Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 30, 2015

The Guerrilla Girls at Smith College

Last night a presentation by two members of the Guerilla Girls was sponsored by Smith College Museum of Art, which is showing Women’s Work: Feminist Art from the Collection until January 3, 2016. The Guerilla Girls, sometimes called “the conscience of the art world,” have been melding humor and infuriating statistics re women’s representation in museums in galleries for thirty years. They use the names of dead women artists as pseudonyms and wear masks that the women explained help keeps the focus on issues, not personalities. And are useful as they plaster posters, such as this one:

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Their work has expanded since 1985 to address more issues in Washington and Hollywood, and includes racial and LGBT discrimination. Also, they look more into how museums were founded and are run, largely by super rich men who may own valuable art and care more that this art stays valuable than they care that the museums represent the culture.

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At the end of the presentation, one mentioned that the number of guerilla girls is limited, but there is plenty of advocacy anyone can do. For example, we can remind people what’s missing in museums, and suggest how galleries would be more interesting with a wider range of art. Take women’s art out of storage! “If everyone went to the information desk and said, ‘Where are the women artists,’ they’d put them on the walls.” Complain, but be creative about it. Don’t just blame and nag, but open minds with humor.

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Responses

  1. I’d never heard of this group but am not that tuned into the art world. Just reading this post has widened my awareness, though, so I thank you for creating that little ripple in the public pond.

    Go, Guerrilla Girls!!!

  2. On one hand, it’s disturbing that things May Alcott faced as an artist almost 150 years ago are still things women face. But it was heartening to be in a hall filled to capacity at a women’s college with young and old cheering “F is for feminism.” The Guerilla Girls’ Beside Companion to the History of Western Art should be on every Art History 101 reading list. Tracy, these are your people, and I’m glad you got a glimpse.

  3. “Don’t just blame and nag, but open minds with humor.”
    Amen, sisters!

    • Sometimes we need outrage, but also kindness and laughter. Hope you have a restorative weekend, Tara.

  4. Another way to get the museum’s attention: lavish praise when they DO include female artists! (This happened recently at Birmingham Museum of Art — my favorite piece was one they pulled out of storage, but an unknown local woman artist, and I let them know THAT PIECE was the one that made the exhibit. I am listening to LITTLE WOMEN while I drive right now, thanks to your LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE. Thank you! xo

    • Irene, that’s a great response. I will be looking for my next chance to lavish praise! Nice to think of you driving around in that world of stained gloves, patched gowns, picnics, and bundling up against winter (where not there yet). xo


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