 20.7 cm) Centre Georges Pompidou, Museé national d’art moderne, Paris State purchase and attribution, 1939, T2011.206.48
Frida Kahlo lived in my imagination as a larger than life figure. Her self portrait on the wall, at eye level, stopped me short. It was so much smaller than I expected. And tangible. Suddenly, behind the tiny painted glass, she was less mythical, and more a woman, with hopes and dreams and fears and insecurities. She became real. And maybe that’s part of the point of the exhibit, as well. Beyond drawing our attention to these amazing works by female artists, this show reminds us that women in art, whether subject, artist, consumer, or all three, are individual people. Not objects, myths, or concepts; just people, connecting with other people.
FTC disclaimer: I received free admission to the Seattle Art Museum, and permission to take photographs of the exhibits.
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