Monthly Archives: April 2015

Throwback Thursday – KCAC Forum Aug 1977

KCAC Forum Newsletter Volume 3 Number 8 August 1977

By Pam Ione

KCAC Logo_Angry Artist 1977 has been an excellent year for promoters of mass produced art.  Television and newspaper ads declare “Starving Artist Sale.” This week only! 1000 original oils from $25 to $50 framed! And while artists cringe at their implication, the public flock to these art sales by the thousands.

For the artists, these sales represent a terrible injustice to the meaning of original art and how it is produced; to the placement of artists on a VERY poor socio-economic level; and to the way in which art is priced. Mass art has put a punch card in the creative clock by which dedicated artists work.

But the idea of mass art sales was inevitable.  “Creativity,” “original,” “art” are poorly defined terms, and anytime an ambiguity arises in a free enterprise society such as ours, there will be someone who will eventually figure out a way of using that equivocation to his/her own financial advantage.  And although artists in various states have picketed the sales, attempted to enact legislation banning the art marts from their particular states, nothing has changed.  Nor will it.  Mass art sales are here to stay in one form or another, and for several very good reasons.  The public likes them.  And what the public likes, it generally gets.  also, to root out these promoters, artists must legally define those vague terms “original” and “art”; a very difficult if not impossible task.  No doubt the promoters would be laughing all the way to court.

So what is the solution? Artists must figure out a way of beating the promoters at their own game, without demeaning their integrity as professional artists.  Granted we cannot sell as cheaply as they can, but then we are not selling inferior work.

There is an irony here that the promoters may have outsmarted themselves without realizing it.

They have raised the public’s conception of art from cheap, poorly tinted photographic wool-worth reproductions of the Masters, to slightly more expensive commercialesque rendering in REAL paint on REAL canvas. That is an enormous step for an entire population of moderately educated people! And the fact that the public yearns to have the status of owning original art is demonstrated in the massive sales the art marts make.  The public is developing a taste for the texture, feel, and smell of a genuine painting on canvas.  And, just like the young people who begin wine drinking with Moran David, over the years they develop a taste for better and better wines – so the buyers of inferior originals (or mass produced ones) develop better tastes.  And they become willing to pay the price.  the promoters of mass art sales are beginning the same process.  They are walking right into our hands.

Max Adrian

If you haven’t checked out the KCAC Artist Lifestyle Project on Instagram then you are missing out on the greatness that is Kansas City artists! Don’t worry though we are keeping the art and artists coming with the talented Max Adrian (@max.adrian) .

Max Adrian is an artist with a diverse studio practice that involves sculpture, installation, photography, and writing. Greatly influenced by history and the art of storytelling, Adrian is concerned with ways in which humans engage with one another among such issues as social rights, sexuality, and cultural traditions. His work, while bordering a line between playful and sinister, often takes on the guise of toys, tools, or sports equipment, asking the viewer how such objects are to be interacted with and under what means. Adrian is a 2015 Windgate Fellow and a former resident of the New York Studio Residency Program in Brooklyn, NY.

To read more about Max and see his current work, check out his website.

Here is a little sneak peak of what we will be seeing from Max over the next several days…

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We will be following Max on his Instagram journey Thursday, April 30th – Tuesday, May 5th, so be on the lookout for all things Max!

Also be sure to check out Max’s upcoming exhibition and curatorial debut at the Kansas City Museum which opens this Saturday, May 2 from 5 pm – 9 pm.

Support your local arts and artists!

If you missed anything last week from Silvia Beatriz Abisaab (@silvibeatriz) you can always catch up on the KCAC Instagram (@kcartistscoalition) to see what has been happening or search the Instagram hashtags: #kcartistlifestyle #kcacartistlifestyle

Throwback Thursday – KCAC Forum

By Jeanne Stump – University of Kansas

KCAC Logo_Angry Artist Everyone interested in the history of art has become more aware of the myriad difficulties experienced by women who sought to establish themselves as artists in years gone by.  These diverse and extensive problems have been explored and documented in convincing detail in a number of recent articles, books, and exhibitions.  No comprehensive discussion is possible or intended here, but some mulling over of various predicaments which made life hard for women artists seems apropos.

