The Story Hall
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The Story Hall

Gender Wars… on Ninth Street

SGHolland ©2018

So much emphasis just now in October 2018 on “Feminist Issues.”!
Nothing new here. Ask Susan B. Anthony, and Margaret Mead, and Georgia O’Keefe, and Maya Angelou, and Jane Goodall. Ask Eve, for goodness sake!

How much of this perennial issue has to do with “likes” and “marketplace value”?

Ask Mary Cassatt! And other giants who stand tall now, but did not necessarily get a lot of press.

Today my Painter’s Keys “feed” speaks about the upstart art salons of New York City during the emergence of the Abstract Impressionists who stirred up the art world in the 1950’s. “Salons” have a telling history. Tolstoy took us directly into “Salons” at the opening of War and Peace. The influence of Salons is a study of modern history. They were not just quilting bees. They were, however, places where women had a lot of influence, whether for their beauty, their wealth, or the uncanny intelligence hidden under spectacular hair-art and daringly beguiling gowns.

The Art Salons of New York City were not held in powdered wigs or laced satin bodices. No. They were not particularly subtle, those salons. Well lubricated brainstorming marathons, they were — fascinating gatherings of bohemian experimenters who cast aside custom and dived into a mission to open up stark truth and undress the coyness of pretentious costumes and prescribed manners. They were hugely influential on the generations to follow. And they did not care if the existing Art World approved or bought what they were doing. Breaking new ground had no financial guarantees. But they were “in it together”.

http.//www.painterskeys.com/ninth-street-women/ — Sara Genn’s excellent extension of the excellent late Robert Genn’s letters — speaks of the struggle of the “weaker sex” in the huge surge of a new art form forged by MEN that changed Art History exponentially. And, of course, the male artists were the standard bearers of art that could be considered significant, fine, and most marketable. Some of the male standard bearers whose names we now find “familiar” were truly no-counts in the days they labored in their studios or even in the studios of others, as understudies. The stuff of being “no-count” is not limited to only women! Look at the life stories of “late bloomers”, both male and female. Look at the esteemed “important” artists and see that they were lost in the shuffle during large parts of their creative art making. (Rothko) (Vincent) (Hokusai) (Louise Bourgeoise) (Grandma Moses). Even Michaelangelo had trouble getting out of the servant mode and into his own freedom of expression.

Do read the link from Painters’ Keys cited above.

And then, ask with me, this question. Would the Women on 9th street have put down their brushes and marched down to Times Square to protest the “dissing” their art got? Would they have closed up their studios and gotten “in the faces” of those big shot male artists who were getting all the attention (and sales)?

IF they had put down their brushes, would there be a Mary Cassatt, Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaller, and Lea Krasner (to name a few) in the short list of famous abstract impressionists? If they had punched those male trailblazers out and taken the reins, how would that have affected history?
Somehow these women found a way to work within the then-existing parameters of a male-female framework, stay the course, and end up shining like a bright new instrument in the band! It just took working steadily, and not getting drawn off course by surges of righteous indignation — at the male population.

In fact, lacking their groundbreaking WORKS, (done in their workrooms, not on the steps of the Metropolitan) there would be no need to credit them with anything at all. Together the men and women of that new art paradigm made a huge mark on the cultural history of the world! The men trampled down the frontline barriers and the women rode right beside them, quietly making their presence and yes, power, known. Patience. Self confidence, and attention to their craft and their unique message! Never underestimate the power of a woman. (Shrews are not very powerful, actually. Just snarly and ugly and worth ignoring.)

Of course we have the upstart fine-arts rock stars of both genders:(Salvatore Dali) (Frieda) (Banksy) (Lucien Freud) whose obvious intention was/is shock and awe fame. They were ambitious entrepreneurs, purposely aiming for stardom, and THEY were people who would go out and “get in peoples’ faces” with their art. Shock is always a good way to get noticed. There are those whose loud voices and eye-popping presentations (not only in the arts but in business of any kind) are intended to grab all the attention they can get by any means possible. The Movie Industry is famously like that. The fearless Live Theater industry always did challenge the “traditions” with outlandish presentations. The Circus Industry is famously like that. And we have, indeed, today, live nude “installations” of lovers in public show windows, and sitting in front of very famous framed masterpieces in Fine Arts Museums today to quench any notions of bringing prudence and modesty back into the noble realm of fine arts. The artists have again let the cat out of the bag!

