July 20th 2008

The Lilith eZine Sunday Edition

Letter from the Editor

In 1971 Linda Nochlin popped the question "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?". The answer she gave is that artists are effected by social forces and "that art is not a free, autonomous activity". Instead artists become famous and "great" as the result of the institution of art, the stereotype of the artist-genius, and that women artists are not given the same status because women don't fall into the stereotype of the artist-genius.

Essentially, male artists being accepted as geniuses is the status quo and self-perpetuating. So in reality it is not a matter of skill or genius. It is purely psychological. There are plenty of great women artists out there, but they're not treated the same way because women aren't considered to be geniuses.

Indeed historically women's art has largely been considered to be "arts and crafts", comparative to things like knitting and quilting. But seriously lets stop and consider knitting. What genius woman invented knitting? Somebody, extremely skilled with knots, must have had a brainfart and the next thing you know they've combined yarn and two knitting needles and created elaborate garments composed of knots.

While we're at it, what genius woman invented bread? How did someone, regardless of their sex, manage to combine flour, sugar, water and yeast, and heat it to the point of creating an edible substance? It is a mind-blowing thought to invent such a complicated food substance with little or no previous knowledge of chemistry. Egypt is home to the world's oldest known yeast-bread bakeries and it is presumed it must have been an Egyptian that somehow first figured out the intricacies of baking.

For whatever reason however the women who invent things, or create great works of art, aren't treated like geniuses the same way men are. If a man had invented bread or knitting we would probably know his name, but because it was likely a woman who invented these things their names have been lost to the mists of time.

While we're at it, was Pablo Picasso really that great? I think not. He stole most of his ideas from other artists. Even he himself admitted that Guernica was not as successful as he wanted it to be, and thus Picasso never again attempted a large scale work.

Suzanne MacNevin
Editor of the Lilith eZine

The Art History Archive
Martha Rosler
Feminist Art Practices & Political Art
Pablo Picasso

The Feminist eZine
Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

The Sex eZine