Archives for the month of: April, 2008

I have been thinking a lot about all of the hoopla that went on last week at APE. There is definitely something about the blog format that invites that kind of craziness. But there did seem to be a little bit of ‘shoot the messenger’ going on. Let’s be honest, Rob has given us all a lot of advice. Advice can be a funny thing, photographers are often seeking it, but at the same time it can be really annoying. Especially if it is unsolicited. But annoying or not, you still need to sort through what is useful and what is not. For instance in the case of the ‘stalker’ photographer, I really understood Rob’s point. It seems to me that it is common sense not to behave that way. I find that at this moment in my career, it is important to narrow down what is worthwhile and what is worth leaving. So below is my own list of things, that I have either done, had suggested to me, or have seen other people do with success. I am not an expert and I am still trying to make my own way in this art photo world, but perhaps some of it could be useful to others.

Edit, then edit some more, then get someone to help you edit!

The number one secret to photography is editing. If I had a dollar for the all the times I have heard, “Once you have a better edit.” It is the most frustrating thing in the world. I often wonder why those who have the ability to edit, tell you to do it. My thinking is that when you hear the edit comment, the person probably sees potential in your work, but does not feel it is quite 100%. So you must edit and edit and edit some more, until you get a yes. One thing I have noticed with many of the Women in Photography submissions, is how poorly people edit their work. Often I will think the work is a definite no, only to go to the person’s website and find tons of stronger more cohesive images. One thing this separates your work from the crowd is a great sequence of images.

Keep shooting

While it’s tempting to think you have finished a project, most likely you have only scratched the surface. All of the greatest bodies of work, were shot over several years. Nan Goldin did not take 6 months worth of shooting to make The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, so its unlikely that you have a fully realized body of work. I am currently planning a trip to Miami, for this very reason. And I have been shooting my project for over 3 years.

Look at art other than photography

There is a fine balance between knowing what’s out there and getting completely demoralized. I stay away from photo shows when I am making work. But that does not mean you should avoid all art. There are many ways to get inspired. Go to the Film Forum, look at illustration, painting and sculpture. Take up knitting. Start a blog on another subject. Anything that sparks your creative self. Sometimes it is best to take a ‘photo vacation.’ But you should also know what is happening around you.

Only show your best work

If you only have 5 great images, that can stand alone and make a cohesive & developed statement, only show 5. If you have 20, then show 20. If you mix in ‘filler’ images you only dilute the quality of the overall message. So even if you love them, or worked so hard to make them, ditch the images that are not your best. But keep in mind, everyone has different taste. Some images will appeal to some people, there is no way that you can please everyone. So if you have to tailor you edit a bit for different people, so be it.

Don’t give up when you get silence

Curators, gallery owners, editors, are constantly bombarded with work. And a lot of good work. So if you contact someone and don’t hear back, wait a reasonable time and email again. Then wait and send something in the mail. Then wait and call. Then wait and email again. There is a big difference between a short, polite request and the stalker who harassed APE. While I am certainly guilty of doing it, you should not take silence as a personal rejection. Until you get a message saying they have reviewed your work and are passing, it is fine to keep asking. Even if they say no, you can still send them it again when the work progresses. I have heard many stories about how today’s no, became tomorrow’s yes. But always keep in mind, you are asking someone to do something for you. Following basic manners is expected and necessary.

Show your work everywhere that makes sense

A great piece of advice I have received about having success with contacting potential clients is doing your homework. If you shoot great still-lifes, don’t send your work to an editor who specializes in celebrity portraits. The same goes for galleries. If your work is super-conceptual, don’t pick a gallery that show straight photo journalism. I don’t know how many times I have received offers in the mail to get a gas card. I live in New York, have no car and rarely drive. It makes me nuts that they waste so much paper soliciting me. So think about who you are contacting. Does Newsweek’s world editor really need to see your lifestyle photography? Look at galleries artist’s lists, and check out their work. Go to Barnes & Noble and look at all of the magazines. Look at Communication Arts annual, pick Art Directors doing ads they fit your style. If your work makes sense for them, call them up and tell them why.  Oh and it may sound obvious, but make sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s.  I once stopped a photog at my old job from sending his work out addressed to “Cathy Ryan.” Nuff said.

