I don’t know how many of you know of the Guerilla Girls, but when I was in college, they were my art heroes. They are a group of unindentified female artists residing in New York who dress in Gorilla Costumes and hang up posters touting facts and numbers concerning women artists and their lack of representation in a male dominated field.
I was recently reading their book again, talking with my girls about how women make 1/3 of a dollar for every dollar a man makes. You know, keeping them up to date about how some things work…and was struck by how poignant, hilarious and brilliant the Guerilla Girls were/are. I’m not sure if they are still active because in the book it says they “retired” after helping to increase awareness.
This is in no way a slight to any of my male friends out there, but I do want to share one of their posters with you…because I think the comments are still relevant, and not just in the art world…
THE ADVANTAGES OF BEING A WOMAN ARTIST
by the Guerilla Girls, Conscience of the Art World
Working without the pressures of success.
Not having to be in shows with men.
Having an escape from the art world in your 4 free-lance jobs.
Knowing your career might pick up after you’re eighty.
Being reassured that whatever kind of art you make it will be labeled feminine.
Not being stuck in a tenured position.
Seeing your ideas live on in the work of others.
Having the opportunity to choose between career and motherhood.
Not having to choke on those big cigars or paint in Italian suits.
Having more time to work after your mate dumps you for someone younger.
Being included in revised versions of art history.
Not having to undergo the embarrassment of being called a genius.
Getting your picture in the art magazines wearing a gorilla suit.
This reminds me of a story…
When I was in college, I was taking a painting class with a world -revered artist. We were having a critique day, so all the students had popped their work up on the wall, and we were sharing our reactions with one another. My turn came up, and the teacher asked me to come to the front of the class and explain my idea.
I had done a gouache on deep black paper, so the colors were incredibly vibrant, and the painting was a “map” to my “dream”. The teacher thought it was a brilliant concept, but then he proceeded to tell the entire class my work was too feminine.
I was shocked. I looked him in the eye and said, “So, you’re saying I should paint more like you?”
To which he chuckled, smiled and said, “Touche’…”
I never forgot the burning in my face when he said those words. It was like a piercing in my heart. It made me want to explore MORE of my feminine side, and to discover why being “too feminine” was considered a poor approach.
Later, I sold 6 of my works to the University of North Texas, before I graduated. Somewhere in their collection are those feminine maps to my dreams, and it was an exciting moment when they handed me the check, took my picture, and I shook the dean’s hand.
…and I continue to dream to this day.