Editor’s note: Sirlin will be signing copies of the book on September 24 at beta pictoris. Check out the event listing over on Signals for more information.
Rights and accomplishments have been at the forefront of our thinking this year in Birmingham. From the commemorations of the events in 1963 to women earning Emmy awards for directing and writing, many have been celebrating how far we have come in America. With all these small steps and milestones, however, we still have a long way to go when it comes to issues of equality – and women are no exception.
We are still at a point in our country where we differentiate so many professions by gender, as if it is a novel concept: women directors, women writers, women artists, women CEOs, and the list goes on and on and on. As much as we’d like to think we have gotten over this, a dialogue is still necessary for women to be taken seriously in a wide variety of professions (I hope I don’t have to remind you that women on average STILL make 76¢ for every dollar a man makes).
Which brings us to Deanna Sirlin’s She’s Got What It Takes: American Women Artists in Dialogue. Inspired by a piece she wrote on a posthumous show of Anne Truitt’s work in 2004, Sirlin felt it was important to not only write about women artists but to also do so within their careers and lifetimes. To that end, Sirlin developed two important criteria to select artists for the book: 1) she had to have known who these artists were when she was in college in the mid-1970s; and 2) the artists had to still be making and showing art.
Based on these specific limitations, Sirlin selected nine women artists – Jennifer Bartlett, Louise Fishman, Jane Freilicher, Joyce Kozloff, Elaine Reichek, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Joan Snyder, Pat Steir, and Betty Woodman. Not only have each of these women influenced Sirlin, but they all have a place within the modern history of art. These women, and many others of their cohort, worked with each other, showed together, and helped make the way for the next generation of women artists.
After completing this book, Sirlin notes that in general, things are better for women artists, but there is still a ways to go. Sales still favor male artists, as do many museums and collectors. She explains that there is still “not enough written about women artists.” A lot was written about women artists during the 1970s when there was a focus on the feminist movement, but as the years have progressed, less and less seems to get written.
The majority of the artists featured in She’s Got What it Takes live and work in New York, but even that has changed. Many of them split residences between a more quiet studio location (upstate New York, Italy, etc.) and somewhere in the city. While New York is still a draw for artists, Sirlin has found that New Mexico has become a place for women artists, especially in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Dialogue is critical to art. In 11 essays, Sirlin brings that dialogue to the forefront with these women discussing their historical importance, their lives and work, and the value of their work to up and coming artists then (as with Sirlin) and now.
She’s Got What it Takes: American Women Artists in Dialogue by Deanna Sirlin. (2013. Milan: Charta Art Books). Hardcover. 122 pages. List price $37.50 US. ISBN 978-8881588671.