ArtFul Living: St. Louis Area Fine Arts, Crafts & Performing Arts

Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Arts Editor

March is Women’s History Month

This year, more than ever, it’s time to put the spotlight on WOMEN in the arts.

Said painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), “The men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I’m one of the best painters.” Artist-instructor Hans Hofmann gave a “compliment” to artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984) and wife of artist Jackson Pollock, saying, “This is so good you wouldn’t know it was done by a woman.” Hmmm…

As an artist myself, I have long been a proud member of the National Museum for Women in the Arts, “the world’s only major museum dedicated solely to the creative contributions of women,” located in Washington, D.C. I encourage you to support this noble institution by becoming a member today, right now, in celebration Women’s History Month (info at https://nmwa.org). The following art-facts were provided by NMWA:

  • 51% of visual artists today are women; on average, they earn 81¢ for every dollar made by male artists.
  • Work by women artists makes up only 3–5% of major permanent collections in U.S. and Europe; 34% in Australian state museums.
  • Of 590 major exhibitions by nearly 70 institutions in the U.S. from 2007–2013, only 27% were devoted to women artists.
  • Only 27 women (out of 318 artists) are mentioned in current edition of H.W. Janson’s survey, History of Art—up from zero in the 1980s.
  • From the 16–19th centuries, women were barred from studying the nude model, which formed the basis for academic training and representation.
  • Less than 4% of the artists represented in the Modern Art sections of The Metropolitan Museum are women, but 76% of the nudes in artworks are female (prompting the question, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met??”)
  • Though women earn half of the MFAs granted in the U.S., only 30% of artists represented by commercial galleries are women.
  • Only 24% of directorships at museums with budgets over $15 million are held by women; they earn 71¢ for every dollar earned by male directors.
  • The top three museums in the world (the British Museum, est. 1753; the Louvre, est. 1793; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, est. 1870) have never had female directors.
  • Many people have a tough time listing just 5 women artists. All month, the NMWA is asking you to share pictures of your favorite women artist on social media using #5WomenArtists.
  • Follow along on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Women in the arts is not a recent occurrence. Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653), baroque Italian painter, has become a heroine. This daughter of painter Orazio Gentileschi created powerful works in an era when women were generally denied artistic voice.

Locally, Dance St. Louis kicks off the month with their annual PNC Arts Alive New Dance Horizons V, March 3-4 at the Touhill. Even if you read this after-the-fact, the program deserves attention with this year’s theme of Women Who Inspire. “We know what art can do, how it changes perspectives, even changes lives,” said Michael Scully, PNC regional president for St. Louis. The performances pay homage to such greats as Katherine Dunham, Josephine Baker, Hildegard of Bingen, Susannah Cahalan, Louise Boureois, and Gabriela Mistral. If those names are unfamiliar, it might be good to do a little homework this month: learn about them at www.dancestlouis.org/new-dance-horizons.

Through April 2, MOCRA on St. Louis University’s campus hosts an exhibition in its side chapel galleries of works by women artists, including Susan Schwalb, Junko Chodos, Sr. Helen David Brancato, and Sue Eisler. More info at www.mocra.slu.edu.

On March 19, the St. Louis Low Brass Collaborative presents a concert with Stiletto Brass Quintet. Meet the Quintet members: Nicole Abissi is a professional trombonist and teacher living in Atlanta, performs with professional orchestras worldwide. Velvet Brown is professor of tuba and euphonium at Pennsylvania State University. Amy Gilreath, a founding member of Stiletto Brass Quintet, is university professor and performer as Principal Trumpet with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, the Illinois Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonia da Camera, has played extra/sub with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and serves as the Brass faculty of the Orvieto Musica Trumpet Fest and Chamber Music Festival in Orvieto Italy. Cathy Leach, played Principal trumpet with the Knoxville Symphony and the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestras for 31 years. Misty Tolle played with Broadway orchestras, including Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Les Miserables, holding artist residencies throughout the country. They perform, in their signature red stiletto pumps, at Keating Center on Kirkwood High School’s campus. More information can be found at http://www.stilettobrass.com/.