What does it mean to be a woman and an artist? How did being a woman affect my experiences as an art student in some of the most prestigious art schools in the country? Now that “Me Too” has exploded across the media, powerful women are talking about the humiliations and abuses they have endured to simply learn and practice their chosen trade.
I started thinking more about this after my visit with my dear friend and gifted artist Meryl Ruth at her home and studio.. She is working on new series that involves “Me Too.” She is working with this image as a point of departure.
I experienced “Me Too” moments both at Boston University in the 1970’s and at Parsons while in Graduate School in the early ’80’s. Was it confusing? Yes. Did I want to be considered an equal to the male students at the easels beside me in my earnest desire to learn and grow as an artist? Absolutely. I felt angry and betrayed. I was not about to Did I know that play along with the sexual advances, mixed messages, and patronizing attitudes of those men, my teachers, who held power and prestige. I knew that to do so would compromise my very sense of self. I did not play along. Instead, I worked harder, showed what we now call “grit,” drew and painted my heart out, and took myself seriously.
I just want to say right now that some of the worst chauvinist attitudes I’ve ever encountered have been in the hallowed halls of art schools coming from some of my male art professors. I’m not going to “name names” right now because that’s not what this post is about. It’s just that I can’t help but think this is still going on today. Head’s up, aspiring artists.