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Sunday, July 21, 2013

"She paints like a guy" - Part 2

This subject, concerning the acceptance of female artists within the American art scene, has apparently struck a cord with many of you. Last week's post has become the second most read post I've done during three years of weekly blogging.

I publicly want to thank these eight ladies for "sticking their necks out" by participating in this 2-part series. There was some disappointment expressed after last week's post that anonymous comments were included along with the others...those that had the "courage" to go public with their opinion. They felt it lessened the impact of their opinions and potentially made their careers appear less important.
You all need to know, that was my doing. The anonymous contributors did not want to go public, they just shared their opinions with me. I'm the one that valued those opinions and thought them important enough to share. Of course, the only way to do that was anonymously. Don't be disappointed in the women for not publicly coming forward. Everyone is at a different place in life's journey.

This week I am pleased to present the final segment of "She paints like a guy". As in the last post, these four ladies are highly respected and also have slightly different takes on the topic. Here are this week's participants:

Kim Casebeer is a Master Signature Member of the American Women Artists, and a Signature Member of the Oil Painters of America and the Pastel Society of America. Her work has been featured in many of the prominent art magazines. As part of a fourth generation farm family, Casebeer has felt a connection to the landscape for a long time. She routinely travels across the western United States to paint on location and gather ideas.    Kim Casebeer website

Barbara Jaenicke is a Signature Member of the Pastel Society of America, a member of the International Association of Pastel Societies Master Circle, and a member of Oil Painters of America. She developed a passion for drawing and painting during her teenage years. She spent a decade in advertising as an art director, and later in marketing communications. In 2002, she turned her focus to fine art.    Barbara Jaenicke website

Cindy Baron resides in Rhode Island. Her passion for art led her to watercolors and in 2000 she was awarded signature status in the American Watercolor Society. In 2012, she became a Signature Member of Oil Painters of America. She's among a small group of artists that have received acknowledgment from her peers in both mediums. She's represented from coast to coast by some of the finest galleries, and she's an enthusiastic plein air painter.    Cindy Baron website

Kathryn Stats has traveled to and painted the coastal areas of California and Oregon as well as locations in Alaska, Russia, Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal. The Arizona Republic writes that she is "a Utah artist whose best landscapes are a complete pleasure. The paint in them is given over to the subject and you know that Stats doesn't feel the need for any gimmicks to get her point across. Direct, honest, and sensuous; these are the work of a genuine painter."     Kathryn Stats website

...and here is the question:

Are there any significant differences in the way male and female artists are accepted within the American art scene? If so, what would you like to see changed?

Kim Casebeer  When John asked me to participate in this discussion on his very popular blog, I was encouraged by the fact that an established male artist such as himself believes this is a discussion worth having. Before I get to it, I want to first make clear that I can't speak for every woman in the art world. I can only relay my personal experience and be completely honest, hoping that gives insight.
There are differences in the way female and male artists are accepted. One of the most noticeable differences is the recurring comment that a woman shouldn't paint like one; or the opposite comment I've heard while viewing a woman's work, "She paints like a man", which usually refers to work that has strong lights and darks - supposedly a positive thing.
Several years ago I had an upfront conversation with a male artist during the Western Visions show. My painting was more tonal and a bit softer than some I've done. This was apparently perceived as a negative, and he told me so. I think it's interesting that softer work is assumed to be a woman's and that it's often not as supported. I've seen great tonal pieces done by both men and women. I've also seen bold work done by both men and women. So if a woman uses bolder brush strokes, or higher contrast in her work, why is she painting like a man?

Curve in the Road - 20"x 24" - Oil

I think being treated equally should be the goal. I once overheard a male landscape painter cautioning a woman not to join a women's only art organization because it would pigeonhole her. I've never heard anyone comment negatively regarding many of the other art organizations that they might also be limiting. As a Master Signature Member of the American Women Artists, I primarily participate because it's great networking. It has opened many doors for me. To my knowledge, there are no female members of the Cowboy Artists of America, so is being a member of CAA limiting?
I'm going to send out this warning to women as well - expect equal treatment, not special treatment. (At this point Kim mentions a plein air event in which male artists only received awards). In the last month I judged a regional plein air event and the May BoldBrush online competition. Looking through hundreds, even thousands of entries for excellent composition, values, line, paint quality, etc. is hard enough. It's a tough job! I can't believe anyone would be able to spend energy deciding if the work is a man's or a woman's. If it's strong work then it's strong work. I can visualize which pieces I gave top awards to in the BoldBrush show, but for the life of me, I can't tell you if I gave more awards to men or women. If a female artist wants to be recognized as a strong painter, she has to do the work. I've personally always thought that if I work hard, I will eventually be rewarded, but have never expected special treatment.
In general, attitudes toward females in our field have improved. I am fortunate to be of a generation where women working outside the home is the norm, and I believe that has spilled into the art world as well. There are more females making a living as artists, gallery owners, art writers, etc. than even ten years ago. Many women, such as myself, have made art their first career, which allows them to work at their art and have families. More women are participating in important museum shows. I believe this will continue to happen as more women will have long careers with which to pursue these prestigious shows.

