Tag Archives: feminism

Normalizing inequity

I just saw a repost of “The Problem of the Overlooked Female Artist: An Argument for Enlivening a Stale Model of Discussion,” an article by Ashton Cooper published on Hyperallergic over a year ago in January 2015 and am discussing it here because it is a subject that is all too close to my own experience and also to what some of my recent work was “about”–my drawings in which a half cadaverous but still living bleeding woman artist is confronted by the two polarities or scenarios of what one might call terminal inclusion, “still too young” and “not dead enough.” I also wrote about this whole finally giving very old women artists a bit of greater visibility and recognition–100 is the new 70–phenomenon recently in fashion in the art world, on A Year of Positive Thinking in posts such as “Just a short message from Venus” from June 24, 2015 and http://ayearofpositivethinking.com/2015/06/01/miss-piggy-and-madame-de-beauvoir-a-new-fable-of-la-fontaine-cochon-et-castor/ from June 1 2015.

In her text Cooper examines the phenomenon and particularly examines the language used to promote it, a method that is useful in the effort to denormalize an inequity that has become second nature,

As a onetime writer and editor for a company that owns two art magazines and an art-centric website, I can attest that art journalism is in no way immune from conventions that ostensibly champion women artists, but in fact perpetuate problematic narratives about them — tropes so prevalent, even I have operated within them. In particular, I’m thinking of the widespread myth of the “overlooked,” “forgotten,” and/or “rediscovered” female artist.

I also found very significant one of Cooper’s conclusions which is the importance of looking at the actual socio-economic and aesthetic conditions of the women artists’ lives and careers in those years they mysteriously were not “discovered” enough…in fact when they were doing really interesting work, were part of interesting communities, while young men of their circle were getting mid career retrospectives at major museums before they reached the age of 40.” Cooper continues,

So instead of focusing on the moment when these women were finally “found” — and by extension, on the institution that was gracious enough to do so — I propose we talk more about that period where she was toiling away in obscurity. What was she doing then? Where was she showing? Who was she in community with? How did her practice change? What forces of exclusion did she face? Instead of the tired story where a masculinist force deigns to discover, find, or recognize female artists, what if we tried to also understand the material realities of these women’s lives? Ultimately, we would not be so dependent on the recognition of the art world’s skewed mainstream if we used these histories as case studies to define different kinds of success.

Parenthetically, I have also in the past noted that the time period when artists produce the work that later has the greatest monetary value is the period when they are working in relative obscurity but in a lively artistic community. There is something to be said for privacy and even for the productive nature of being forced to clarify and intensify your work in the effort of making yourself seen, heard, understood. Success right out of graduate school, for example, means the ideology of the work is never tested against lack of response or changing fashions. This is a paradox, of how the market alters artistic production–without some recognition and market success an artist’s struggle to produce work can be too great, if you add to this general reality the inequities created by gender, which are well established and studied, you have a much greater difficulty factor enhanced by the fact that women who are in between, neither young and sexy or very old with their transgressiveness now innocuously “cute” are of no interest to the journalistic narrative Cooper discusses, and yet achieving market success young can put stresses on work that turn interesting challenges and private intensities to public–“merchandise” as I quoted my mother recently. Too early recognition can be a trap, but too late can be a tragedy of sorts, when the artist is no longer able to use the success and the financial security to grow new work and realize long held dreams for their work because they are simply too old and tired or ill..or dead. Louise Bourgeois is the one of the few if not the only example of a woman artist who began to get some real material and critical success in her 70s but then was able to have two more decades to use that success to finance ambitious new projects–that is so so rare.

In terms of language, I would think in terms of replacing “rediscovered” with “hidden in plain sight,” to mark the fact that many of the women artists who eventually may be lucky enough to be “rediscovered,” as Cooper points out, have in fact been visible all along, if you bothered to look, close to the center, exhibiting, lecturing, writing, respected even, but always with the sense of auditioning for a part they already have. And whenever an older woman artist is “rediscovered,” there a lot of, mostly women, artists and art historians, shrugging their shoulders because they have been teaching and writing about and been inspired by that artist’s work for years. The in plain sight part is obvious, the hidden is in the blindness that gender bias and ageism bring to the situation.

