Paper about Art and Feminism, 1974, page 2

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          whole way I look at history? I'll give you
some examples because I think they are

One of the primary notions that we have
about art is the notion of genius. Art, great
art, is created by great geniuses. And these
geniuses are in some way mythical beings—
different from you and me, more valuable
than you and me—whose products are in
some way inestimably richer and more
important than anything that you or I could
produce. And the genius who is looked up
to by our society as the very apex of human
achievement is seen, par excellence, as the
individual, the one who is set apart from or
rebels or is in some way elevated above the
mass of ordinary human beings.

When l began to be interested in feminism
and when I started looking into the actual,
concrete historical situations in which art
was created or could be created, I found
some very interesting things. Far from
being totally unpredictable or uncaused,
great art was usually produced in fairly pre-
dictable situations. For example, very often
great artists had had fathers or even grand-
fathers who happened to be artists: in other
words, often it was a family endeavor.
Naturally, someone who's interested in art is
going to encourage progeny in that direc-
tion. And I found many father-son or even
grandfather-father—son art situations. Second
of all, I found that if the talented child in
question happened to be a woman the
chances of her going on to be what is con-
sidered a “genius,” that is, an innovator in
the field of art, were minimal no matter what
degree of early talent she showed. For
example, going to the museum in Barcelona
and looking at the early work of Picasso is
really an eye-opener. He was a very, very
talented little boy and his early work is
extraordinary—-he was indeed a child
prodigy. I might also point out that his

‘ father was an artist and a teacher of art.

I asked myself: what if Pablo had been
Pablita? What if he had been a girl? I went
to the Brooklyn Museum class for talented
children and there really were girls in that -
class who were also little wunderkinder—
little child prodigies—who did work on the
level of that of the twelve-year—old Picasso.
What happened to them? Why didn't their
genius come-to fruition in the way that
Picasso's did? One tends to think that in


any situation innate genius will come out no
matter what the odds are against it. But it
does not come out, no matter what the odds
are against it. It comes out only in very
special circumstances, and it fails to fulfill
its potential in very definable circumstances
too; and one of those circumstances of
almost guaranteed failure is if the child
prodigy in question happens to be a woman.
There are no doubt many unsung Pablita
Picassos who are doing dish washing or
being sales girls simply because of the fact
that they are women.

Now this of course forced me to raise other
issues in art." Feminism not -only asks ques-
tions about the position of women in society,
it seems to me that it forces basic ideologi-
cal questioning of many other assumptions
we accept as normal in a given culture or a
given society. in other words, if you ask
why are there so few women who have
pursued successful careers or are what we,
call geniuses in the fine arts, feminism forces
us to be conscious of other questions about
our so-called natural assumptions. That

is one way in which feminism affects cultural
institutions: it sets off a chain reaction.
From your feelings about injustice or your
feelings about wanting to push further into
issues like that of genius you could go on to
question a great many other assumptions
that govern the discipline as a whole and
ask why art history has focussed so exclu-
sively on certain individuals and not others,
why on individuals and not on groups, why
on art works in the foreground and some-
thing called social conditions in the back-
ground rather than seeing them as mutually
interactive. In other words, you can ques-
tion the entire paraphernalia and standards
of the discipline or institution that you’re
working in.

In addition, my involvement in feminism has
led me to question some of the standards
and values by which we have judged art in
the past. in the article i wrote, "Why Have
There Been No Great Women Artists?,"

I said that I thought that simply looking into
women artists of the past would not really
change our estimation of their value.
Nevertheless, I went on to look into some
women artists of the past and I find that my
estimations and values have in fact changed.
Another plus to feminism which I think can
make one more flexible, more open to

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