Find a job that lets you do what you need

Let’s be honest, getting started in photography is incredibly time consuming, expensive and tough. If you don’t have income you can’t try to get a job. If you can’t get a photo job, you can’t make money. So this means you need another source of funding while you work towards a photo career. This is perhaps the most difficult part of being an artist. There are few well paying jobs that allow you to take off long stretches, leave to go meet an editor or gallery owner, or who want an employee who is actively trying to have another career. New York is a tough place, most jobs demand a lot from their employees. There are way more photo MFA’s than there are teaching jobs. So you are left with a low-paying job or a job which makes you choose between it and your photography. Then there are those who get jobs printing or working for other artists. While right out of school assisting or working for another artist can be a great way to learn, eventually you are in danger of becoming a “printer,” ‘retoucher,” or ‘assistant” for good. This is my current quandary. The only thing I want to do is make images. I recently left my part-time job to take some time to try to get my photo career on track. However, I will not make it long without income. I often have sleepless nights on this subject. Someone recently told me I should be more open to “whoring” myself out, I.E. go the commercial photo route. But that is just as challenging as getting into the fine-art world. There is nothing wrong with getting paying jobs, I’m all for it. You are not a “whore” for shooting for a magazine. This is an out of date notion I think. But no matter genre of photography I pursue, I still have to pay for it – let’s look at the costs.

Website: Anywhere from $150-3000+ depending on if you get a designer, site capacity etc.

Travel: Most projects require some travel. Whether it is renting car (or taking a cab or car service) to drive to and from a location or airline tickets and hotel costs, it adds up. There is a reason we are all dreaming of a Guggenheim. Which to be honest, still would have us camping out, driving or eating trailmix, depending on the length and scope of your project. Check out Timothy Briner’s Boonville blog for an idea of what a project takes.

Photo Supplies: I shoot 4×5, so right away its close to $5 per sheet of film. Then we have printing costs. Leather portfolios run about $350- 500. 11×14 portfolio images can end up being $30 – $70 per, times 40 to 70 images in a book. Oh then there are gallery portfolios, 16×20 prints, presentation boxes, shipping. Oh yes, equipment rental. While I own my own 4×5 camera, which so far I have sunk almost 3 grand into, I can’t begin to afford lens and lights. My average 1 day rental is about $150.

Contests: Where do I begin. I am still appalled by the cost of everything Santa Fe. Most of these contests are used to pay for the organization costs of the people sponsoring them. Wow, I am so glad the artists, who are often desperate, and not making ANY money are paying to support all of these non-profits. The Critical Mass Award I heard, as you moved up in the contest, you had to pay more money. Shouldn’t these places be getting grant money and contributions from collectors, and companies, which they could then use to subsidise art making and help artists in their careers. There has been a lot of chatter on the blogs recently about this subject, and although we all feel the same, I still keep sending $35, spend hours filling out forms and get nothing back. I am going to my first portfolio review next week, I am interested to see what comes of my investment.

Last but not least, Living: Let’s see I live in Metro NYC. Do you really need to hear the numbers. Let’s be honest. Forever 21, Old Navy, and Urban Outfitters are sometimes too pricey for me.

Be a part of the community

To me the #1 best thing about blogging is the amazing relationships I have formed as a result of GG. I get really encouraged every time someone drops a line to say how much they like the blog or my work. And considering how much negativity I have to deal with in my pursuits, it is great to have the support. There are a lot of really talented people blogging. I have really enjoyed going to an opening and seeing a friendly face. Because of GG, I have been lucky enough to meet some great people or be helped out with my career. Andrew Hetherington, Joerg Colberg, Brian Ulrich, Andy Adams, Shane Lavalette, Mrs. Deane, Ofer Wolberger, I heart photograph, Dawn Roscoe, Elizabeth Fleming, Amy Elkins, Jen Bekman, Page 291, Susana Raab, Martin Fuchs, Rachel Hulin, Liz Kuball, Richard Wright, Rob Haggart and many others.

Make great work!