As I have tried to explain recently to someone, it is Not Normal that an artist like June Leaf has to wait until she is in her mid 80s to get a show at the Whitney, not a true retrospective mind you, but a drawing show with some sculpture in it, in the small gallery off the lobby. It’s not cute or great, though of course it is wonderful and much deserved and well past due, but there is nothing normal about it in the wider view of young male artists having museum retrospectives at barely the 10 year mark in their careers.

While we should celebrate these late moments of more public recognition for some older women artists and be grateful to have the opportunity to see some of their work, we should not normalize the inequity and abnormality of the phenomenon that Cooper discusses.


Handmaids’ Tales–a story in the New York Times

Azadeh Moaveni‘s article “ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape” is one of the few stories in The New York Times that I read every word of. It gives an insight into a city we are now bombing, Raqqa, a city that I would warrant most Westerners have never heard of before, first giving a sense of a modern city with a population engaged in daily life and mores close to those we consider our own. It is seen from the point of view of the lives of three young women, and as it develops I thought again of how Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, on par in its social critique/predictiveness with Brave New World, 1984, and Lord of the Flies, all of whose premises and scenarios we are living out to some extent today. [Lord of the Flies, which I had not thought much about since I first read it in my early teens, has come back into my mind a lot recently when watching the spectacle of the Republican debates, as men who may have possibly once been relatively civilized or reasonable, although I’m not sure about that, dive for the bottom of the barrel in order to win.]  I’ve only read The Handmaid’s Tale once because it laid out so frighteningly how easy it would be to subdue and enslave the entire female population of the United States, including as tools of entrapment and enslavement all the seemingly anodyne aspects of contemporary life, beginning with ATM cards, and using crises brought about by ecological disasters as the rationale, that I couldn’t ever bear to go back into the story, even to confirm my memory of the end of the book, which, as I recall, opened up the possibility that, like Germany during the Third Reich, abominations could take place in one country, while life continued in a more normal fashion elsewhere.

“ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape” gives a living example of Atwood’s dystopic masterpiece, happening now in a city that wasn’t as different from our own as most Americans may be led to think.

Cover art for first edition, 1985

Cover art for first edition, 1985


Quick Responses, then and now

Hello again. A Year of Positive Thinking continues but the facts of everyday life are such that it has been impossible to find time to see much art or sit down for a day to address for this site any issues of concern to me. That is a condition of everyday life which I suspect is shared by many in one way or another. But here are a couple of image/text pieces, one from 1994, the other a drawing done this week after the most recent school massacre and the public reactions to it on the part of some politicians.

Hyperallergic included the following text and image in its Sunday October 4 Required Reading section . They picked it up from a October 3 post of this statement and image on Facebook:

With regards to there being bad boy, bad-ass women artists, I created this image in 1994 for How many ‘bad’ feminists does it take to change a lightbulb? a publication by Laura Cottingham (the back of the magazine has text in a small triangle: “It’s not funny”). I continue to be interested in the category of excellent women.


Then yesterday, struggling with the first cold of the season, directly caused by my work schedule’s interaction with the Achilles heel of my immune system (evidently I can’t get up early two days in a row much less also tromp around the city in a freezing cold rain storm without getting sick), I nevertheless had to do some drawings to express my rage at Jeb Bush’s response to the most recent mass shooting–“stuff happens.” Indeed his family has inflicted a lot of …”stuff”… on this country and the world.

I started with this sketch, held down for the picture with my middle finger for emphasis:


But it wasn’t quite “stuffy” enough if you know what I mean.

Luckily I have a “stuff” colored sketchbook I got in Berlin last spring:


I loved the response of a friend to this second notebook drawing: “like you pulled it out of your guts – told a friend it looks like the walking dead jeb vomited up his own shit for the world to see.”

That’s about right, but did the world see it?


Just a short message from Venus

This morning Ben Davis published a piece on Artnet entitled “Why Are There Still So Few Successful Women Artists?” Thanks to Ben Davis for addressing this issue and for his constant focus on important political issues in the art world.

