A few years back an art instructor asked me to name my favorite living artist. I couldn’t.
Last year another art teacher asked for a list of artists who were influential to me. This is what I came up with: Wassily Kandinsky, Norman Rockwell, Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent van Gogh, Peter Paul Rubens, David Hockney, Henri Rousseau, Alice Neel, Johannes Vermeer, and Salvador Dali. My original list numbered close to 100 but as the assignment called for only ten. I had to provide a rationale for each and I picked artists that I felt were significant to my sense of personal aesthetics.
If you are up on artists you will notice that one of my 10 was, and is, still alive (David Hockney) and if you are a feminist you might note that only 20% of my final list was comprised of female artists. To be honest the male to female ratio was much worse before the final cuts.
A few months ago a local, living and female artist was interviewed in the local “alternative” newspaper. (The quotation marks are there because the city’s official newspaper is so staunchly conservative the alternative paper more closely resembles the Sunday Magazine section of East Coast papers than an actual alternative newspaper but I digress …) The artist commented that she often asks people to name 3 female artists just to see if they can. I was actually able to perform this trick, and in fact, if allowed to include photographers I could hit this question out of the park. But I understood the point she was making well enough.
Those three encounters, when considered together, really got me thinking about artist recognition among the general public. I am a member of perhaps the last generation (Generation X or as I like to call us the Forgotten Generation) to receive a public school education that included real instruction in the arts. My primary education included 6 years of music or art taught by actual music and art teachers on a daily basis as well as concerts, choirs, and theatrical productions produced by my class several times a year. And since I lived in the suburbs of a major East coast city I had the opportunity to visit at least 6 different world class museums, several on multiple occasions, by Junior H.S. My secondary education included art classes as well as music appreciation classes that taught musical terms and styles of music through the ages. I basically spent my teenage years immersed in the creation of art both for fun and for school. Once I got to college, and even when not enrolled as an art major, I had an Art History class. All told, at this point, I’ve had 3 different college Art History classes. So I have had a fair amount of art exposure. Probably way more than the average person but I still don’t recognize some fairly influential artists particularly if their body of work was created within the last 100 years. And I still have a pronounced skew towards male artists of approximately 5:2 which I feel is unacceptable.
In an effort to expand the name and work recognition of (living and dead) artists I’m actively researching artists and I’m planning on sharing them through book reviews, quotes, and by analyzing particular pieces of work also, from time to time, I will write about theories and concepts. I’ve technically already started.