In a few weekends I am going back to my college as a guest artist. Their annual art show, Project Eve, is a celebration of women in the arts. Excited by the mother/daughter lineage, they invited Jennie to come as well. There will be a number of other events including some demos and talks to the ceramics classes, a "Career Services" event, and an article in the newspaper. I am excited to head back to my Alma Mater and share what little bit I've learned from being out of the "fold" and a part of this great big world of ours.
In the flurry of activity before we go (glazing, firing, profiles, questions, event details, etc.), I had the opportunity to answer some questions regarding the upcoming event. One question was obvious, given the focus of Project Eve: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the arts? Now this got me thinking quite a bit about labels and led to a great discussion at the dinner table last night. What does it mean?
When I first sat down to answer that question, I started in on vague ideas - women communicate differently, women have a different perspective, etc. But the more I wrote, the more unclear I became. The truth is, I don't think about it. My artwork stems from my being which is made up of various parts: my personality, my experiences, my race, my place in time, my economic status, my religion, my 'female-ness', my age, etc. I am a woman and in that reality, I am an artist. It is not a platform for some sort of ideology.
I see many who pick up on one aspect of reality and bring it to the forefront of all they do. Suddenly all of the "various parts" are flattened for that ONE aspect. It becomes a driving force for them, it becomes an ideology. Their artwork becomes one dimensional, ignoring the facets of life that make appealing artwork.
I believe that artwork can speak volumes because it has a being of its own, made up of various parts, like a human. My religion is a part of me that informs my purpose and worldview; I don't need to plaster crosses on my pots. My place in time informs much of how I work and my understanding of the world. Yet great art is timeless, transcending the time period to speak truths about human nature and the world. My gender is a part of me that has given me certain experiences and it may subtly show itself in my work; I don't need to plaster female symbols on my drawings. I think it is partly a lack of self confidence that leads to these ideologies. People do not seek to know themselves, to know what they think and why they think it, leading to a blurry self image. Harping on one facet of life gives a clear path, though limited and ultimately mundane.
So, yes, I am a female in the arts but I am also a runner in the arts, a Christian in the arts, a hiker in the arts, a young adult in the arts ... and eager to see the unique work that comes of this ever changing combination.