One situation which caused distress was the inability of some male artists to treat as equals the female artists which whom they were associated.  A case in point is the story of Edouard Manet’s brash repainting of a Berthe Morisot picture about which she had asked advice. He pounced upon the canvas with an improving brush, laughing uproariously; she stood by in anguish, unable to assert herself in protest.  One can only imagine what kind of a fracas would have ensued if it had been Edgar Degas who’s painting Manet treated in this fashion! Degas, incidentally, can also be cited for his comments in regard to Mary Cassatt. While he admired her work enormously, he could not refrain from making highly insulting remarks such as, “I do not admit that a woman can draw like that,” or (explaining the studies he made of Cassatt Strolling in the Louvre) that “he wished to show woman’s crushed respect and absence of all feeling in the presence of art.”

Another kind of social rejection was recorded by Cecilia Beaux in her autobiography; she indicated the vague suspicion with which women artists have sometimes been viewed. While studying in France at the end of the last century, Beaux went to Concarneau in Brittany for summer sketching.  Breton peasants were accustomed to serving as models for the artists who flocked to the area, and Beaux sought to hire a young Breton girl to sit for her.  Accompanied by a female friend, the artist properly requested permission from the girl’s parents.  She was coldly and stonily refused: “we turned away humiliated by the consciousness that we were in some way suspect.” Disappointed and unable to understand the precise reason for this rejection, Beaux sportingly accepted it as an entertaining incident, and resigned herself to having an American acquaintance pose for her.

A raffish, don’t-care attitude has been more or less expected of male artists. A studio bordering on squalor, an indulgence in drunken revelry, or a notorious love life never seemed to impair a male artist’s reputation. But women were always expected to maintain an appearance of respectability.  (Thus women artists could scarcely risk appearing at the raucous cafe meetings which played an important role in the formation of various art movements in Paris in the nineteenth century).  When poverty was added to the need for gentility, the student years could become particularly miserable. Apparently a matter of pressing concern was that of finding decent housing.  Thus we discover that in 1878 in Rome, a Miss Mayor, aware of the needs of young Englishwomen studying in Italy, opened a “Home for Lady Artists” at 38 Via degli Artisti, where the young hopefuls were “received on the lowest terms possible to be remunerative.” The women (referred to an “inmates”) could become part of a community which fulfilled a supportive role, providing friendships and “good introductions” as well as summer excursions to sites of Italian art.

Women in the American colony in Paris responded to the same needs when they founded a similar institution in 1893 at 4 rue de Chevreuse, near the Ecole des Beaux-ARts and the Luxemourg garden. A library, reading room, and gallery for showing works were included.

At times, women’s biological and social functions have produced virtually insurmountable difficulties in achieving fulfillment as artists.  These range from the merely harrowing (exhausting household work, nursing the sick) to the tragic (the blotting out of the promising careers of Eva Gonzales, May Alcott Nieriker, and Paula Modersohn-Becker, each of whom died after giving birth). Those artists which large families to tend, such as Rachel Ruysch and her ten children, appear heroic. The traditional belief in the weakness of women – in body, if not mind and spirit too – was a strong barrier to her acceptance in the art world.  Thus Arthur Edwin Bye could write in 1918:

Why this emphasis upon masculine strength and virility in seeking a definition for a great artist? Because the production of a work of art demands these things.  Painting is the hardest kind of work. Even an ordinary painting – a sketch, not a masterpiece – demands of an artist whole-souled concentration for the time being.

This is the same Mr. Bye who insisted that creating children must be the woman’s greatest aspiration, that a woman loses her life in her children; he thus explained why women can never be great painters.

Rather than dwelling on such complex social, psychological, and physical problems, we might consider a relatively simpler one, that of the question of getting women’s art exhibited.  Finding themselves frequently excluded from groups of male artists, as well as from various kinds of exhibitions, women in France in 1881 formed the Union des Femmes peintres et sculpteuses.  By checking the journals of the time, one finds that their exhibitions grew steadily. In their tenth annual exhibition, held at the Palais des Champs-Elysees, there were 830 entries.  A reviewer found a good word to say for the “interessantes physionomies d’enfants” which were displayed, but he felt that in the main there was a disturbing lack of originality.