As I wrote to him this morning, so much to say and so little time to say it if I want to get a few paintings done before I have to go back to my day job as an underpaid adjunct (Davis mentions the role of practical bread and butter issues and economic inequities for women as in some sense replacing Linda Nochlin’s historical focus on women artists’ earlier lack of access to academic training.)

Davis begins with the important primary question: “What will it take to finally put an end to sexism in art?” He questions the value of strategies of “counting,”, most recently used by Maura Reilly in her ARTnews text “Taking the Measures of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Fixes”,  and he takes care to try to bracket what we mean by “success” for an artist today.

I’ve written so much about feminism–most recently this previous post spurred by conflicting messages coming from the art world, between the sudden interest in the work of older women artists and the insulting absurdity of the Sackler Center giving one of its First Feminist awards to Miss Piggy, and earlier this year, Amnesiac Return Amnesiac Return, published in Kara Rooney’s Critic’s Page “A Feminist Response: Gender Games and the Art Machine” in the September 2014 issue of the Brooklyn Rail. I am very grateful to Davis for linking to my piece which he titled “Amnesiac Returns,” but as I wrote to him this morning, the political point of the title and its humor is in the repetition without punctuation, no plural. At the end of that text I explained the title’s genesis and significance: “The repetition in my title reflects the fact that in 1992, for a special issue of the art journal Tema Celeste dedicated to “The Question of Gender in Art,” I wrote a short essay entitled “Amnesiac Return.” I thought of the same title for this piece before realizing that it sounded familiar—because, in fact, I had used it before.” If and when I write another piece and am tempted to title it Amnesiac Return, I may indeed have amnesia by that point, or will title it to the power of three.

My point is that one writes and one writes and one asks why the situation of women artists (and beyond that of women generally) is fundamentally resistant to change despite the paradox of some visible change, and one asks the question again and again. And yet even that discussion, and the vast and important area of scholarship and theorization applied to the work of women artists and to gender representation, does not ultimately penetrate the art market and nor even the upper strata of academia which may have moved on to newer concerns.

My point is I could go on and on.

So today in response to Ben’s piece, I just want to contrast his article to Peter Schjeldahl’s review in the New Yorker of Albert Oehlen’s paintings. The beginning of one paragraph in that review seems paradigmatic: “Not for nothing is Oehlen a mighty influence on younger artists, showing them the rewards in freedom that may follow upon a willing sacrifice of propriety. (Witness, apart from outright imitators, the devilish impetuosities of Josh Smith, Joe Bradley, Oscar Murillo, and others in a recent survey at the Museum of Modern Art, “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World.”) Testosterone testosterone testosterone bad boys bad boys bad boys patrilineage patrilineage patrilineage (for that you have to read the paragraph before, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, bla bla–for some reason this reminds me of one of my favorite book reviews in the Times several years ago, about a book a woman wrote about her dog, a German Shepherd as I recall, who spent the day out and about in her neighborhood in Cambridge, Ma., about how she decided to follow him in his unleashed peregrinations. She observed that his main occupation in life was to go to nearly impossible physical lengths to piss as high up as possible on telephone poles and trees so, she deduced, other dogs would know he was a really big dog.

When I read about the auction value of women artists, when I read Kenny Schacter’s devastating reports on the art market, the most recent being “Kenny Schacter on Why Art Basel left him Mentally and Physically Damaged,” when people suddenly “discover” some woman artist that women artists have known about for decades, and when so many young women still are drawn to using their naked bodies in their work because as the Guerrilla Girls ask, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum?” I see how little has changed in some respects.

Of course, and it is a kind of a triumph of feminism and feminist art there are tons of women artists active now around the world, and they are successful to a much greater extent than the moment before I entered the art world at the beginning of the feminist art movement, but the world I live in, where Louise Bourgeois was a great artist the minute I learned about her work from Lucy Lippard’s writings in From the Center and from seeing a drawing show at Max Hutchinson Gallery, when she was not yet world famous and a fetish, where the work of countless women artists including some of the artists who have recently been the subject of a wave of articles about older women artists (does 100 count as old enough I wonder?) was a central part of my image world, I mean these works are fundamental building blocks of how I see the world, not to mention of course what art is about for me (deep engagement with form, materiality, art history, politics, politics of representation and abstraction, discursivity–art, you know, not product), that work, that image world of women artists is of absolutely no interest to the men who make, promote and buy the work of the guys drooled over in Schjeldhal’s review. No interest? No, I mean it is invisible. It does not exist except for these little windows of fashion for old ladies who won’t be around much longer to inconveniently have something to say.

