Women, Art and the Wadsworth

Posted: July 25, 2011 in art, Call to Action, Fight Back

We have a few questions ??

Are women artists any better off when a woman is the director of a museum?

Last month our interest was perked up again when Lynn Hershman Lesson’s movie, “Women Art Revolution” was viewed at Real Art Ways. Women Art Revolution according to the postcard was to be an entertaining and revelatory “Secret history” of Feminist art. The movie was to illuminate this underexplored movement through conversations, observations, archival footage and works of visionary artists, historians, curators and critics. The film detailed major developments in women’s art and the feminist movement which is now widely regarded as the most significant art movement of the late 20th century. We must say we agree, we agree and we agree again. We send out a big cheer to Ms. Hershman Lesson and to all the wonderful women artists in the movie we say thanks, it was good seeing you all again, we love you and to all of you we dedicate this little piece.

We wondered as we wandered through our minds, how our local art museum was doing as far as woman artists were concerned so we said amongst our little circle, “hey this weekend the museum is free on family Saturday so let’s get our little family together and go to take a look for ourselves.” Let’s  find out just what is the condition of women artists at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.” So we started out on our little trip to count the vaginas amongst the penises. Everyone in our little family was alive and kicking up some revolutionary storming back in the day when these  women artists were working full steam ahead to break down the walls erected by the pompus ass dick heads, to keep them out of the galleries and museums. Oh those good old white educated art males came up with some pretty good excuses back then and according to the Guerrilla Girls some in some places aren’t doing any better today. Fuck all of the tired old reasons that the male elite can come up with for pushing down some quite good women artists and women in general. A fat rats ass to women directors who prove themselves to be no better than the pig lot.  A lot still needs smashing, and we wonder now is anyone up to the task?

A new banner, a new look but the same old shit for women artists.

photo by Alvin

Everyone is just a ga ga over the NEW Morgan Great Hall and we have to admit, and we will admit it quite well the hall does look very beautiful and very oh so colorful. Put a lot of large colorful paintings up and no matter what we bet you a dime everyone will say, “Oh, look at that, isn’t that just beautiful. (Though we must admit a crick in our neck looking up at the art, and Goosey Bell says the Franz Kline never looked so small.) Okay baby, we are not here for fun, we are here for work, we are here to count them all one by one.  Goosey Bell brought out her small pad, May Day put on her  Sherlock Holmes hat, gotta leave the pipe in your pocket girl, and Ritchie Poor did a quick survey of the place as he was the most familar with art now and the art of history. So here we go just for the hell of it, just to give a push where a push is needed, to say we aren’t scared of the educated big guys or gals anywhere. To shake our sticks and say, get with it baby, you are telling only a part of art.

Two from left Helen Frankenthaler and Elizabeth Murray. 2 only 2 in all those years of art.

We surveyed 285 works of art, not counting the kick knacks and old furniture and here is a rough break down of what we found.

Artists out and about in the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

                                           Women  20                        Men 265

Near the elevators Main Lobby: 1 woman

Morgan Great Hall: 2 women, 21 men

The old Matrix gallery: 4 women, 6 men, (why all the fucking Warhol’s??)  We always love Perfect Lovers but wish we had come when they were keeping perfect time.

1st Floor Avery Court (modern) 30 men, no women

European Art Late 19th Century 9 men, no women

Impressionists 13 men, no women

CIGNA Gallery: 12 men, no women

Early American: 1 woman, 14 men

American Impressionists 14 men, no women

Early American Modern: 2 women, 32 men

Mid Century Abstraction: 2 women (we love the Bridget Riley), 19 men

Connections Gallery: 1 woman, 9 men

Fleet Gallery of African-American Art: 5 women, 11 men

American Art Colt collection, etc: 1 woman, 17 men

Hudson River School: 1 woman (hurrah for lesbian Harriet Goodhue Hosmer), 31 men.

13% pretty bad.

Can you dig all of that? We can’t. We still can’t get over why the old Matrix gallery has so many Warhol’s. (?) Is it because it’s a look, see how many examples of a famous artist we have. You have heard of Warhol, yes everyone has, he is famous, YEP, we got more, we got them all or just about, just don’t ask where are all of the women!

We didn’t get to RAW the evening that Ms Talbott the director of the Wadsworth spoke but if we did we would have brought along our little survey just to see how she would squirm out of it. What excuses would she use? We are quite familiar with the holdings of the Wadsworth and know that many of the women artists hanging out in the basement are far more interesting than some of the men who hang out in the open. So Emma Furbird Jr. said, “Now you know me. I was down in SOHO way back in the day and helped the girls picket the Whitney and other places, so I got a couple of ideas on how the museum should begin to correct itself.” (ha we can’t wait to hear how they will scam their way out of this one). The ideas that old Furbird JR. gave are very simple, are you ready (?) here goes:

1. The museum must bring out Peggy Diggs Object of Abuse and bring it out NOW!! This art has been in storage for far to long and to us is one of the more important holdings in the contemporary art collection. An education program must be done around its message. Domestic violence against women is far to real to relegate it to storage. We believe that education should be the main goal of a museum not just showing pretty pictures pleasing to the wealthy collectors and patrons.

