Being a Woman in an all Women Show
Friday, September 13th, 2013
Marissa lee Benedict
I have been accused of secretly wanting to be a man. This comment was made recently during a studio visit with a fellow artist, who saw how uncomfortable and wary I became as she steered our discussion towards gender politics.
I do not harbor the desire to undergo a sex change, but I also do not want to be seen solely as a female artist. It is from this position of defensive resistance in which I find myself "being a woman in an all women show."
There are many ways to experience discrimination in the art world; gender inequality is just one of them. To be defined by one's gender as a female artist is to be limited. A colleague recently brought to my attention the fact that the most reputable galleries here in Chicago all represent far more male artists than female. This inequality is made even worse when one realizes that our city's art schools are enrolling more women than men. An admissions counselor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago informed me that women compose roughly 70% of its student body. A woman can be trained (and pay for that training) as an artist, but it is not the same as her becoming one. "Being a woman in an all women show" is an effort to make up for this blatant discrepancy.
Not all artists consciously implicate their gender while making their work, and yet gender remains a determinant factor in how artworks are curated and disseminated. It seems unfortunate that an all-female exhibition is unusual enough to serve as a curatorial platform.
With this exhibition, Heaven gallery is pleased to exhibit the work of eighteen artists, who all happen to be women. These are good artists, not good-for-being-female artists. With this exhibition, let us hope that the exceptional work of each artist is seen as expected, and not a surprise.