I don’t know how much work I have seen, which was visually stunning or well crafted which had no substance. Or how many statements I have read with a great concept, but then the work is either not quite good enough, or does not communicate the ideas expressed in the statement. Or work that is so derivative it is totally boring. Sometimes it is poorly edited, or sometimes I just feel nothing about it. There are a few basic ingredients in great photography. You must make great images, you must have a reason for making them, and that reason must be communicated to the viewer. And an individual eye is imperative. If your work looks like everyone else’s what reason does anyone have for looking at it.

So these are my 2 cents. I write this as much to remind and push myself as to provide advice. Of course we all struggle to take our own advice, to make it in the extraordinarily competitive world of photography you must be willing to give up a lot.

One of my favorite photographers has an opening tonight. I highly recommend you go see her new work.

Murray Guy

435 W 17th St

AN-MY LÊ
Events Ashore
26 April – 31 May 2008

This is part 2 of my earlier post on women in the history of photography. And June 1 we launch, Women in Photography, where you can see the work of more great women artists. Thanks to Dina Kantor, Timothy Briner, Joerg Colberg and others for their suggestions. And Mrs. Deane for a few late additions to the list!

Claude Cahun

Hilda Becher

Madame Yevonde

Maria Austria

Ruth Hallensleben

Eve Arnold

Sandra Eleta

Nan Goldin

Judy Dater

Cindy Sherman

Laurie Simmons

Susan Meiselas

Ruth Orkin

Clarissa T. Sligh

Barbara Kruger

Esther Parada

Betty Hahn

Naomi Savage

Janice Mehlman

Olivia Parker

Maria Cosindas

Bea Nettles

Rosamond Wolf Purcell

Joyce Neimanas

Martina Lopez

Barbara Norfleet

Judith Joy Ross

Barbara Kasten

Sophie Calle

Graciela Iturbide

Donna Ferrato

Penelope Umbrico

Carrie Mae Weems

Nancy Burson

Joyce Tennyson

Annie Leibovitz

Mary Ellen Mark

Ellen Von Unwerth

Marilyn Nance

Sarah Charlesworth

Candida Hofer

Lynne Cohen

Gillian Wearing

Sharon Lockhart

Rene Cox

Rineke Dijkstra

If for some reason you are under a metaphoric blog rock, you probably read the Jackanory. If you are under a rock, as usual Mr. Hetherington has the heads up for all the happenings in the photo world. If there is a cheap free glass of Chardonnay (or a Red Stripe) out there, he’s got the scoop.

Andrew Hetherington

Well, we are close to launching, Amy Elkins is a force of nature. It is really nice to be working on a project with someone who has such a great attitude. We are still ironing out the site design, but June 1 we should be up & running. We have received many great submissions and hopefully once we are online we will get a lot more.

If you are interested in getting info, go to: Women in Photography. The site’s url will be changing once we launch but for now all the submissions details are there.

I am really excited to be a part of the project because more and more I see the complexity of life for women, not just in photography. For instance, this Sunday’s NY Times had an article which promoted Robert Downey Jr’s new action flick. The article presented him as an overcoming the obstacles success story. Here is a man who spent years damaging himself and his loved ones trapped in the cycle of addition. But now, clean & sober, he is being given every possible chance to get back his acting career. The article lauds him for starting over. I certainly agree that we should not penalize people who suffer from this type of adversity. But it made me think about the challenges I am facing trying to start a new career well past the age most people begin. Instead of spending my 20’s building a career path to success, I spent it overcoming depression and an eating disorder. Recently, it was related to me that someone felt sorry for me, because I was trying to get established in photography at my age. I have to say, it really hurt to hear that. I try very hard to be proud of myself for going back to finish my Bachelor’s well after the age of 18. And for being willing to try to get into such an impossible field. It is not easy to confront one’s own failures and to do something to fix them. But photography is brutal. There are so many talented people, so many young people at there trying to break into the business, that it is difficult sometimes to stay positive. Then I start to consider how women feel who try to back to the work force in their late 30’s & early forties after being stay at home Mom’s. They are likely to find their supervisors 10 years younger than them. How do they relate to their workplace and deal with starting from scratch again. The same goes for even older women re-entering the workforce after a divorce. To be 50 and expected to start at the bottom must not be easy. I watched my mother confront that reality.