When I posted these thoughts on Facebook earlier today, artist Lauri Lynnxe Murphy wrote in a comment: “My first day of grad school at The Ohio State University I walked into the sculpture building and saw a list pinned to the wall for the undergrads of “sculptors they should know.” All of them male, and most of them over 50. I started writing names on it and the other female grads joined in – by the end of the term the entire page was covered with women sculptors. This was in 2010, btw. 2010.”

And meanwhile, and I think this is important to note, I’m putting up the postcard wall that marks a space as my studio, and all the works are by male artists, mostly pre-1600, because I live in a world in which art history was first presented to me as male, the women artists’ works that are so important to me reside in my slide/image collection and in my mind. My point is that any woman interested in art has absorbed and paid attention to work by male artists, you would be an ignoramus if you didn’t and you’d be cutting yourself off from a major part of the history of civilization, which I claim as my heritage no matter who did it, but the connection doesn’t flow the other way

Just a short message from Venus which will certainly never get over to Mars, and now I am going to try to get into the studio.


One of my favorite postcards for my studio wall


Miss Piggy and Madame de Beauvoir–A New Fable of La Fontaine: Cochon et Castor

There is a certain kind of news story that gets introduced by friends on Facebook as “Not The Onion.” This is a discussion prompted by one such headline.

Let me try to contextualize the recent announcement that the Sackler Center will give its 2015 Sackler Center First Award to Miss Piggy. The ceremony is June 3rd.

“Moi!” exclaimed Miss Piggy!

“Mais quelle cochonnerie!” exclaimed Madame de Beauvoir

It could be a new Fable de La Fontaine: since Simone de Beauvoir’s nickname was Castor, the beaver, because of her lifelong habit of intense scholarly studiousness and hard work (“it was while studying for the agrégation that she met École Normale students Jean-Paul Sartre, Paul Nizan, and René Maheu (who gave her the lasting nickname “Castor”, or beaver. The jury for the agrégation narrowly awarded Sartre first place instead of de Beauvoir, who placed second and, at age 21, was the youngest person ever to pass the exam”), perhaps Cochon et Castor would be a good title for the fable. I won’t attempt verse:

Cochon, Miss Piggy, having been a television and movie puppet character, whose main characteristic is that she is self-absorbed and boy crazy and is always trying to get Kermit (a male frog) to marry her, one day encountered Castor, the eager brilliant philosophical and feminist beaver Simone de Beauvoir (who, it must be said, was crazy about Jean Paul Sartre who looked a bit like a frog). “I’m getting the 2015 First Feminist Award from the Sackler Center at the Brooklyn Museum on June 3. Gloria Steinem is presenting it to Moi, Miss Piggy!” “Vous vous foutez de moi,” exclaimed Castor.

Fables always have a moral. What is the moral of this fable? That second wave feminists have no sense of humor? This is a  long-standing convenient calumny against women who actually care about human rights, based on the fear that what women’s humor might include is mockery of men. FYI: Just in the last month, these mordant videos were circulating on social media (+some research of my own going a bit further back in time): Tina Fey, Amy Schumer (with Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Rosanna Arquette), Amy Schumer, and Lily Tomlin, for good measure (a contemporary of Miss Piggy).

Tina Fey top ten Letterman

What was the Sackler Center’s awards selection committee thinking in making this selection? What would a feminist fly on the wall have heard as they came up with this idea?

Nothing against Miss Piggy, though in terms of her award from the point of view of her validity as a feminist icon, taking this perfectly seriously, take note that she has most often been performed by Muppet puppeteer Frank Oz as well as a few other male puppeteers over the years (and one woman on TV). There were two women significantly involved in her creation and her public image, principally Muppet designer Bonnie Erickson who created the character and based her name on her mother’s love of singer Peggy Lee and Calista Hendrickson was Miss Piggy’s costume designer and stylist. Neither woman is mentioned on Miss Piggy’s Wikipedia page, and her Official Muppet website bio is an in-character fictional performance. The fact remains that her character may have been physically shaped and originally imagined by a woman, but she is scripted and voiced by a man’s imaginary, not a woman’s.

