A Question of Equity - April 1990

Submitted by root on Mon, 08/07/2017 - 17:44

Women in the Arts

4. WORKS BY WOMEN: d) The Visual Arts cont.

ii) Photography cont: an exhibition of Women in Sport; and 5 women had individual shows exhibiting some 150 plus photographs between them. Against this there were at least 6 shows devoted entirely to the works of male photographers.

Despite the lack of hard and fast statistics this is an area in which I think there was, during the period we are looking at, some parity of representation. Though this is probably a fortuitous circumstance (the fact that two large-scale women's photographic projects exhibited in this period) and not necessarily representative of the usual presence of women's photographic works - in most mixed exhibitions for example, men still out numbered women by 2:1. Photography was also an area where the work of black women could be seen. Of the one woman shows, one was certainly by a black woman; black women contributed photographs to the black arts exhibition; and Black WITCH created the exhibition 'Just The Job'.

iii) Crafts: Work in this area ranged from high quality craft displays to craft based art works.

The major area of craft-based work was within textiles though there were also exhibitions of sculptural ceramics, clocks, etc.

The were some 20 exhibitions plus craft works within other exhibitions, and within one of the permanent collection. Overall 50 women exhibited 246 works and 10 men exhibited 224works. Therefore women made up 83% of the exhibitors and showed 53% of the works. The lowness in terms of the percentage of works by women is due to the fact that one man exhibited 150 works and this to some degree distorts the final picture.

25 of the works - produced by some 30 women - were collaborative works. (The only other area to include collaborative work was photography where there was a series of photo-col­lages - again made by women.)

As we can see the crafts are very much a field where women work - and as such exhibits some of the hall-marks one comes to expect in areas where women operate. . The works were in the main neither part of the major art collections within the region nor were they exhibited within the established art galleries. They were usually shown in small galleries (particularly in galleries run by women); in the Bluecoat Display Centre; in community- based facilities and in the libraries. The inference which can be reasonably drawn from this is that craft is still not treated as a serious art form.

 iv) Summary: As can be seen from the above, in the visual arts as elsewhere, the major facilities and money are taken up in exhibiting the works of men. Women's work is historically largely unrepresented, and contemporary works is either given less space or displayed in what are seen as less prestigious contexts.