Long live the arts!

Politics (yes, it’s an art) is famously like that. And more of those high-profile fame-seekers fail than succeed. The effort is exhausting and sticking it out through the “meh” years — well, that is why they resort to comfort-giving practices that gradually or quickly sicken them and/or kill them. These brave entrepreneurs settle for less. They vie for day jobs to keep the home fires burning and give stability to their offspring. Some become homeless! Some die early. Some very early.

Grand Success also can destroy and cut short the so-called benefits of being famous. Attaining fame and recognition is not necessarily “succeeding”, as it turns out.

How many famous “rock star” type personalities are Resting In Peace, so to speak? Too young. The flame flashed and then extinguished itself somehow.

Do ALL ambitious humans, male and female, long for such lives? Surely when they are heady teeny-boppers — they emancipate and go off like Don Quixote. Then they come all un-puffed. Deflated. The billboards lie. There is only one Marilyn Monroe, and only one George Clooney.

How many artists, male and female, ever really seek out themselves and their unique specialties, strengths, vision? Most are copiers of “role models” in my opinion. It’s a pity.

What is a WORK? It is evidence of something significant accomplished at a certain period of time that remains valuable long after the maker is dead and gone.

There are few paintings left after vicious wars between the sexes. Only black eyes, and law suits, trauma and confused families. The Tabloid headlines and flamboyant fame received for especially spectacular presentations of spite and venom and blame and whining voices — they do remind me of hen-houses. And there are men who are flapping around in the hen-house as well. No paintings. Nothing to show. Lots of upset noise. Short walk to the chopping block. End of story. Plenty more peeping chickens pouring in, following the leader mindlessly and without conscience or consciousness of what they are actually doing.

There exists no evidence of something significant that is connected with a powerful creative group of vaunted people who died of overdoses after being paid to entertain us and are remembered for their fatal overdose or unfortunate moral scandal. Sure there are collectors of memorabilia, but are these the pride of nations? I think not.

Where is the “traditional work” of the “weaker sex?” They have left a lot of the day-work in handy day cares. They have hired out the stuff of “women’s work” (babies, home-base-making, tending the fire) — they have ordered it in from Amazon. They have employed “somebody” to do that stuff. They ask to be monetarily compensated for such delegation — but do they have any sense of whether their children have received mentoring that they need?
What modeling do the children receive from the hardworking diaper changers and ABC teachers who handle them in batches — everyone gets the same training every day from perhaps great care-givers, but who does that child know best, the diaper-changer, whose real eyes and face they see many times a day, or do the working mothers take time for real eye contact with their night-time babies? Think of it in terms of eye contacts per day. Critical early learning starts in a parents’ arms. The basis for a whole life. May today’s babies find healthy, loving eyes to study! May the au pair be extraordinary, and dedicated.

Lasting recognition is something that is a positive for all of humankind. We know Rosa Parks. She sat. She simply sat in an important place, and without yelling or weeping or cursing, earned her important place forever!

C’mon! Let us move through the hen-house cackle and fluttering!

Get out your brushes, or your hammers, or your pens, or your blueprints for brilliant inventions, fellow females! Be excellent! Sit in important or backstage places and do the work you are gifted at! The WORK will declare it. Will it be a long “sit”? We don’t know yet.

We “gals” who persistently and doggedly continue to do our WORKs will be considered strong human beings of the 21st century — (not the “weaker sex” or the “screaming Meemies” ) — when all is said and done.

Some of us will become famous!
Like Cleopatra!

Others will start at 80 on our master oeuvre — like Grandma Moses.

SGHolland ©2018

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Susan G Holland

Susan G Holland

Ever curious, I wonder, I ask, I probe, I learn, I write ;soon a grateful 84, still discovering the brand new day. I moved to New Mexico, a whole new paradigm!