Maddox Gallery are proud to represent a range of talented female artists that practice a plethora of different medium and styles. In honour of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day last Monday, we spoke to three of our female artists to get their unique perspective on what it is like to be a woman in the contemporary art world. From discussing how gender impacts their work to disclosing their hopes for future female creatives, we discuss all with Graceland, Lauren Baker and the recently signed, Dawn Okoro.
100 years ago, it was possible to count the number of successful female artists on one hand. With gender limitations strictly in place, it seemed art was reserved for the white male elite. Thankfully, this has slowly changed over the past century, with pioneering female artists paving the way. One such artist was Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian painter from the Early Modern period that defied social norms. With her own retrospective at the National Gallery last year, the artist is now well celebrated and is incidentally Graceland’s favourite artist. Talking about her, Graceland said:
“I find her particularly inspiring. She was praised by some for her genius work but ultimately was dismissed due to her gender”.
Like Gentileschi, Graceland explores gender through her paintings. Reappropriating traditional representations of women, Graceland’s work decode the cyphers of Western culture that have come to define femininity. On her work, Graceland notes:
“I try to focus on symbolism and women are symbols of nurturing, softness and the earth. I contrast this with femme fatales to show the hypocrisy of it all”.
For British multi-media artist, Lauren Baker, gender does not have the same significance. Despite being inspired by a whole host of female artists including Yayoi Kusama, Marina Abramovic and Nancy Fouts, Baker does not feel that her gender directly influences the subject matter of her works.
“I don’t think of myself as a female artist. I just think of myself as an artist. Gender doesn’t influence my work because my art is inspired by universal energies and interpreting the unseen. It is inspired by the metaphysical, a higher state of consciousness beyond the existence of gender”.
Although Lauren’s scientific approach and her genderless perception of artistry, Baker acknowledges that whilst gender hasn’t affected her understanding of her identity as an artist, it has undoubtedly affected many other women's progress within the industry.
“Figures show that women are underrepresented in galleries and museums, and that they often get unfair deals for their efforts but I try not to get bogged down with negatives. We have to remember it is an amazing time to be a woman in the world! Our voices, and our art, are being heard and seen now more than ever before in history. To be alive, to create, to be heard is magical and significant”.
For Dawn Okoro, the opportunity for women to make great art and be seen is integral to the meaningful dialogue surrounding gender.
“I see important contributions to conversations around gender being made through the strong art that women are creating. The art I make is undoubtedly influenced by my gender, as I see my work as the expression of my viewpoints as a woman”.
Okoro credits much of her inspiration to Kenyan visual artist, Wangechi Mutu, as well as the eminent collage artist, Deborah Roberts, and states that her hope for the future of art is that “women artists continue supporting each other and continue to rise”.
This notion of sisterhood is integral for many female artists working in the industry. Graceland notes that:
“In art, there is a strength, bond and respect between women in general. However, there are so few opportunities for women in the art industry, us female artists often find ourselves contesting for the same seat at the table. But I will always give advice or help someone else if they need me too”.
When asked what advice Graceland would give to support her fellow female artists, she remarked that “the best piece of advice I could give is be consistent. Find your niche and perfect it. Also remember that misogyny and sexism are taught and if you're told no in any form, it's not a reflection of you but a reflection of that person's beliefs. In today’s world, there is room for anyone to make an impact regardless of gender”.
Okoro agrees, noting that “although gender may have influenced my experience as an artist at some point, since it is such a male-dominated industry, the best piece of advice I could give any female artist is go for it and push through any fear”.
Lauren Baker had equally encouraging words of advice stating “People respond to passion. Make art that you are passionate about and speak about your art with passion”. She also added that it is important to celebrate success and stay grateful.
“It’s a weird and unregulated world and you'll meet some charlatans along the way, but it certainly beats a desk job! This is your dream, the dream isn't easy, but it’s your dream”.
This sense of comradery and positivity seems to signify a shift in contemporary art. With female artists on the rise, it seems now more than ever, they are championing each other’s success. To echo the words of our talented female artists, we encourage any aspiring creative to be the change you want to see in the world. As Graceland succinctly noted “the only thing separating male artists from female artists is opportunity and thankfully, opportunities are increasing”.