My reality is that from the age of twelve, I suffered from an eating disorder and depression which made it very difficult for me to make anything of my life. The overwhelming nature of my body issues made me lose out on a lot of things other people take for granted. While I have been better for many years now, those experiences still live inside of me. I know some people keep all these things to themselves, out of shame, but I feel that I should be proud that I came out of it. Yes, I will probably never be 100% free of the feelings that led to my struggles. Photography has provide me an outlet to see my personal pain, through a cultural lens. The number of women with eating disorders is growing everyday. And there are plenty of women whose obsessiveness with food borders on a full fledged disorder. I know that the criticism I experienced at age 8, about my looks and body as a child model left a lasting imprint on how I viewed myself. But it was not the only factor for me. In the end there are two options for me. To focus on what I lost or to use my experiences in my work. I suppose there are people who find me difficult due to my past. And yes it is my personal struggle. If you have never had to overcome something like this, perhaps is too alien for you to relate to or you feel threatened because you are failing to overcome your own issues. I do notice that the language used for men, when it comes to addition, depression or other things is often, ‘suffering from.’ Whereas the language used for women is ‘victims of.’ What that means I am not sure, but one seems to imply it is a temporary fixable state, while the other is a permanent condition. Once you are categorized as a victim it is hard to shake.

One photographer I love who confronted self-concept and found great freedom in that pursuit was Anne Noggle. She came to photography at age 47, while her name is not very well none any longer, her work prefigures a lot of the cultural issues now facing women. The California Museum of Photography labels her work “Critical Self-Portraiture.” and it has been described as having: “unvarnished directness.” There is a quote in the opening of her book, Sliver Linings, which to me speaks to more than just the artistic process.

The artists life, whatever the medium, whatever the accomplishment, never becomes easier on a day-to-day basis. While the odds of more frequent or continued success may increase, theres little comfort in this knowledge: the possibility of failure right now, this time, seems as great as ever. To cut off comforting everyday contacts, the sort of human transactions that are prompted by unqualified affection rather than superior performance, to voluntarily court opportunities for seeing how signally one can fail, to close ones life into an intense solitude requires great discipline and courage.

My goal with Women in Photography project, is to focus on providing support and opportunities for women of all ages. We are not doing this because we are victims of anything. While our work may not share subject matter, approach or form, we are all connected in our pursuit.

Anne Noggle

Anne Noggle, Face Lift #3

Thanks to Dawn Roscoe, for sending me a link to this article in Newsweek. It talks about a new picture book by a Florida plastic surgeon designed for ‘Mommies’ to read to their kids to explain their upcoming surgeries. While there is merit in the idea of explaining to kids what is happening, this is a scary way to do it. To legitimize surgery to young children, is to create a new generation of surgery patients. But I fear that all of the T.V. shows and imagery about surgery in the media have already normalized cosmetic surgery so much that the current generation will have no qualms with altering their bodies.

There has been quite an uproar about the article online. I am happy to see that blogs have really picked up the mantle to disseminate this issue. The Newsweek article seems more like a fake paid advertisement than a piece of journalism.

I am not surprised by the book, if you spend any time online investigating surgery, nothing shocks you. What is most interesting to me, is how online articles and ad banners mix together to create new messages. While I would love to think that there are some bored web designers out there being subversive, I fear that the world is starting to lack irony. I have been playing around with web based appropriation for a while. Sometimes people do all your work for you.

Considering how cosmetic surgery is a life-threatening surgery (like any procedure with Anesthesia) could the above ad banner be any more accurate.

I am very excited to have been selected for Rob’s first online promo, there are some really great photographers in the mix. It will be interesting to see how this develops. Thanks to Rob, for what I am sure was a big project for him.

A very interesting (as usual) post from Joerg Colberg on Gregory Crewdson’s new work. I went to the opening, my friend scanned the show and I was excited to see how the raw images came together. I was torn about them, while they are certainly very accomplished, I felt disappointed at their lack of new ground. In some ways they were less produced than his last show. I could see that he was trying to capture the feeling of a rust-belt town, which has a very different look than his usual middle class suburb. I appreciate Joerg’s sentiments about our culture’s voracious appetite for newness. We do seem to focus on always wanting the next thing even when there is nothing wrong with what we have. But in the case of Crewdson, I would have liked to see a new visual or conceptual idea. This is an artist who helped to transform the look and process of contemporary photo practice. So I would hope that he would continue to innovate. His images seem to be more about meeting the demands of the current art market, then about anything else. I really can only remember one image from the show. I don’t think artists have to constantly be doing the ‘next’ thing or re-inventing themselves, but they should not rest on their laurels either. And yes some artists work in the same mode for years to create a long term body of work with great meaning. It is something to consider. You have to give Robert Frank credit for moving on to experimental film and art rather than repeating himself. His later work may not be as good as his masterwork “The Americans,” but it takes risks and is unafraid of failure.

