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Hofstra’s Spotlight on Female Artists Reflects Gender Disparity in the Art World

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hofstra chapter.

The Hofstra University Museum of Art held a film screening for the documentary “!Women Art Revolution” on Oct. 7, 2021, with a subsequent talk-back. The film screening was in conjunction with the “Nevertheless She Persisted” gallery in the Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library which features a collection of female artists’ works since the 20th century.

The film, directed by artist Lynn Hershman Leeson, explores the feminist art movement in America during the 1960s-80s

According to Karen T. Albert, director of the Hofstra University Museum of Art, feminist art took many different forms from photography to performance art. “There wasn’t really one look for it, each woman had the ability to express it in her own way,” Albert said. “You’re not conforming to a style, or somebody else’s rules, you’re saying, ‘this is what’s important to me.’”

The film gives examples of some of the artists’ self-referential works. For example, Hannah Wilke, an American artist, used her lymphoma as a muse for her final piece, “Intra Venus,” a photographic collection that details her illness as it progressed until her death in 1993.

Albert also brought up the marginalization of women and other groups of artists trying to find success in the art world. She noted that if there are still exhibitions to spotlight just women artists, it is admitting that inequality still exists.

“They shouldn’t be categorized into ‘women artist,’ ‘black artist’ or ‘gay artist,’ they should all just be ‘artist.’”

Despite how the decision to curate a strictly female artist exhibition “bothered” her, Albert said she knew it had to be done to give a voice to one of the many underrepresented groups in the business.

Leah Zaslavsky, a freshman in the physician assistant dual degree program, was not expecting the film’s “profound” impact.

“I think it’s sad that so much of it hasn’t been revealed to the public,” Zaslavsky said, citing the example of “The Dinner Party,” an installation art piece by Judy Chicago that honors influential women from around the world.

Zaslavsky, who had not visited Axinn’s ninth floor gallery, said that she only recognized one name mentioned in the film, a political group known as the Guerrilla Girls, which a friend had mentioned. Even so, she had trouble remembering what they accomplished. “The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist,” a 1985 piece created by the Guerrilla Girls which can be found at Hofstra’s gallery, is a satiric list of hardships they encountered while trying to break into the art business.

Fiona Mackey, a former forensic science major, said that the film inspired her to change her major to fine arts with a specialization in painting. “Have the women artists in museums, not just paintings of them,” she said.

The Hofstra University Museum of Art curated the exhibition and held the film screening to honor the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Due to the pandemic, the exhibition had to stay in storage for over a year. However, in Karen Albert’s eyes, “like women, we adapted and made it work.”

Elisabeth Ford is a sophomore at Hofstra University and is majoring in journalism with a minor in anthropology. She is from Hingham, Massachusetts and loves living so close to Boston. She loves fashion, the outdoors and music, especially The Beatles! After college, she aspires to travel the world and pursue international journalism.