The New York Times reported on the passing of artist Jane Wilson today. Wilson was a founding member of the Hansa Gallery and later went on to exhibit with the likes of Pollack, de Kooning, Rauschenberg and Helen Frankenthaler. Andy Warhol commissioned her to paint his portrait while later choosing her as a subject in one of his experiment films and in his compilation “The 13 Most Beautiful Women.”
I admit to not having heard of Jane Wilson prior to reading about her obituary. I am left questioning the age old adage regarding women in the arts and the lack of representation and media that prevails. In 1947 when Wilson was first on the New York scene the numbers were even lower. I find it interesting and rather discouraging that there has not been more history and information on this small percentage of women who persevered in the days of yonder yet managed to exhibit beside male counterparts that are now household names.
The current production of Big Eyes tells the story of Margaret Keane. Convinced by her husband that no one would purchase a painting from a woman Keane went on to produce art that steadily supported her family for ten years before she finally left and disclosed the truth.
What is it about women in the arts, or any field for that matter, that is such a threat to equality. Today 51% of American artists are women yet only 28% are represented in museums across the country. Less than 3% of the artists in the Modern Art section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are women, but 83% of the nudes are female. It appears that the objectification of women started centuries ago and our culture continues to support this system today.
Fortunately groups such as the Guerilla Girls, The National Museum of Women in the Arts, and organizations such as Women Arts are working to educate and promote work by women yet I can’t help but point out the void of equally masculine monikered groups working to promote male artists. The fact that it is not needed is wherein the problem lies. It is my hope that my daughters one day don’t understand this dilemma. That it is akin to a foreign concept to which they have no recognition. “I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” -Alice Paul
Onward and creatively we go. RIP Ms. Wilson