Monday, November 28, 2011

Turning 30 and Being a Woman in the Arts

Today is my birthday and I am turning 30, not relevant really to the whole art thing, but to the lead up of this day, there are things that have shifted in the way that I think about art, or will let myself be positioned within the context of art. I think that it is both a mix of the age and also about being a woman turning this particular age. How this affects one’s trajectory in all aspects of life is not defining but it is particular. I think this is very true within the art world, as it is in most sectors of society, but this is an art platform and this is what I will focus on today.

Being in the art world is beneficial for women as the expectations of marriage and child rearing being equivalent to success as a human being is less emphasized then in society as a whole. For any women in the arts, if they are highly competitive and at the top of their fields, child rearing and marriage are complications if not total hindrances. Sadly, this is because as a society we are still functioning in a male prescribed system and women still have not had enough influence to realign this system. Call is patriarchy, call it capitalism, whatever it is, it’s all screwed up.

Although a woman in the arts when she is in her 30s is less pressured to have children etc. then other women in the general population, the sticky issue of biology is still potent. During this decade and possibly into her mid 40s, with today’s medical wonders, a woman can decide to have children. If a woman decides to have a child it will most certainly halt a certain momentum in her career that is not equaled in her male counterparts. This obvious fact is mostly glazed over by the art world because it just seems so boring to have to discuss. This is not being spoken of as excuse or as a never-ending diatribe but people, let’s be honest about this one at least. This is probably one of the major factors to why disparities in the art world are still so entrenched.

The only shift within the last 20 years in the art world that may balance the rates of super star male and female participants in the arts is that in this industry youth is adored. With this sexual fetish, the art world can now possibly pump out some wunderkinds, girl, boy, otherwise. Sadly, being an old hag of 30 in this industry and still not having “made it” (“made it" to me = being on ArtForum Scene/Heard at least once every 6 months and/or being a frequent contributor to Frieze and/or having Klaus Bisenbach ask me if there is anything else he could get for me) makes this option void for me but here’s to best of luck for all you young things out there.

In the face of that, what is a girl to do when she is no longer “20-something?” There are a few options, each a bit more depressing then the next:

1) Be Very Odd – Eccentricity goes a long way in the arts, just don’t overdue it because if you do you’ll just be a running joke and cliché of a cliché.

2) Become A Careerist Hyena – Drink, Talk, Drugs, Sex, Laugh, Party, Attend, Join, Money, Work, Work, Work, Kiss Ass, Read Semiotics, Let People Touch You, Beg, Be Humiliated, Humiliate, Work, Work, Work. Do this every night for 5 years straight and sky’s the limit.

3) Marry/ Get Impregnated/ Have a Torrid Affair - With someone powerful in the art world. Everyone may trash talk you behind your back but the art world still deems itself to be a genteel class, so all those galas will be filled with kiss-kisses.

4) Start A Collective/ Apartment Gallery/ Online Literary or Art Zine – One more of these things the world surely does not need but it will give you something to talk about or to say in response to that nag of a question everyone in NYC asks all the time “So, what have you been up to?”

5) Move to Berlin – Getting so old but they do not archive themselves as much as New Yorkers so that’s powerful in a way. Plus 50 is the new 30 over there.

6) Move to Canada – You heard it here first, Canada is the new Berlin.

7) Drop out Completely – This can be done either by leaving the city or by just getting a job in another industry, seriously you will disappear like cocaine at one of those dumb hip hotels downtown. Then if you want in a year or two you can pop back in. Make sure to embellish/straight out lie about what you were doing for the past few years and people will think you are just so fab. If you wait too long and you actually have nothing new to contribute you will just be tagged as desperate.

Out of these ploys, I am personally shooting for option 1 or possible option 5 or 6, none are off the table though. The art world is a huff and it’s a hustle, and you have to really get off on it if you want to keep pace or excel in it. There are other ways of achieving this though, like being really rich or being genius smart, but I’m neither nor, as most of us are, so things are a bit more complicated for us overeducated working stiffs.

Ah life…

When I graduated from art school in 2004 (undergrad) I had decided that I would not even attempt to make art until I was 30 because I considered myself to be a very bad artist and that I had absolutely no reason to make it and spread that into the universe. I have stuck to that and through the years, as I have surrounded myself with looking at and thinking about art on a constant basis, I have been grateful for that decision as I don’t think I would have absorbed art in the same way I have if I was an art producer as well. Now that I am at my internal deadline, the idea of possibly allowing myself to make art in the form of objects or shared constructions called “art” is interesting. In the end, who knows, I have no idea what will come in the next decade. I hope through it all though I never feel like I have to compromise. I’m not sure if that is possible, but hopefully as a woman entering her 30s, I can add to and support what is possible for us ladies in the arts.