2001

2004

2006

We rarely look at the images of lithe, beautiful women in magazines and imagine what they are thinking. If we do try to imagine what they are thinking, my guess is we don’t exactly fill their heads with very deep commentary on the world or their own situations. But is this not like any other assumption about people, because a woman is beautiful does not make her empty headed, materialistic, or silly. I had the pleasure of meeting a very successful model last summer, and she is one of the most sensitive, emotionally intelligent and intellectually curious people I know. So when I came across this post on the gossip blog, Jezebel, I was very excited to see a model opening up about her experiences. The post is entitled “Whenever I Feel Like Starving Myself, I Just Look At ‘One Cup Of Oatmeal.doc.'” It is a short chronicle of her first runway season in Paris, and how she dieted and exercised in excess while there. But as she has come out of her bout with an eating disorder, her take on the criticism which led her to it, is pretty darn enlightening. Artists often face a similar barrage of criticism, as do many other professions. Finding a way to deal with that has always been my biggest struggle. When I modeled, I was eight to fourteen, and did not have the maturity yet to overcome the constant comments. Because yes, my nose was too pointy, I was too tall, too fat, too freckled, too all American, too exotic, too flat-chested, and on. I wish I had met an older model at that time, like this one who could have sat me down and told me the below. But I have found it know and I think this attitude can be helpful in everything you do.

Reducing the body to symbol is of course what the anorexic or the bulimia sufferer does. (Or the serious athlete, for that matter.) We remake our bodies as monuments: to hungers overcome, to perceived strengths, to a gendered, formal ideal we’ve sized up or down to. Bodies no longer communicate want or need: we subject them to our desires, and take pleasure in their submission.

I certainly enjoyed every inch I ever lost.

I also very much enjoy walking on the runway.

But there is one way in which this industry has taught me to take less of an obsessive interest in how I measure up, appearance-wise. The feedback you receive as a model is breathtaking in its contradictions, vehemence, and beside-the-point meanderings. My shoulders, too broad for one client, will be criticized for their narrowness by another. I have been told I have too many freckles, and also too few. I’ve been too pale, too tan, too old, too young, too brown, too red, too blonde. I’m too tall or too short. My feet are too big or not big enough. At first, this was unsettling, and kind of withering, but it soon became white noise — when a casting agent shares advice with me (“Tie your hair back for castings!” “Walk more smoothly!” “Work out so you have some arm muscle!”) I thank him or her politely and do precisely nothing — because I know the next will want to see unfettered hair, a cocky swagger of a walk, and arms that aren’t as “bulky” with muscle as mine. It all cancels out, and I’m left with the conclusion that the client will cast whomever they will cast and they’ll know it as soon as the right model walks in the door and nothing in my power will change that. The best I can do is show up.

It’s a strangely liberating conclusion to have drawn from fashion.

Women In Photography contains a simple concept:

-To showcase work, news and ideas from women in the contemporary photo world.

-To create a collection of strong work by women actively creating work.

-To reach new audiences collectively.

Those interested in participating can submit as follows:

-5 jpegs from a cohesive project or a work in progress.
5×7 @150 dpi named “myname_title.jpg”
-short statement/bio

Email submissions to
womeninphotography at gmail dot com

One thing I hear from men a lot (including my own boyfriend) is that women complain too damn much. Most men’s number one complaint about their wives and girlfriends is that they just want to talk endlessly about their problems, and they don’t see what that solves? I think it is perhaps too much of a generalization to say that all women like to discuss, mull over and talk through their issues and difficulties, but from my experience most women do find comfort in being listened to. We don’t like to just take action, without time to reflect and hear the thoughts of others. I personally think in some ways this makes us able to deal with more complex issues. When something does not have a clear cut solution men often get angry or frustrated. They want to ‘fix it’ and move on. Of course all of this is varies from person to person, but in my experience there is some truth to it. So when Joerg first emailed me about the Times article, I could see that he wanted to find a way to fix things right away. But he was frustrated because as a man there was only so much he could do about it. I am saddened by the responses to my post that directed their anger to Joerg. If you look at his blog, he clearly features just as many male and female photographers in both interviews and image selection. What more can we ask of men, then to be sensitive to our struggle and to give us the same opportunities as they give men.

