Curator's Note for Create! Magazine's 'The Women's Edition 2020'
A Call for Women Artists
What an incredible honour to explore and experience hundreds and hundreds of your artworks. Thanks so much for your submissions. Distilling it down to only 30-40 artists was one hell of a task - my heart exploded with joy, your entries were incredible and I could have filled ten magazines and dozens of incredible exhibitions. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for sharing your work, it lifted my spirits, challenged my curator's eye (in a good way!) and made me question the art world and the way we view art.
The traditional curator in me started by looking for a narrative; and the philosophy to view art as emotion came to mind. The proposition that art is far more than just an aesthetic indulgence, but also a tool to navigate and deal with our emotions. After a few attempts sorting work into emotional categories, it felt too rigid and prescribed and in the end completely counterintuitive to mould a body of female work in this way. It felt like I was working to a male philosophy, the concept of 'narrative' developed through the ages by male curators, rather than actually representing these artists in the best way I could.
This realisation created a complete storm in my heart and mind, and I started questioning how we view art as a whole. Have we been trained to think of ‘good art’ as art filtered through a certain gaze? More than 80% of the art we are exposed to in museums and galleries in the US and Europe are by white, male artists. Is it possible that our idea of fine art and ‘good and valuable’ art is based on what we have been exposed to? Would art with the highest prices at auction houses and galleries look different if we had been for decades exposed to a more diverse selection and inclusive range? Would curators have developed a different ‘eye’ and taste? What would the art world have looked like if auction houses and well-known museums and galleries were inclusive and not deeply, deeply prejudiced and biased? Would our idea of good art vary greatly?
It feels like a chicken and egg situation. In the case of female representation, we need to see more women artists in museums and galleries to change our preconditioned eye, but we need to have a more inclusive trained eye to be able to appreciate and curate art made by women.
I can assure you that I appreciate a Matisse paper cut or a Hirst formaldehyde, an intense Rembrandt or nostalgic Pierneef. If, however, I consider all the art I have been exposed to since childhood, then my curator’s eye has not been exposed to enough to work by women artists, art by black artists or other art by minority groups. This has a huge impact on what I consider good art to be. I so desperately want a women artist to be known just as an artist and that ‘female’ is not a genre, but I think we need to be realistic and face the possibility that 'female' as a genre exists when prejudice is the normality.
As a curator it is my responsibility to push boundaries and evoke emotion through art, and with this come questioning my ‘trained eye’. I have curated over 20 exhibitions in 4 countries and I can say that the majority of my exhibitions had a certain look to them, a look that I now question.
My curatorial skills have grown vastly over the past decade but never more than the last 2 years when activism became as much of what I do as selecting beautiful and/ or important work. My eyes were opened, literally, to the staggering numbers of bias and lack of inclusion in the art world. My eyes have been trained toward the white male gaze and it will take years to retrain and unlearn. I am more committed than ever to do this.
Curating this edition was a huge catalyst for me, to work with so many women artists. I am ever so grateful to Create!Mag and to all of you the artists who submitted work. In the end I surrendered and allowed myself to simply select work that I really liked, something that sparked an emotion or something that was entirely new to me. I refused to let my trained eye and preconceived ideas get involved. I allowed to feel raw emotions often buried under the veil of being equal and therefore not allowing myself emotions brought by on by sexism and discrimination. This curation is entirely personal, from my heart to yours. Thank you so much for challenging me and bringing my attention to ideas often overlooked by the male gaze. Concepts and visuals from your submissions that confused me or that I dismissed at first but when I surrendered moved the woman in me deeply. I could see myself in so many of the pieces, I resonated with hundreds of your works, something I’ve haven’t experienced so intensely before. It was an honour to see your work. Thank you.
I really hope you get to ask yourself the same questions as you walk through these pages. Let’s change the narrative. Why have there been no great women artists? Can we allow ourselves to answer boldly: we have always been here, we have just not been seen.
With love and light, stay safe.
Co-Founder Subject Matter