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Speak Out: Women making art

By Sonia Stark
ART TIMES July 2015 online

I needed some buttons for a favorite old jacket that had lost a few. Where to go? A friend suggested I try a craft shop.

I have been a commercial designer all my adult life. I’ve dealt with art directors, gallery owners, I paint, I sculpt, I photograph, and I do not do “crafts”. But, I loved this jacket, it asked for buttons, so, off I went to the craft store.

There they were: women, everywhere excitedly checking out clay, thread, wood, paint, fabric, twisted vines, flowers, hundreds and hundreds of items that I would not know what to do with. But they did know. They were there to collect the material they needed for their next piece: padding for a patchwork blanket, thread for embroidery, a pot that needed painting and then filled with flowers. Their energy and enthusiasm were amazing.

I browsed around this huge box store, found the button aisle, walked to the counter, paid my bill and left, thinking.

I realized what these women were so excited about. They were going to create the “art” for their personal world. They were in the process of creating not for an installation meant for a museum or gallery but for the environments that their families were to live in. This was to be treasured by families and friends, not by the critics living outside of the immediate environs.

We keep asking the same question over and over, where are the great women artists? Why have there been so few? Well there haven’t been so few. There have been many.

We all know why we haven't heard of them. They have been left out of the history. Then there are other answers, other realities, women bear the children; over the centuries education was not available. Women rose to great heights only when there was family to encourage them and funds to enable the development of their “craft” and of course, the art world has always been and still is a men’s club. All of this is true, and yet women have always been creating art. They have always been enhancing the world around them. In every culture, throughout history. We find drawings on the walls of caves, designs on the walls of African huts, tapestries for the palaces, designs for fabrics, and let’s not forget the English aunts’ watercolors.

I do understand that when we speak of “art” there is another level to be aimed for, one that reaches outside the immediate. Many women have reached that pinnacle and produced great masterpieces, but let’s not forget the more personal form, the work that reaches out simply and without hubris. This is the art that surrounds us and enriches our everyday lives.

(Sonia Stark lives in and is an award winning designer, painter, photographer, currently on the board of the National Association of Women Artists, Inc.

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