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Research: Canada
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Women Artists

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Articles, Essays...
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By: Yalda Mahmoudi
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“Why have there been no great female artists?” is a question that has been often asked. One of the answers is that there actually have been some great women artists, including Berthe Morisot, who is the “forgotten Impressionist”. The role of women has been undermined in every aspect of life for centuries and it is time for women to get more attention and respect in the world of arts. Women artists struggle very much and have a difficult time, when there is no one around them to give them feedback. Certain artists are more introspective and into doing their own things on their own. But other artists are more worldly and aware. And they need to be recognized more, when you have artists sharing their own particular media and styles, it just broadens their artistic outlook. And we, as society, owe it to them to give them the attention they need and deserve.

The art world has been a citadel of the masculine power structure and an honor roll of dead white males. This is the rallying protest that has united the Guerrilla Girls worldwide. No one can deny that the art world has for centuries been male-dominated but the post-feminism life of a woman artist is far more equal than at any other time in art history. Women artists should not be criticized for concentrating on women's issues and sexuality as themes or subject matter. The ongoing impact of “Womanhouse” and Judy Chicago’s work and ideas has helped spawn the worldwide feminist art movement. The Dinner party, 1974-1979, is a symbolic history of women in Western civilization, a multi-media project that included the participation of hundreds of volunteers.

Women artists must be encouraged to tap deep into history and the radical traditions it has inspired in search of signs and symbols that will give justice to the complexity of women’s struggle. They can do this either by re-functioning such icons as the nude, the Mother and Child, into more dynamic images of intervention in the social process, or by weaving pre-figurative scenes that indicate an order no longer ordained by patriarchal mandates. Women artists must aspire to think of new iconographies to represent the struggle in multiple forms and think about their lives beyond ethnic charms, free spirits, goddesses and stereotypical portraits of poverty. Women in art history have a narrative to tell and a heritage to share. We are not simply talking of careers but also the politics of representation, both as women in art and art by women. Three fronts delineate the sites of struggle and inquiry: iconography, practice and criticism. Women ought to revaluate the modes of producing and disseminating their art. Now is the best time to break through the walls of the museum and the market, and once and for all relocate within the more promising womb of cooperatives, cultural organizations and grass roots collectives. As women artists, their commitment must see through the problems imposed by the trade of art and develop the conviction to change the world by changing the art world.

The problem of rendering the gender as a vital discourse in the Tran formative practice of art has been dealt with in many ways. But the most significant gains come from that history. This undertaking has made us believe that women are subjects and not only objects of study or bearers of the male look; at the end of the day, women through their art take on meaning as women artists in culture and society. The power to assert identity is the heart of such a search. And the field of art has proven to be a rich vineyard, from which a harvest of ordeals can be obtained. Women artists must learn, be allowed and appreciated to talk about their art in relation to critical issues; they must become art critics, art historians and curators. Their being artists should not confine them to the traditional roles assigned to artists; rather, they must find new ways of doing and making art, and articulating its political message across diverse constituencies in the academic world, the government, the private sector and the media. They must also link up with non fine-arts artists like papier-mâché molders, pastilles (candy)- wrapper designers, muralists, cartoonist, furniture workers, doll decorators and photographers.

The idea of artistic genius descends from paganism: The Romans saw a "genius" or generative spirit dwelling in a man or house or natural locale. The classical Greeks envisioned a semi-divine "daemon" that guided a man's path through life; it descended in turn from the mysterious forces of nature propitiated by early Greek religion. Although the Greeks respected Homer and honored tragedians, painters and sculptors, it was the Italian Renaissance that invented artistic genius, as we understand it: the prototype was the brooding, misanthropic Michelangelo, a titanic creator in many genres. Romanticism, with its flamboyant personae from Beethoven to Byron, revived the Renaissance model and laid the groundwork for modern pop stars. Yes, indeed, the word "genius" has been lamentably overused. Today, when there are so few major artistic innovations, our idea of greatness has shriveled -- helped along by shallow postmodernist academics, who disguise their own mediocrity by denying that greatness has ever existed at all. Hypothesis of "unconscious" genius: I believe that the initial inspiration and primary ideas of much important work have come from an obscure, subliminal area of the artist's dream life. The drive to express is often rooted in the artist's need to work out and to clarify painful internal conflicts. The material form of paper, paint, sound or gesture externalizes, fixes and exorcises, as in ancient pagan ritual. But unconscious impulse is not enough. There must be a strong foundation in the discipline of the genre.

The role of women artists need more attention than they tend to get in our society, because we have to be more sensitive to the needs and desires of the women artists, who have tried so hard but have not received the same recognition as male artists have. They have lived in their shadows for years and it is time for us to embrace their art and give them recognition. Where would women artists be if they had the same freedom as men did from the start? How would have they been if they were allowed paint, what they wanted and were allowed to study alongside men? I guess we will never know the answer to these questions. But we owe it to them to give them these chances now and see how they blossom in years to come. They need to be able to express themselves without being ridiculed by anyone or anything.

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