Barbara Jaenicke  At first I was hesitant to answer this question, since I really wasn't sure about my view on this topic. But here are just a few of my observations.
I work in oil and pastel. However, I spent the earlier part of my fine art career mainly as a pastel artist, and have more experience at the national level in this medium. Honestly, I haven't sensed any gender domination there. Although I haven't kept count, I think I know of just as many exceptional women pastelists as men who have achieved well deserved top honors and recognition in this medium. Much of this has to do with women who have worked tirelessly in the pastel community to bring more attention to this wonderful medium that is often (mistakenly) thought of as a lesser medium. Maggie Price, whom the pastel community just recently lost, was one such amazing woman.

Downhill Patterns - 16"x 20" - Pastel

Only recently have I started participating in national juried shows with my oils and receiving national representation in this medium. I suppose that if I quickly think of the most widely recognized oil painters today, it would likely be more male painters than female who come to mind. I don't believe this has anything to do with differences in ability between the majority of male and female painters out there today, since I certainly know of many exceptional women oil painters. As I mentioned, this hasn't been the case in my experience with pastel artists. But, I imagine it might have more to do with the promotion by galleries and art publications of male artists - mainly oil painters - since oil seems to be the more popular art purchased by collectors. This is a result of the stereotypical male dominated art world that has held on throughout the centuries, and the belief that artwork by male artists may command better sales. However, with social/online media these days, this hopefully may change, and artists - male and female - can be more in control of their own promotion.
So far in my art career I haven't felt this to be an issue for me personally and haven't felt like I've been treated any differently than male artists, at least so far. But maybe ask me again in five or ten years.

Cindy Baron  This is a very important yet delicate issue to address. Even though the inequalities between male and female artists in the American art scene are improving, I feel differences still exit. 
Several years ago I was invited to paint at a plein air event with a talented group of artists. It consisted of eight men and myself. During the course of the week long event, we were individually invited to speak with the hosting gallery owner. I was new to the group and honored to be included. During my conversation a question was asked of me about my seriousness to my craft. He wanted to see if I was worth investing his time in representing. He also went on to mention that a male artist has a family to feed and bills to pay, etc., which we all do. I'm not sure how I answered him. I know I was silent for a moment, then I assured him that this was not a hobby and that I work at my craft everyday. Since then I have participated in many plein air events and shows that were more balanced in gender. One thing I have observed is how different the approach is toward selling. There is no doubt that the male and female artist have their style for selling; one is bolder than the other and therefore seems more investment worthy. I think the female artist could learn more aggressive marketing from men.

Fall Tenor - 20"x 20" - Oil

Cindy mentioned that she recently participated in a show with seven other women and they spent 10 days painting together. They discussed many issues from marketing, galleries, frames, to supportive mates. Most male artists I know have a support system behind them. But as women, we have a natural tendency to support everyone around us, and most often we are unsupported or not taken seriously.
Most of my painting buddies are men. Let's face it, today a woman is more at risk of danger than a man. I have learned a lot while painting with my male friends. We give good constructive advice when needed and respect one another. I am going to go out on a limb and say that men do have the competitive edge in the art world. I believe most galleries still think the male artist is more marketable and aggressive.
Female artists have to be more assertive if they want to succeed in the art world and they need to know they have support. Would love to see more female shows like the one I participated in earlier. It brings tremendous awareness and respect for the talents and uniqueness that wormen have to offer in the arts. It's a changing art world and a great time for women to grab it.
To sum up, it is about making great art for both genders...being creative, bold and doing what you love. Women cannot be shy about marketing themselves and need to insist on respect. Art is a job, vocation, and a tough way to pay the bills for both sexes. Women have a lot to give. It's not about egos but about helping each other to greatness. To my female art friends, I am here because I have you. Thank you.

Kathryn Stats  As a female artist, I owe much of my success to a great husband who provided a solid income while I was developing my art, He was always encouraging and never felt threatened when I was off on painting related travel. He is my biggest supporter. I also owe much to two gentlemen who never gave gender a thought while promoting my work.
I know of females who always defer to male artists over females of similar talent...and I'm not sure if they are even aware of it. I do not find it helpful for females to complain of the disparity between male and female numbers in galleries or shows. I find that the better, or at least more secure the artist, the less complaining they do. It falls to each of us to put our head down and be the best artist we can be.

