Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I remember the first time I was officially exposed to ideas of feminism. I must have been in the third or fourth grade. I used to go to a lot of museums back home in Houston, Texas because most of them were free to children under 18 if you had a library card. It was the Houston Contemporary Arts Museum...a relatively small space compared to the big MFA across the street, but still very edgy and well-frequented. One visit stuck out in my mind in which "the guerilla girls" were the focus of the exhibition. There were many posters that asked what seemed to be pretty simple statements and questions at the time. Statements and questions that highlighted the clear disparity between the representation of female artists in the museums over time. I remember agreeing with some of the posters...and i remember even getting angry at the time...I remember asking my mother later why they were wearing gorilla masks, and why guerilla was spelled different. I was pretty obsessed with it for a while, the kind of playful jokiness of it...but also how true most of what they were asking seemed to be, even to a little girl aspiring to be a famous artist. It was also then that I was explained the concept of anonymity (in response to the question "why do they wear masks?" "who are they?" "why dont they want people to know who they are?") and the notion of tactics of anonymity to make a point. Maybe I didn't know the terms to explain what I was discovering...but I know that it stuck with me for a long time and it made me much more sensitive to women's issues at an early age.
I thought about this memory because I was looking through old notebooks from art history classes in my first year of college here...in which I copied down what I thought at the time to be a brilliantly world-shaking suggestion ... "anonymous was a woman" meaning that most art throughout time that lacks official authorship is generally accepted by art historians to have been produced from the hand of a woman.
I still find this fascinating.