The most important thing is that now, several amazing and talented women are using their considerable gifts to try and come up with ideas to make things better. Many of these issues are actually between women and about how we view ourselves and the world. So it seems to me, that we should be the ones to work to solve them. Hence the creation of Women in Contemporary Photography which is still in the development stage, that be a showcase for the work of women photographers. And the Ask me logo, when you see the logo, you know you are welcome to reach out to the person for advice, questions, or just to say hi. While we are all super busy and probably feel like we don’t have enough time already, a quick email or addressing a question on our blogs or directing the person to someone who can help seems like a reasonable goal. I invite anyone who has other ideas to bring them on. We have nothing to lose by trying all these things out. I also encourage women editors, gallery staff or any women interested to participate. I doubt women photographers are the only ones who would like to get some support.

I am excited to see where we go…

Joerg Colberg sent me a link to the NY Times article on Gallerina’s the other day. He was interested to know if I shared his anger at the rather condescending and sexist attitude of the piece. We had a lively email debate, in which he basically called me out:

It’s one thing to see reality as it is, but then it’s quite another thing to
make an effort to change it. If all women merely shrug off this
article and think “Well, this is just the way it is” things are
obviously not going to change. But if just two or three female
bloggers got together and published an “enough is enough” post on
their blogs about how this is ridiculous and offensive, that would be
quite interesting.
I mean it’s nice to have discussions about women in art (just like
the one you participated in the other day), but it seems they don’t
really translate into much outside of the debating halls. I don’t mean
to argue there should be no such debates, but there also has to be a
debate about stuff like that posted in the NYT.

I wanted to take a few days to think about Joerg’s point, do we as women make it worse by accepting this type of portrayal? The Times article seemed to attempt to defend the behavior of these women. The writer went out of their way to mention how educated these women were, and that they are often harassed by drunk men at openings. But there was definitely a underlying condescension in the tone. “She really is so very busy — e-mailing jpegs of artwork to collectors, writing news releases, updating a gallery’s inventory or simply ordering lunch for the staff.” In reality there is no excuse for their attitudes, but the article presented them as just another decorative object in the galleries. I have had my share of bad experiences with so called Gallerinas. A few years ago I attempted to purchase Peter Hujar’s monograph at his show at Matthew Marks. It was a Saturday and pretty slow, but the girl behind the desk was so dismissive, so clearly annoyed and so downright rude, that I finally had to ask “You do SELL books here, correct?” It was quite traumatizing to hand over money to someone who made me feel like the person who can only afford the book, not a print. From that moment on I have avoided them like the plaque. I see no reason to subject myself to their disdain.

But as an artist who hopes to show work in a gallery in Chelsea, how do I feel about people coming to see my work and being treated like that? It is very dismaying. If my work were shown, I would hope that they would be happy to answer questions and offer information, because they become an extension of you when they sit out there. But let’s be honest, how warm and fuzzy is most of the art world. Do curators, gallery owners or editors treat artists much better, not until you make them a lot of money. And if they are that rude to you, my guess is that they treat the $8 to $10 dollar an hour desk workers pretty badly, male or female. And so we get to the heart of the issue for women. Often, because women are in a position that make them feel devalued, they turn their rage on others. When you are in a position of dependence, you feel powerless to defend yourself. If you need a paycheck or the patronage of your employer how do you tell them to treat you fairly? But, as Joerg pointed out as long as we keep taking it, we will keep getting it. One thing we can do is to band together. If women had the same kind of strong networking skills as men, perhaps we would not always feel so desperate. I have noticed that my boyfriend and his male friends and co-workers often help each other get jobs, pass on information and do gratis design work for each other. I have never known a women to do this. We may offer information, but how often to we pick up the phone for someone and say, “hey, you should check out my friends work.” However, several men have done that for me.