Since calling a woman a pig is a familiar way of saying she’s a slut, can one interpret Miss Piggy’s name and persona as a feminist recuperation of a sexist slur in order to make it a mark of pride, the way the word “cunt” was revalued by early feminist pioneers like Judy Chicago and her students in the Fresno Feminist Art Program in 1970?

Miss Piggy is big, brassy, and loud, a relentless self-promoter. She is not embarrassed by her desire and she’s not shy about beating Kermit or anyone else upside their head if they get in her way. It’s a kind of do-me feminism, pig puppet style. So it could be argued that she displays feminist or certainly feminist-inspired traits. But she is also a kind of porcine Lucy Ricardo, always claiming talent she doesn’t have, with Kermit as a more patient and laid-back version of Ricky Ricardo. Given the historical situation of her birth in the mid-1970s, she is all at once a throwback to 1950s genteel oppression via The Feminine Mystique, an emanation of the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1970s, a sign for the 1980s backlash against feminism with its curiously confusing characteristics of ambition and entitlement, and since she performs femininity rather like a drag queen, in terms of the way she often dresses, she is an interesting model for gender play today. She is also involved in a trans-species romance, I will say no more!

Previous winners of this award have included Marin Alsop (conductor and violinist, director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra), Connie Chung (journalist and glass ceiling breaking TV anchor), Johnnetta B. Cole (African American anthropologist, educator, college president, and director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art), Wilhelmina Cole Holladay (founder of the National Museum of Women in the Arts), Sandy Lerner, Lucy R. Lippard, Chief Wilma Mankiller (posthumous, first female chief of the Cherokee Nation), Toni Morrison, Linda Nochlin, Jessye Norman, Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (Ret.), Judith Rodin (President of the Rockefeller Foundation), Muriel Siebert (financier), Susan Stroman, and Faye Wattleton (the initial awardees in 2012), Julie Taymor (2013), Anita Hill (2014)–all women whose names can be accompanied by the epithet “ground-breaking” and who mostly do not need a Wikipedia bio link, and, again, Miss Piggy, in 2015, who also doesn’t need a Wikipedia bio, though “ground breaking” is not so clear: “The 2015 Sackler Center First Awards honors performer, actor, writer, and icon Miss Piggy, for more than forty years of blazing feminist trails with determination and humor, and for her groundbreaking role inspiring generations the world over.” “The evening features Miss Piggy in conversation with Gloria Steinem.”

Here a thought occurs to me, a historical conjecture, namely how willing Eleanor Roosevelt was to embrace and use the platforms of whatever she could from and within popular culture of her day if it could help a cause she deeply believed in or where she thought her name would add weight to a cause or benefit the people.

Have I just talked myself or anyone else into thinking that Miss Piggy is a sensible choice for the Sackler Center’s First Award or do I still feel that this choice is emblematic of a certain devaluation of feminism or at the very least of a certain desperation in the face of popular culture? It definitely is desirable or, these days, imperative even to get mass media attention and it’s important to be fun and appealing, or, in the parlance of the day, to be “relateable.”. Like many things that happen, one is supposed to take it in good humor and take a positive point of view on everything. It is sometimes hard to remember what something really is or means, like feminism.

But why this choice now? The Muppets, now a Disney product, are returning to television in the fall, on the Disney Network, so the choice suggests some corporate synergy on both sides here: Miss Piggy gets a distinguished award for feminist pioneers and I hope the Sackler gets a generous donation. Mystery solved?

The background for my receiving the notice of the Miss Piggy Award are the numerous stories and publications pertaining to women in the arts and to feminism which have circulated in the media in hard print and online the past few weeks. On the statistical front, Maura Reilly’s “Taking the Measure of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Fixes”, a comprehensive and dispiriting update of statistics on the status of women artists in the artworld, previously researched and exposed in recent years by The Guerrilla Girls, the Brainstormers, and Micol Hebron’s project Gallery Tally, is being widely shared on social media, along with all the other statements by major women artists and art historians featured in the June 2015 issue of ARTnews.

