Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Woman Artist Even My Mother Could Love/Strong Women in Art

Louise Nevelson 

I taught art in public schools for many years.  I always tried to find interesting ways to teach children about art history. I had to make art history come alive for them.  I brought home videos to review for class, one of those was of Louise Nevelson as an older artists. 
My Mother, who was also aging and worried about her wrinkles, was captivated by Nevelson's life and looks.  She told me when she got older she could at least look as interesting as Louise Nevelson! 
Louise Nevelson/google image

Louise was born in 1889 in Russia not long before my Mothers birth in 1913.  Women born in a generation of war, depression and strife.  Louise went to the art student league and studied art.  She later married and was expected to be a good wife who moved in her husbands world of socialites.  It was not a world she could thrive in, she left her husband with her young son Myron and went back to New York City.  It was there something interesting of those odd things in life that lead to amazing things later...she and her son wandered the streets of New York collecting wood for heat.  The wood was not a log, or wood from a forest, but wood from old buildings and wood that had been worked or crafted for use.  That very wood would give Louise the idea for her wood collages later in her career and big her signature work of her life!  

Wood Collage Sculpture by Louise Nevelson     google image

I think it is difficult for us to think of the tenacity and strength it took for this woman, in an era when women were not allowed to do much, still succeeded and made her way. She challenged the idea of what women were allowed to paint and what society dictated women could do.  The following excerpt is from Wikapedia about her role in the women's movement. As you read through this you will see the sexism she dealt with in her life and the art world.  

"Louise Nevelson has been a fundamental key in the feminist art movement. 
Credited with triggering the examination of femininity in art, Nevelson challenged the vision of what type of art women would be creating with her dark, masculine and totem-like artworks.[1] Nevelson believed that art reflected the individual, not "masculine-feminine labels", and chose to take on her role as an artist, not specifically a female artist.[25] Reviews of Nevelson's works in the 1940s wrote her off as just a woman artist. A reviewer of her 1941 exhibition at Nierendorf Gallery stated: "We learned the ar

tist is a woman, in time to check our enthusiasm. Had it been otherwise, we might have hailed these sculptural expressions as by surely a great figure among moderns." Another review was similar in its sexism: "Nevelson is a sculptor; she comes from Portland, Maine. You'll deny both these facts and you might even insist Nevelson is a man, when you see her Portraits in Paint, showing this month at the Nierendorf Gallery."[26]

Even with her influence upon future generations of feminist artists, Nevelson's opinion of discrimination within the art world bordered on the belief that artists who were not gaining success based on gender suffered from a lack of confidence. When asked by Feminist Art Journal if she suffered from sexism within the art world, Nevelson replied "I am a woman's liberation."[22]"
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