Morning Shadows - 24"x 36" - Oil

I believe any bias for or against gender lies within ourselves as individuals. Some are proud of their biases and will stick to them no matter what; others find the information a valuable tool with which one might change their own perceptions or biases.
Male versus female in the American art scene today...gender predisposition...while it exists, I wouldn't hang any biological argument on why men do better than women in the arts. As in other professions: i.e., chefs, hairdressers, writers, actors, as well as visual artists, it appears to be improving somewhat. In years past there were almost no female leads carrying entire movies. That seems to be changing as the generations mature.
I believe we are all part of any biases or prejudice in these areas. For example, while in the delivery room while my grandson was being delivered by a fairly young, small of stature female obstetrician, I experienced a brief panicky flash of a thought that said that this baby couldn't be born until the man with the big ego showed up. These stereotypical thoughts said nothing about male or female doctors, but they certainly reflected a wealth of information about my ingrained biases. I was pleased to receive that information about myself, shameful as it was. 

Thanks, ladies for your contribution to this discussion.

In closing, allow me to add my two-cents worth:

1) It's a shame really, that any person desiring to develop their God given talent honorably and in an honest manner would be hindered to do so because of jealousy, fear, or any kind of prejudice. Art, to me, is not a competitive venture. We are not trying to outdo one another in order to take something away from them, or gain an advantage over them. If each of us are uniquely created, it also follows that our creative expression will be unique as well. Our attitude should be one of developing our gift to its full unique potential, thereby honoring the Giver of the gift...and adding beauty to this world. If we look to God as our provider, it seems to me He will take care of all of us, and give us what we need when we need it. We would do well, in all areas of life, to make judgments based on one's fruit and not on preconceived ideas.
2) If one is married, I believe a huge part of one's success in the art world, regardless of gender, is dependent upon the family dynamic. It's important to have a totally supportive mate. Male artists have the advantage here because generally women, by their very nature, tend to be caretakers of the home, mothers, nurturers, and supportive of their husbands. It's important that each household figure out what works best for them. It would be ideal if each party was encouraged and enabled to develop their creative gifts to full potential, but that doesn't always happen.
3) Surely we can acknowledge that men and women are different, therefore I'm not particularly opposed to gender based groups. The dynamics of any group changes the moment the opposite gender is involved; we see this in school, sports, social settings, etc. What I am opposed to are reactionary groups...those that are established with an attitude of "getting even" or "we'll show them". Let's be honest here, I don't see any male only groups being formed to counter any female only groups.
4) Regardless of gender, it would be good to know upfront any biases that the other party holds that creates conflict within us and would therefore hinder our business relationship. View that knowledge as a positive more than a negative. There are plenty of great people out there that will give the respect we desire. In all my years as a professional artist, I have not heard any of my male friends subordinate another's work because of their gender.
5) No gallery owner should be blamed for seeking the best, most reliable, marketable artists possible...regardless of gender. It should be expected that they would want to know if their artists are fully committed and can be relied upon to provide them with quality work on a timely basis.
6) There is absolutely no place for gender discrimination in judging the quality of one's art. Judges will have differing opinions, but if any honor is bestowed based on the name on the painting, or the gender of the artist, then that person has no business judging. If it's about gender, or about who you know, it's no longer about the art.
7) Any effort to equalize the number of male/female artists in any given show becomes an entitlement and will end up lowering the overall quality of the show. It must always be about the quality of the work, and only the quality of the work. Period.
8) From my experience, women play a major role, if not a predominate one, in most art purchases. If men are outselling women, is that gender bias? More than likely, it's a non-issue.
9) Price of any given painting is based on supply and demand, and perceived value, not gender.
10) As I look out upon the current landscape, "women are everywhere". They are the leaders in many local art organizations; many of them run art galleries. Most of the participants in painting workshops are women, they're taking top awards in prominent art shows...and they're able to do a significant amount of advertising. They make a significant contribution to the current art scene. Checking the male/female ad ratio in four popular art magazines this month, I discovered women averaged 35% more ads then men. If they happen to live in a household where the husband is providing a sufficient income, they have the advantage of reinvesting almost every dime back into their business. That to me seems to be a pretty significant advantage. It may also account for the disproportionate amount of advertising.
11) We all experience offensive comments; I like what a pastor said, "Don't whine, but shine"...and that goes for all of us, regardless of gender.

Now let's get out there and do the best paintings we can. We can all make important contributions to beauty.

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Blogger Barbara Jaenicke said...

Thanks, John, for including me among such a fantastic group of artists to discuss this topic. Just wanted to clarify a point that may have gotten confused a bit in the editing process…I pointed out that the art world was male dominated for centuries, and the possibility that some galleries or the media could still be influenced by this. Certainly still a possibility in certain situations, and just a guess at why I could quickly think of more male oil painters than female. However, I don’t want it to come across that I believe this is always true. I’m represented by four galleries at the moment, and as far as I can tell, I feel that all four represent my work equally with that of their male artists.

