What does it mean to be a modern female artist?
I’m left asking this question after reading a blog entry on MoMA’s website. The writer Beth Harris, Director of Digital Learning at MoMA, discusses Linda Nochlin and MoMA’s recent publication Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art. The blog entry made me want to investigate why the MoMA is pushing for women artists this summer and the history behind their motivation.
A quote from MoMA’s website: “From The Museum of Modern Art’s founding by three pioneering women in 1929 to the disruptions and interventions of the 1960s and 1970s by women artists drawing attention to their own lack of representation in the Museum to contemporary work by women of the postfeminist generation, the history of women at MoMA is inextricable from the history of the institution.” This is a remarkable and honest statement.
However, this has been an issue for quite some time. Linda Nochlin is a critic, writer, professor, art historian, and leader in feminist art history studies who has been discussing this topic for years. She wrote the groundbreaking essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? which explored the reasons behind the absence of women in art history. Currently, Nochlin is the Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art at the Institute of Fine Arts/New York University. She is also a contributing editor of Art in America. Nochlin has been a champion to women artists by effectively communicating their struggle.
Aruna D’Souza, Associate Professor at Binghamton University, expands the discussion from Nochlin and currently discusses the feminist analysis of art history in a video on MoMA’s website. Ms. D’Souza was one of fifty persons chosen to write an essay in MoMA’s new book. She points out how the issue is tied into an institutional bias. For example, in the past women weren’t allowed the same access to art education. However, when women were allowed that access their opportunities in major institutions were limited. Women artists started to employ different strategies such as 1970’s performance art. For example, artists like Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, and Nancy Spero come to mind.
So where does that leave a new generation of women artists? Hopefully, gender will be acknowledged on both sides. When equality truly becomes equal, an all female show won’t be a big deal…