The following blog post is the first in a series of Facebook posts I wrote for Women's History Month, and to follow along with the hashtag #5WomenArtists, started by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. These posts were written to be an accessible, informative, and humorous way to encourage friends of mine to engage with art history and feminism.
FACEBOOK. We are three days in to Women's History Month!!! I hope you are real excited. I hope you are so pumped. I hope you are so ready for the next five days because I'm going to talk to you about #5WomenArtists leading up to International Women's Day on the 8th.
Buckle your seatbelts because this inaugural post is going to be a long one, but I'd like to think we're all friends here & that I am funny so it is worth it.
FIRST OF ALL: Did you know that despite all the women out in the world making crazy-awesome art, the number of solo shows for women at Big Name Museums still hovers at around only 25%? Or that in 2014, a woman only graced the cover of ArtForum a whopping once? Or that in the 32 years that the Very Important Turner Prize has been around, only 7(ish -- if you count collectives) women have won? You guys what is UP with that? ((Check out this super depressing but maybe kind of uplifting article about these facts and figures here! http://www.artnews.com/…/taking-the-measure-of-sexism-fact…/))
OKAY SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THIS? Well, it's kind of a bummer but the arc of progress is a slow one, my dudes! The best way to try and even out the gender divide is to educate yourself. Can you name five artists? Cool. Can you name five male artists? Great. Can you name five female artists? Yes? Awesome. No? Let's FIX IT.
Sure, we've all got Frida Kahlo, Yoko Ono, Marina Abramovic, Mary Cassatt, and Tracey Emin in our back pockets (and what a rad back pocket it is) but I want to get down and dirty with some women artists you might not know this week (art history pals let's not get judgey here as this is not a contest for most obscure ladies).
OKAY SO LET'S START BY GOING BACK IN TIME (and since my specialty is modern & contemporary IT'S REALLY NOT THAT FAR).
It is 1915 and we are in Switzerland. It's probably cold. Sophie Henriette Gertrude Taeuber(-Arp) with the greatest name of all time meets the draft-dodging Dadaist Jean Arp at a museum, and (spoiler) they are totally going to get married and make a bunch of crazy art together. With all the intellectuals hiding out from the atrocities of war ravaging Europe at the time, Zurich became a hotbed for the arts-scene, and Sophie was rubbing shoulders with the likes of Max Ernst, Hugo Ball, and Richard Huelsenbeck, starting up the movement later to be known as Dada.
It's PRETTY CLEAR right from the outset that Taeuber-Arp's work is vastly different from that of her more cynical, gallows-humour Dada contemporaries -- it's light-hearted, colourful, precise, and fun. But not only that, there's a fairly clear dialogue to be seen between her pieces and other brightly-coloured abstract geometric works which define much of the artistic practice seen around this time in Europe -- some from artists we might consider household names, such as Wassily Kandinsky or Piet Mondrian, who served to both influence and be influenced by Taeuber-Arp. Check out the link here to cruise and peruse some of her work, and note her use of colour and form, which should hopefully cement her place in the canon of art history for you.
Taeuber-Arp died at the age of 53 in 1943 to carbon monoxide poisoning, and she is the only woman to have ever been featured on a Swiss bank note. She's hella rad. Get to know her.