Friday, March 9, 2012

Videos on Women Who Make Things

I am laid out with a cold today, so I did the natural thing to do- watch a bunch of art documentaries while not moving out of my chair for hours on end.  The only other thing I felt I could possibly do was to blog, so here I am.
My go-to site for art videos is Art:21 and my absolute favorite is Mary Heilmann's video.  Even though I am not the hugest fan of her work, (some I like, some not so much), watching her talk about herself and also watching her paint, is really quite entertaining.  I could watch people paint for hours.  

Watch Fantasy on PBS. See more from ART:21.

Another great full-length documentary is "What Remains" (available in 3 parts on youtube) about photographer Sally Mann.  My friend, Libby Black, swears by this film, and makes all her graduate advisees watch it.  Watching someone make work, live as an artist with their family, and how they struggle both with concepts and failure as well as success, provides a ton of worthwhile life lessons.  

I also watched a documentary on netflix that I thought was pretty well made, "Our City Dreams", directed by Chiara Clemente, daughter of the famous artist Francesco Clemente. Something about an artist, (or at least having artist blood), making a movie puts a more pleasing visual spin on film, like when the over-hyped painter Julian Schnabel made the great movies "Basquiat" and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly".  
Clemente's film focuses on five female NY artists from varying countries.  The women are interesting choices more for their breadth than because of their work, for me; Serbian artist Marina Abromovic, who totally shares the same over-saturated cultural domination as Kanye West, is not appealing to me but I understand why she was included.  Performance art just totally bores me to death.  
Swoon, the street artist-turned-museum-phenom, (just like the rest of those graffiti guys), doesn't have the drawing skills to really impress me, but her crusty lifestyle was an interesting addition.  It made me wish for an instant that we could all be that free, but I know it's not glamorous or enjoyable to float down a rickety raft on a river with a bunch of stinky punks when all you want to do is be alone in your apartment with hot water.  
Kiki Smith, an artist that almost everyone on the planet attributes as an influence, was lovable in her acceptance of becoming middle-aged and it was comforting to watch her sculpt her clay pieces.
Egyptian artist, Ghada Amer, was totally endearing as a foreign weirdo who just wants to fit in with the rest of us art weirdos, and not conform to a sexist, oppressive lifestyle as in her homeland. 
Nancy Spero, a total babe in old photos, and now a frail and dominating 80 year old woman, must be applauded for trying to get women artists the credit they deserve, though I wasn't a big fan of her prints.

What to learn about all these women on screen?  I was surprised, thinking about all the videos, at how much I lean towards watching female artists in films.  Perhaps it's because they are more emotionally interesting subjects.  To be honest, I take it for granted that there are lots of women artists out there, but it's still quite difficult to be an artist period, but especially a woman.  In Clemente's film, they all address the choice to have or not have children with shocking honesty.  The act of making art is always a very selfish thing to do, and unfortunately it sort of goes against the expectations of a mother.  I hear by raise my glass (cup of breathe-right tea) to all the women out there, who are making it as successful artists, and especially artists who are mothers.

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