Meanwhile the May 15 Sunday New York Times published two, apparently uncoordinated, articles pertaining to women, particularly older women, whose simultaneity nevertheless held a chilling message for women. In T, the Times‘ glossy Fashion and Design magazine, one found author Phoebe Hoban‘s thoughtful article “Works in Progress,”  about “A very small sampling of the female artists now in their 70s, 80s and 90s we should have known about decades ago.” These included Agnes Denes, Carmen Herrera, Joan Semmel, Lorraine O’Grady, Rosalyn Drexler, Dorothea Rockburne, Etel Adnan, Michelle Stuart, Faith Ringgold, Judith Bernstein, and Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian [nota bene, the long struggle to get some long deserved success was exemplified by the final ironic injustice that only 4 of the 11 women profiled in the article made it into the print version + 2 who had their pictures reproduced in the Editor’s note for the whole issue, the rest were online only, though I suppose these days that counts for more]. The article pointed to a phenomenon that has long been a source of internal gallows humor among women artists, that if you don’t make it big by age 30, (and if you’re not, as one friend of mine says, the one crazy woman the artworld allows in every decade), you have one more chance, maybe, if you live to be 80, or now 90 or even 100 to get some attention [because 90 is the new 70]. In fact the Times piece was followed by so many articles about older artists, female and also male, that it’s been hard to keep up with them, including in today’s Times, “An Artist’s Thoughts of Retirement, Quieted by the Constant Churn of Creativity,” about the painter Audrey Flack, who just celebrated her 84th birthday this weekend, and among several other examples, including in W Linda Yablonsky’s “Young at Art,” and on the Huffington Post, “15 Badass Art World Heroines Over Seventy Years Old”.These articles left out several prominent older women with recent or current notable exhibitions, including Joan Snyder, Joyce Kozloff, and Ida Applebroog, to name but a few. If any such artists feel left out of this “moment,” dubious a pleasure though it may be to be recognized as a neglected senior citizen but, nevertheless, at least that, maybe they should take heart that they are just too young to be included!

One has to wonder what is driving this sudden interest in older women artists: might it be the case that, aside from the general rules of market and fashion that create a herd-mentality trend once it starts, older artists are seen to and perhaps do indeed carry markers of authenticity, depth, and experience that are felt to be lacking in contemporary post-internet culture despite the more conventional point of view that only millennials and post-millennials can understand the contemporary moment. Is the current interest in old artists a fad or a genuine tropism of culture, a revenge of artists against “creatives”?

As one of the women included in one of the articles recently said to a friend, “too little, too late.” Artist Chana Horwitz worked in obscurity for decades, finally beginning to achieve some success in her last years. She received a Guggenheim award in 2013 shortly (like days) before her death at age 81. A retrospective exhibition of her work opened in Berlin this winter. And on artnet yesterday: “Carmen Herrera, Who Sold Her First Painting Aged 89, Turns 100 Years Old.” Herrera is being given an exhibition at the Whitney Museum in Fall 2016, when the artist will be 101 or even 102. Frank Stella’s major career retrospective will open at the Whitney in October 2015. Patience is indeed a feminine virtue.

To enjoy that late attention you don’t just have to have lived that long, but you have to have been able to keep your body, your mind, and the work you have done in your long lifetime in good enough shape to be there if and when the bottle finally stops spinning in front of you.

But it well may be that even if you live so long, when the late success comes, you may no longer be able to use it to leverage the production of more work–Louise Bourgeois is a rare example of a woman artist who was able to still have enough time left to really use her relatively late success (with a revival of interest gathering momentum in her 70s) for a twenty-five-year run of creativity at the grander scale that her late financial success afforded her, but apart from all other circumstances the fact is she happened to have had the good fortune to live to a great old age in a home she owned, filled with her work.

