It was only after I joined WCA that I learned that art by women is miserably underrepresented in most museum collections. I think some museums have recently brought the percentage of art by women in their collections up to not quite 10%. That’s progress? This is 2021?!!
Okay, so stop being so shocked and dismayed. Do something about it! So, I post articles regularly about artists who are women on our Facebook Group page. Some consciousness-raising never hurts. By the number of likes and hearts, I think many of you enjoy seeing or reading these. Then, I came across this article about a royal village in Burkina Faso where every house is a work of art: https://mymodernmet.com/african-village-burkina-faso/?fbclid=IwAR08HxTjSt_69XG1NusAUM17HoViL_PMrLvFp3mFZVXi9nTjlXeVNyRg4CE
I did a little internet sleuthing. Sure enough, the art was done by the women of the village.
Some of you may know that I’m a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, and that I was posted to a Polynesian country. There, the women make bark cloth, and using pigments they mix from natural sources, paint the cloths with designs representing things in their environment or culture.
I was immediately struck by two things, the similar appearance of the designs used in this African village with the Samoan and Tongan motifs I’ve had on my wall most of my adult life, and by the fact that the art was produced by women.
As I rushed through my days of responsibilities, these two ideas played casually in my head together. When I saw another story about an archeological discovery somewhere, I was put in mind of prehistoric cave paintings. If it was primarily the men who hunted, who stayed in the cave to paint those walls? We don’t know, of course, but do you think it might have been the women?
We women are by nature creative. And, apparently we have always been that way. How sad that our work has inevitably been overlooked and taken for granted. If your grandmother made something beautiful just for the love of it, it is all the more precious, whether or not some outrageous price tag has been assigned to it.
I remain firmly an optimist. Things that are not right do not need to remain that way. Who else out there also thinks that even if things have perpetually been a particular uncomfortable or wrong way, we can change it for the better?
Women’s Caucus for Art was started in 1972, when the modern feminist movement really began to roll. We are meant to make this important transition. Dig in. Stay with WCA. Let’s figure out how to do this. The future is ours to determine.