So what’s wrong here? Why do women continue to keep each other down, or allow themselves to be objectified like the Gallerina’s? I think that from a very young age, women learn that their looks are their number one asset. They become so used to focusing on their external as the means to success, that they lose sight of the importance of their other assets. Most of us are unconscious of this, we probably never think of ourselves like that. But I know that I worry more about what I am going to wear to things, then anything else. Because even if I want to fight it, part of me knows that I will be judged first on that. Especially if I am meeting with a women. One of the most disappointing examples of this from my own life, was when a certain female photographer came to guest crit my photo class from one of the top MFA programs. She immediately started ripping my work to shreds, primarily the technique aspects. In my attempt to defend the work, I started to take about the nature of the glossy print, when she interrupted me to say in front of the class, “The glossy prints are not the problem, and besides they match your lip gloss.” That was the single most disheartening moment for me, because in one sentence she pretty much told me I was just a ‘face.’ Meaning that I should use my looks or would succeed because of them. Now as someone who spent most of their life feeling like an object, because of my past, she was trying to take away the first thing I had found that I could do that was not about what I looked like. Being behind the camera is the only place where what I look like does not matter. But in reality, it is very hard to escape these cultural assumptions. To me the worst part of the Times article was hearing Yancy Richardson, say that there was nothing wrong with looking for a pretty face to put out front.

Yancey Richardson, the owner of an eponymous Chelsea art gallery, notes that she employs front desk assistants who can answer questions from the public and clients, and also attack a rigorous list of tasks. “You can’t just hire people who are decorative,” she said, “but you can find someone with all those necessary skills and who is beautiful.”

Ms Richardson is one of the few female gallery owners, and who also prominently showcases female artists. Of all people I would hope that she would know better. What is a young woman who hopes to break into the gallery world supposed to think when she reads that. That no matter how hard she studies or no matter how capable she is, if she’s not attractive she will not have a chance. People wonder why breast implants are now one of the number one high school graduation gifts? Instead of burning our bras, we now fill them with silicone fantasies. Are we not telling young women, that not only do they need Master degrees, top grades, they also need to be sexually and physically attractive if they hope to make it in our society. And the fact that powerful women are re-enforcing these ideas is to me the most appalling.

So yes, Joerg’s call to fight against these ideas is necessary. How to do it, is another matter. We as women have to decide how we can change things. But I think most of us feel so much anxiety about our own talent, looks, bodies, personalities, it is difficult to find the energy to do it. I feel that I can only be different in my own life. I can decide to help my fellow female artist, I can work to be free of the self-hating brought on by our beauty culture, and most importantly I can make art that forces people to confront these issues. I will perhaps leave it to Joerg, to write more on this subject. I think we need more people like him, who are not afraid to get angry, and who are not too jaded to think nothing will ever change.

And I hope that Julie Saul, Yancy Richardson, Marianne Boesky, Bonni Benrubi, Elizabeth Dee, Rivington Arms, Becky Smith, Andrea Meislin, Deborah Bell, Paula Cooper, Margaret Murry, Janice Guy, Roxanna Marcoci, Robin Rice, Jen Bekman, and all the other women who have power and authority in the art world take heed, we need to be on the same team. That does not mean giving special treatment to female artists and employee’s, but being willing to examine your own culpability in this debate. Ask yourself if you are treating women the same sexist attitude of your male counterparts, and if so, why? I am sure it is not easy to be a female gallery owner, I have heard many times, “So in so only has a gallery because her rich daddy gave her the money.” Have you ever heard that said about a male gallery owner?

And as for us female artists and people in general, I will borrow the advice of the Gureilla Girls:

Boston, Mass.: Now that we’ve heard what you have to say, how can we help? What’s the best way to stop our national museums from being so racist and sexist? Write letters? It seems so … banal.

Guerrilla Girl Frida Kahlo: Complain, complain, complain! But do it creatively. Shame and ridicule are powerful weapons in the art world. And don’t forget to have fun in the process. Your laughter disarms the powers-that-be.

And ladies, start buying art? Because once you are a force in the world of collectors, galleries will take note!

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