This is the simple question that the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is proposing to all who take the time to wander through one of their most recently opened exhibits, “Women Take the Floor.”
According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C.:
Nearly 46% of visual artists in the United States identify as women.
Approximately 13% of artists represented in major U.S. museum collections are female.
Women artists earn 74 cents for every dollar made by male artists on average.
So if the first question was difficult to answer, you can now see why.
The MFA is acknowledging that their institution has played a role in the misrepresentation of women within the art community and is taking action to change that by creating this exhibit which is only showcasing pieces made by women. With 8 themes represented throughout the exhibit, the MFA represents women artists in every medium and from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Five pieces I felt had major influence in the exhibit are below.
This three-dimensional abstract fiber is a sculpture from Hicks who was a pioneer for women in the post-war fiber movement, largely influenced by South American textiles.
Banshee Pearls, 1991
This series of lithograph self- portrait prints pays homage to Smith’s Irish heritage by representing the story of a banshee (an Irish female spirit that lives throughout the countryside) with illusions to a string of pearls that represent her grandmother.
Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia), 1928
Kahlo, famous for her political imagery, painted this portrait of 2 working-class, mixed-race women in a time period when modern Mexican art was dominated by high-class men.
Trans Liberation: Building a Movement (CeCe McDonald), 2016
This photograph taken by Bowers uses representational elements from feminist movements of the past to focus on “a fresh form of sisterhood between trans and nontrans women.”
Elaine de Kooning
Bacchus #46, 1982
Kooning was a strong defender of abstract expressionalism and women in the arts. In her own paintings she represents figures–this one showing “the churning, writhing movement” of a statue in the Luxemburg Gardens in Paris.
Women have come a long way not only in the art world, but in every aspect of life. This exhibit is a mark of how far down the path we have come, but also how much further there still is to go. I highly recommend making your way down to the MFA to let this exhibit spark inspiration to continue down the same path as the strong women before us.
The “Women Take the Floor Exhibit” is open from September 2019- May 2021 in order to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote.