By Claudia James Bartlett

The art/photographic community has hundreds of thousands of women who make, publish, exhibit and sell their work and yet mostly men are championed.

A few facts: 

1. Work by women artists makes up only 3–5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe according to the American Community Survey from the National Endowment for the Arts.

2. Though women earn half of the MFAs granted in the U.S., only 30% of artists represented by commercial galleries are women.

3. At the Venice Biennale: The 2009 edition featured 43% women; in 2013, it dropped to 26%. In 2015, it was 33%, and in 2017 was 35%. No major international exhibition of contemporary art has achieved gender parity. Until this changes, I maintain that we cannot be “Post-Identity.”

Post-identity can be defined as: taking on a perspective without focusing on cultural difference, specifically in regard to race, gender, and sexuality. To apply “post-identity” to the art world would mean to look at art and the creators of art without focusing on race, gender, and sexuality.

At this juncture do we want to remove this context? I advocate that we not homogenize. That we allow for a women’s/ artist’s judgement, attitude and/or opinion be just that. Women are not treated equally to men in the art world. Insofar that this is true, why would we apply a concept like “post-identity” to this landscape when it has the potential to mute an inequality that needs to be changed? For the benefit of everyone, we must continue to “lean in” and create a narrative and a history that represents women in the arts. An exhibition in a young museum is always a welcome edition to this narrative.

Exposed: The Female Lens in a Post Identity Era? presents six women living in Southern California creating and documenting what interests and moves them. Jo Ann Callis, Sant Khalsa, Sandra Klein, Andréanne Michon, Gay Ribisi and Arden Surdam examine identity and through their practice, express what is to be a female artist/photographer working in California.

The broad range of issues presented include: Jo Ann Callis who creates a domestic vocabulary, evoking a disturbing sensation challenging us to examine our feelings about domesticity, identity and sexuality. Sant Khalsa, artist/ activist exhibiting landscapes of the American West as an inquiry into the nature of place while also examining environmental and societal issues of the 21st century. Multilayered self-portraits of Sandra Klein exploring memory and personal narratives of gender, aging, memory and loss. Andréanne Michon, applying the vocabulary of the landscape to explore the universal processes of survival , continuity and renewal that elicit questions about our environment. A range of work by Gay Ribisi, evocative underwater images and female nudes that both embrace and address beauty and cultural standards in both subtle and not so subtle ways. And, Arden Surdam, who’s work from her series “ Hold Your Breath” presents images of covered / masked portraits that“temporarily refute the social construction of gender, and sexuality.” With its many facets, I hope you find yourself as eager as I am to witness and contemplate this exhibition as we continue to enlarge the narrative.

Claudia James Bartlett, Director/Owner
photo l.a.  ~ FOCUS photo l. a.


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