July 22, 2013 at 2:06 AM  
Blogger Lori Putnam said...

Thank you John. It has made me think with a more open mind myself. Bias of any sort angers me, and I too am a constant work in progress. Some comments that I would like to share:

It dawned on me as I read this that even though I had no financial support of any kind during my career development, I certainly had emotional support. I have mentioned before that my husband Mark was unemployed for several years. But his belief in me astounds me to this day. Selling our home and belongings so that I could invest in an art career says volumes about both his faith in me, and our faith in God.

Another thing dawned me as well. The men's group (or predominantly male groups) are not named as such. It is just that they happen to be groups of men. Conversely, women's groups actually have that in their titles--Women Painters of the Southeast for example. Not earth shattering to discover this… just something that came to mind. It could be as simple as this… men's 'plein air painting' groups might prefer to not have to deal with the added dynamic that having a female on the backpacking trail might bring. Maybe the men feel they would in some way have to behave differently, be responsible for the supposed weaker sex, or whatever. Maybe not inviting women to go on a regular basis seems simpler. That is no different than a group of women getting together to do the same.

Finally, I believe the reason so many women advertise in magazines is because they feel they have to in order to be noticed. Men, on the other hand, may be more confident that if they are good painters, everyone already knows who they are. If that is the case, it has less to do with someone at home footing the bill for the advertising, and more to do with something more basic about differences in the sexes.

All of this to say that it is easy to jump to conclusions based on recent history or modern day stereotypes. We have all come from different places and had different experiences. Many more experiences will come and go, and our situations in life and career can change in an instant. Here are two facts that are indisputable and will remain: I will work hard to become a better artist. I am female.

July 22, 2013 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger john pototschnik said...

Thank you, Barbara and Lori for participating in the discussion. Your contribution and opinions added much. Barbara, thank you for the clarification. I'm sorry for any misrepresentation.
Lori, all your comments are good. You, in fact, are an excellent example of making the family dynamic work...and proof of the importance of a supportive mate. Because of your husband's support, you were in turn able to provide for the family while hubby was unemployed. Thanks for your other comments as well. Certainly can't say that 'one size fits all'. Each of us are different and will see things somewhat differently. Good comments though. Thanks.

July 22, 2013 at 10:23 PM  
Blogger Kim Casebeer said...

Thank you for this very interesting discussion John. I've been traveling and only now have had a chance to really read the posts and comments. It has been interesting to read different perspectives. I hope to add a comment that could inspire others and shed some light onto why some women may belong to women's groups. Perhaps, at one point, it was a reaction to male artists receiving more attention. But I truly don't believe that is the case any longer. My first encounter with AWA was in 2005 when their national show was held in Santa Fe at Meyers Art Gallery. I attended the show, and as an award recipient had the chance to go to dinner with some of the founding members. So here I am, sitting at the dinner table with some of the most influential women in the art world - Donna Howell-Sickles, Joni Falk, Joy Beckner, Joan LaRue, Gay Faulkenberry and many others. I soaked up their conversations about art and they generously encouraged me to pursue my career. It was a defining moment in my life. I agree with Kathryn Stat's comment that too often women look to what the men in this business are doing and don't even realize it. There are awesome women in this business! And after being on the receiving end of all of the positive energy of AWA, how can I not be a member? I believe most members continue because of the support they received and because they want to return the favor. I have recently been contacted by several young women starting out in this business, wondering if they can possibly have an art career and a family. And I'm very happy to tell them that absolutely they can! And I don't mean being supported by their husbands. I worked as a graphic designer until my income from art sales outweighed my income from the day job. My husband and I still split the household expenses. But if you're having a family, you do have to have a supportive mate, no doubt. When relaying all this to these young ladies, they've been very encouraged. Knowing that in some way I can help another artist see the possibilities, well it's way better than any award!

July 24, 2013 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger Lori Putnam said...

I have enjoyed hearing other viewpoints from women whom I truly admire. Maybe other men may eventually chime in as well. Such a great discussion.

July 24, 2013 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger john pototschnik said...

Thanks Lori and Kim for sharing your points of view. Both outstanding. I believe the discussion was worthwhile. As I hope was made clear in my comments, we can't pigeon hole either gender into behaving similarly when attempting to make a living as an artist. Encountered with similar problems we will deal with them differently depending on many different factors. We do what we need to do, so to speak. If married, each family has to figure out how to make it work. No judgment there on what form that will take. I did think however that several of the comments made during these interviews were intended to be gender specific, but I think would apply just as easily to men.

July 28, 2013 at 11:27 PM  

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