It appears that there were small group exhibitions at the end of the century which were dominated by women, but not labeled as shows of “women’s art,” perhaps in order to receive unprejudiced treatment.  One suspects this was the case in the exhibition called “Le Petit Salon,” opening at the gallery of the Theatre d’Application in Paris in December, 1890.  It included four women – Mesdames Berria-Blanc, Louise Breslau, Delance-Feurgard, and Guerard-Gonzales- and one man – E. Ferdinand Polack. Madame Guerard-Gonzales was given special praise by a critic writing for Voltaire, who felt that she showed a notable acuity of vision, and possessed a style which could be considered as that of an “impressionistic Chardin.” In spite of his seeming preference for her household subjects, and his mention of her “womanly delicacy of soul,” this was lavish praise. (Her painting is virtually unknown today.)  An abundance of critical opinion has been written about art produced by women (published chiefly by male critics) which reveals stereotyped thinking and a reluctance to give the artist her due.  As recently as 1960 the French correspondent to Art News wrote condescendingly about what he believed was Mary Sassatt’s hopeless dependence on Degas.  He stated that Degas had transmitted to her his “integrity, a professional competence, a firmness of line and decisiveness of composition.” This statement was follwed by: “She is like a healthy co-ed who has been asked to play singles by the college tennis champion, there is something strained (at times, one thinks of Valadon) about her brave effort.”

Humor has frequently been called upon to put women artists in their places.  Jokes and anecdotes related in popular publications have implied that women should not bother their heads about being artists.  To cite one example: the plight of a young woman artists “from the South” was described.  She brought her works to show to a dealer.  He didn’t seem to find them very interesting; she protested that he was not looking at her paintings.  His insensitive reply was “I tried that. I’d rather look at you.”

Museums have not been guiltless in their treatment of aspirations of women, either.  When the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery and the Rochester Art Club arranged a nostalgic exhibition to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Club, a “humorous” feature was the re-creation of a Lady Artist’s Studio, all feathers and furbelows, where presumably no real art could ever be made.  A fine photograph of this effort was published in American Artist in January, 1953 issue with the comment, however, that the ladies had now “monopoly on this kind of artiness.”

Today the problems  appear to be diminishing, as many of the attitude discussed here are being broken down.  Certainly no one feels that the issues of the past should be dwelt upon as alibis.  Women are actively seeking ways to support one another in the precarious ambiance of the art world, but probably the cardinal need is for the artist to find resources within herself. Stories of women who drew upon their inner stamina to confront difficult circumstances are numerous; they are part of the tradition of women artists.  One instance might be the reaction of Lady Kennet (born Kathleen Bruce) a British artist with many significant sculpture commissions in the years between World Wars I and II, largely forgotten today.  In 1901 she was a naive, gently-reared art student in Paris, suddenly thrust into a life-drawing studio.  At the end of the studio passed one by one a string of nude, male models.  Each jumped for a moment on to the model throne, took a pose, and jumped down.  The model for the week was being chosen.  “Before reason could control instinct I turned and fled, shut myself into the Lavatory and was sick.”

Then she scolded herself, summoned up her courage, refused to quit.  She returned to the studio, and found that it “took a very short time for me to bast an appraising eye over a model, as critically as a pianist running his fingers over the piano upon which he is about to play.”

Grace Hartigan has made interesting statements about her refusal to become a “victim” during her career, and about the importance of making deliberate choices. “But the moves that I have made in my life have been ones that I have wanted and I don’t feel that I have been coerced.”  Louise Nevelson is famous for her courageous outlook, for her refusal to be ignored, and for her confrontation of the establishment.

Finally, one might cite an often quoted, classic expression of the spirit of assertiveness from Georgia O’Keeffe.  It appeared in the catalogue for her first large exhibition at New York’s Anderson Galleries in 1923:

I grew up pretty much as everybody else grows up and one day seven years ago found myself saying to myself – I can’t live where I want to – I can’t go where I want to – I can’t do what I want to – I can’t even say what I want to.  I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint what I wanted to and say I wanted to when I painted…

Silvia Beatriz Abisaab

The KCAC Artist Lifestyle Project continues…

with local artist and photographer Silvia Beatriz Abisaab (@silvibeatriz). Silvia is a photographer based here in Kansas City and is currently working on a major in Photography from the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI). Her current photography projects include collaborating and documenting fellow KCAI students, artists and the Kansas City community. In her individual works and collaborative projects she explores a minimal aesthetic and investigates how detail, color, and space translate through an image.

To read more about Silvia and see her current work, check out her website.

Here is a little sneak peak of what we will be seeing from Silvia over the next several days…

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We will be following Silvia on her artistic journey Thursday, April 23rd – Tuesday, April 28th, so make sure to get your Instagram ready for all things Silvia!

If you missed anything last week from Siara Berry (@siaraberry) don’t fret! You can always go to the KCAC Instagram (@kcartistscoalition) to see what has been happening or search the following Instagram hashtags: #kcartistlifestyle #kcacartistlifestyle