Friday, January 27, 2017

Guerrilla Girls

Two members of the anonymous group of female artists known as Guerrilla Girls came to Rock Island’s Augustana College. Frida Kahlo was the speaker in Centennial Hall on a chilly January night. She presented a slide show of public activism that dated back to 1986. She used the F word, feminism, fairly often.

We saw lots of posters, stickers, and guerrilla masks. The full head masks were surprisingly mobile and expressive. The bananas thrown out to the audience were a nice touch.

I always enjoy a dose of statistics and those presented for the inclusion of female artists in major museums were low, low, low. Same for artists of color. Same for artists of non-mainstream sexual orientation.

Other evidence presented: A brief overview of clothing options through the major periods of art history—Greek, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Modern.

Greece-nude guys
Middle Ages-everyone but the baby Jesus was clothed
Renaissance-lots of clothing
Modern-the majority of women bare it all

One point that was made often: Rich white men were paying big bucks to influence the art market and were thereby defining our culture through what is purchased and shown in museums. An interesting thought. Do museums really exist to provide extra storage space for the art collections of wealthy folks?

My own thoughts reflected back on the research I did on art forgery in preparation for my novel, Clouds Over Bishop Hill. I came across some interesting statistics on how much forged art is out there. Possibly quite a bit. As much as 40% of all fine art in museums and collections could be forgeries, fakes.

Hummm … that means those rich white guys may not be getting their millions of dollars worth of art value. Tsk, tsk.

So, if you see “Painted in the style of…,” you might want to pause before buying. Better yet, go out and look around for the work of some under-represented artists, female or otherwise. Then your art purchase will be a good deal for the artist, and a shot in the arm for our culture as a whole. 

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