A more haunting note is struck in Lynn Hershman Leeson’s 2010 film !Woman Art Revolution when Nancy Spero, widowed and having suffered crippling chronic illness since mid-life and near fatal health crises in her later years, says: “All these hurdles to come up against, to try to jump up against. Now I’ve had a really long career. I can’t believe it but this last year in my career was the best I’ve ever had. Now just imagine if I hadn’t lived to see this, at the age of 81 and it’s like a torrent of wonderful things that happened last year, the recognition I’ve had, what that means in terms of acknowledgement.” She says it totally sincerely but given her character and experience also with full knowledge of the irony and raging unfairness of such a narrative. (link to Spero’s footage here, statement quoted here begins at about 5 minutes in). The interview was filmed in February 2008, Spero died in October 2009.

As an apparently unconscious dog whistle of how daunting it is to meet these conditions, the same day as the T feature on older women artists, the Sunday Times Magazine‘s cover article  was “The Last Day of Her Life,” about gender studies pioneer Sandra Bem‘s decision to plan her own suicide, upon receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Even to accomplish that heroically depressing task, like the women artists who have had to keep things together until their ’80s and ’90s, she had to be able to do it when she was still able to do it herself so that no one else would be held legally responsible for her death, while requiring the financial wherewithal and the loving support of her family to accomplish her goal.

Keep in mind that all studies point to the exceptional economic fragility of older women, according to numerous studies including this from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research: “Around the world, women tend to be in poverty at greater rates than men. The United Nations reported in 1997 that 70 percent of 1.3 billion people in poverty worldwide are women, while American Community Survey data from 2013 tells us that 55.6 percent of the 45.3 million people living in poverty in the United States are women and girls. Women’s higher likelihood of living in poverty exists within every major racial and ethnic group within the U.S.”

But, hey, girls, you just have to “lean in.” That is the message propounded by most of the 62 women features on artnet in their “62 Women Share their secrets to artworld success”–part 1 and part 2. As one of my friends pointed out, secret #1 seems to be, don’t be an artist, since all the women are dealers, museum directors and power brokers of one kind or another.

The secret of success for women artists is evidently, live a really long life and don’t get Alzheimer’s. Miss Piggy is very fortunate that she is not prey to the entropy of the flesh, since as Tina Fey would put it, she is not a “human woman,” she is a puppet who can be replicated when necessary. By the way, today a Google search for images of pigs yields this headline and video, “Mini pot-bellied pigs love on Alzheimer’s patients”, about the use of therapy pigs for Alzheimer’s patients.

Meanwhile, as I pointed out in a post on Facebook last week,

Everyone is sharing the online material from the June issue of ARTnews devoted to women artists and feminism as well as many other links relating to struggles for women in the arts and to successful women in the arts — I have a browser window open to “62 Women Share Their Secrets to Art World Success: Part Two” on artnet. But here is one bottom line for me: complete nonentities and creeps like George Pataki — George Pataki for Christ sake, the absolute definition of nonentity–and Chris Christie get up in the morning, decide they’re going to run for President and people are going to throw *millions* of dollars in their direction even though everyone involved knows they don’t have a chance in hell of even being serious contenders much less winning. That’s literally what I think of every morning as I struggle to figure out how I will negotiate the challenges of every day: “and Chris Christie is running for President and getting money for it”

There is a pig link here and it isn’t just that Christie actually looks like a pig–sorry to malign pigs who can be very cute and who are genetically quite close to humans—but earlier this political season Governor Christie “vetoed a politically charged bill that would have banned the use of certain pig cages in his state, a move many observers see as aimed at appeasing Iowa voters ahead of a potential 2016 presidential run.” I’d like to think that Miss Piggy would take umbrage and would understand my frustration at the confidence Christie has in himself which is based on so little, compared to the doubts and struggles that so many talented women endure despite so much. It would be great if Miss Piggy could add a little bit of political relevance to the new Muppet show with a skit about Christie’s pig policy. Bring some politics in there to live up to your Sackler First Award.

 So, to recap: Cochon et Castor?  Feminists have no sense of humor? Corporate synergy? Wait until you are 90 years old? Fine. For next year’s Sackler Center First Award let me take the liberty of nominating some worthy funny feminists: give the award to Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, and give it up for Kristen Schaal!