2. The museum must play the audio tape of Louise Lawlers Bird Calls though out the museum moving it from one area to another for a month.

3. The museum must hold a symposium on Women Artists today and how far we have or haven’t  come since the days of the Feminist art movement.


4. Just like the poster says, SHOW MORE WOMEN! GET THEM OUT OF THE BASEMENT!

Running through queerartist’s mind is the question, “Where is Mlle Bourgeoise Noire when we need her?”

To view a trailer of the movie, Women Art Revolution and to click on other info see: Women Art Revolution: A Film to Terrify Misogynists! over at Real Hartford.

Want to read about an interesting woman artist. Check out Harriet Goodhue Hosmer. The Wadsworth does have 2 works by her on view.


 She established her reputation as a sculptor despite the commonly held notion that women were not artistically creative or physically capable of enduring the arduous process of carving marble.

*Our survey was done right after the announcement for the movie !Women Art Revolution was made. We all went to see it on a Sunday and it was quite good. Everyone should make an effort to track down the movie and see some real art herstory. So what do you think, Are women artists any better off when a women is the director of a museum?

 All in all this piece is just one of the reasons that we got back into doing our blog.

  1. Meghan says:

    I was incredibly dismayed when I saw those numbers, especially because the Wadsworth is run by a woman who lived through the woman art revolution!! Why is there just ONE female artist, or NONE, in almost all of their galleries? I hope that the Wadsworth responds. I really like how you have concrete suggestions for how the Wadsworth could increase their number of female artists on display. That they do have this in their collection – they just need to show them. PS: You are awesome for doing this.

  2. Truth Serum says:

    Please, cut out your bitching! Everyone knows that there are more men artists than women. Look at art history, men are far more creative than women ever have been. None of the women artists in the movie could ever live up to Dali or Picasso. Even if any of them could, the museum is under renovation right now so give them a break.

  3. Richard says:

    WHAT!!!!! Truth Serum.. I suppose that the museum is under renovation is as good as an excuse any. We wouldn’t want any of those fragile little women to break a nail or trip over a extension cord. Better to put them in the basement where they will be safe rather than sorry. OK but when all the renovations are done and everything is in tip top shape ,just like the New look Morgan Great Hall, then I would expect the powers that be at the Wadsworth will bring up out of storage the women. HA! you make me laugh as you are missing the point of who has been running the show of art all these years and the struggle that women artists face.

  4. What a great investigation — thanks for your methodical analysis!

    And, I thought that movie was great too — I just wish it also critiqued the art world as much as it clamored for inclusion within it…

    Congrats on an exciting new blog!

    Love —

    • Richard says:

      Hey Mattilda all our best and love to you. Have a very safe trip back to Santa Fe. thanks for adding another dimension to this piece.

      That old clamoring for inclusion I will never understand it. Some of us here come out of the place of breaking down and dismantling the whole art world crap. Never a good idea to feed the rich who make life so misreable for so many people. We had a series, Oh Art Oh, on A Few Queers On The Prowl and plan to get the series back in order and put it in the pages section. Contains a lot of questions and some good answers about art and how we like it.

  5. kerri says:

    I almost choked on my dinner while reading Truth Serum’s response. There must be a sexist-o-matic app somewhere that has people enter a few key terms, and then it spits out the most cliched, tired response ever.

    Use of the word “bitching” in that was icing on the cake.

    I would like to see the data that proves there are more male artists than female artists. This seems counter-intuitive as many women combine their stay-at-home-mother role with that of the work-from-home role which being an artist lends itself to.

    All museums have the ability to make choices. If they are going to do renovations, they can choose which are remains on display and which goes into storage.

    And I would make the case that Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe, just to name a few majors, are FAR more talented than Picasso ever was.

    *Thanks so much for posting this. If the disparity is unintentional, then we hope that this museum, which I love, will be more mindful in the future.*

  6. Mary Burns says:

    I just read this. Glad I took a scroll through the site. There are so many more women artists in history and working today that need to be shown. Just google and you will see. Perhaps this museum should do a show of women from their collection. I would love to see something like that. I bet then Truth Serum would shut his trap. Thanks for the little note on Harriet Hosmer. What a interesting lesbian artist she was and what an interesting circle of lesbian women she hung out with.

    Thanks for posting this and keep your eye on the place as all of us should. We don’t let right wing nuts off the hook nor should we let the art world off the hook.