Women in the art world: Exploring balance, harmony and feminine power
By Venus Quintana
Art is a powerful form of communication and bears a unique ability to transcend cultural and linguistic boundaries—it is an exploration of what it means to be human. Art can be brash or sublime, basic or intricate, and is one of the first forms of human expression. It has an extraordinary capacity to express resistance and rebellion; protest and hope. Art touches people in a deeper and more affecting way than academic and political discourse; it moves us to tears, to laughter and to action.
It’s no secret that female artists have been overlooked and underestimated throughout art history. For years, women in the field have been sidelined by men, whether those men be their contemporaries, romantic partners or mentors. The battles fought in the 1970’s certainly paved the way for many of the women artists today, having explored the efforts and accomplishments of international feminists to produce art that reflects women’s life experiences.
Dani Wilbert is a New York City artist and welder, who draws on her childhood experiences to create unique metal sculptures that challenge her gender role in society. “My father was a commercial pilot and he’d take me to the airplane hangars. That’s where I started picking up nuts and bolts and discarded items from the machine shops,” she explains. Dani’s main art focus is on the subject of rats. When the questions arise, Dani puts it very simply, “It is risky and amusing.” Her unusual artwork turns the disgust over onto its own head by showing the viewer personifications of manner and dignity. “For the most part, I portray rats as the height of class and elegance by painting them in stately human social settings.” Most often, Dani’s art is compiled from scrap metal she picks up all over the city and she is rarely offended when her work is mistaken for that of a male artist. Even so, she explains, “I don’t have patience for the guy who tries to test my knowledge of welding during an exhibit opening.”
As a woman and an artist, I believe in the power of art to bring about social change. It is in our common interest as human beings to ensure that artists have the freedom to speak out. Today’s society presents a multitude of challenges for women artists and entrepreneurs, who are constantly striving to maintain equilibrium of ‘art making’ and family life. Melony Mazzeo is a modern-day renaissance woman whose adversities have enabled her to become a true vision of her higher self. As the owner/founder of “Ohmigod” cookies, along with her own line of clothing and jewelry, Melony has proved that women really can do it all. A widow at forty two years old, Melony had to adjust to a new challenging, unexpected chapter of her life. “The death of my husband was a game changer. The catalyst for me was survival,” she explains. “My creative hobby turned into a full time job. Although producing an income was paramount to paying my ongoing bills that showed up monthly on my doorstep, I was truly more excited about the journey than the payout.”
Art in the making may elicit connections to energy so powerfully evocative and memorable that they act as agents of change, setting into motion new physical and emotional journeys of discovery. Creating art can be a powerful process of transformation, where strong emotions can be released and pain transmuted into a sense of hopefulness and trust in a woman’s own ability to work through disappointments and challenges experienced in life. Asia Lee, an accomplished Long Island photographer, has allowed her life experiences to deepen her passion for her work. “I came to this country as a traumatized little orphan girl. It shaped me not to think outside of the box, but to not even have a box,” she describes. While her resume boasts of celebrity clients, Asia’s true passion is capturing the beauty of everyday moments. Her images focus on bringing out the extraordinary beauty of ordinary life. A recent trip to Nigeria is where Asia had the epiphany to share the gift of her artwork and the calming message it shares. “Having lost everything as a young child, I’ve searched for the meaning of life. I feel I’ve found it in creating my work and sharing it with the world to help others feel comfort.”
Life and work can never be perfectly balanced; the scales are tipped in favor of work. Without the fuel of life, artistic inspiration will run out of juice. In short, it will be all work and no play. As artists, we enrich the lives of others. Our own lives, therefore, need to be enriched to start with. For Fareen Butt, her life has been, and will continue to be, one of advancement in perception. An internationally renowned gemstone painter, Fareen’s works are made of precious and semiprecious stones and metals, with the intention of creating a piece that is aesthetically pleasing. “Through the process of becoming resilient, one becomes a richer more multifaceted person,” she reports. “The perspective I have gained over the years, of rising above and finding a higher ground, has undoubtedly enriched my creativity and is reflected in my artwork. Both have grown more complex, more saturated.” The continuation of influences from international human innovation past and present, the pursuit of capturing the omnipresent, and the study as a whole have converged into the creation of her artworks.
The saddening truth is that the art market still suggests that male-dominated power structures persist. Historically, art made by women has struggled to fetch high prices at auction, but the art world looks set to change, and shows increasing signs of recognition for the value and stature of leading female artists. The entry of females into the very uppermost echelons of printmaking, sculpture and photography has risen. Until last November, American photographer Cindy Sherman held the record for creating the world’s most expensive photograph, Untitled #96, sold for $3,890,500. Of course, there are other indicators of success in the art world besides sales figures. Solo shows, when a gallery throws a great deal of its resources and floor space behind a single name, are one way to gauge the esteem in which an artist is held. Diana Pinck, an established artist on Long Island, expresses her passions through portraits, landscapes, still lives and seascapes in a romantic, yet realistic style. Working chiefly in oil and pastel, her paintings are marked by glowing colors that seem to illuminate the canvas from within. “I think it will maybe take another fifty or one hundred years until women artists will be as highly regarded and fetch equal prices as their male contemporaries, but maybe that will never happen,” she explains. Diana is very excited that she is booked for a solo exhibit from March 19 to March 23, 2015 at the Museum of Sex in New York City. “The exhibit will allow me to paint as I please, as there will be no boundaries of how far I can go. My portraits are often very sensual but I will be able to push the envelope a bit with this exhibit.” Diana puts it quite simply, “In the end it should really not matter if the artist is a man or a woman. If it’s great art, it’s great art.”