Last night my Sweetheart (a wonderfully supportive man) and I were watching MPBN and caught the last half of a documentary about women artists called “Who Does She Think She Is?” It was excellent, riveting even. The struggles that these women faced and have overcome were amazing. One of the saddest facts (other than having to choose between their art and their relationships far too often) was the abysmal statistics about how poorly female artists are represented in our major museums or even in our small local galleries. The fact that only something like 4% of the artists in MOMA are women and it’s even worse in the Guggenheim and elsewhere was appalling. I know this is still largely a rich, old (or dead) white man’s world but I guess I was blinded by the fact that all of my favorite artists are women: Cassatt, Chicago, Kahlo, Oatway, O’Keefe.
One thing that struck us both rather forcefully was the anger in the art of one of the women in the film. A Mormon mother of several who says right in the film that most of the people who know her are unaware that she is an artist. And a fairly successful one too, she says she sells on average a piece a month. The film also portrayed how she has no space to herself for her work, no Room of One’s Own. She says that she makes the work and then gets it out of the house as quickly as possible so that is will not get broken. I came to the conclusion it’s better she should vent her anger in her art, however subconsciously, and not be taking it out on the kids but, I have to say, some of her images were downright scary. This was just another reconfirmation of my belief that the Muslim world’s got nothing on the Mormons when it comes to keeping their women folk “in their place”. Their place being barefoot and pregnant. The film also showed a couple of women who were very in touch with their feelings and their need to express themselves artistically even if the men in their lives did not get it and were definitely NOT supportive. The best part of these segments were that the kids seemed to be thriving. See you can have it all if you are willing to work very, very hard. This was a very engrossing film, I highly recommend it.
All this got me thinking, of course, about women farmers. Most of the successful farms I know are either run entirely by women (Southpaw and Nettie Fox) or are a partnership of a, usually married, couple where the women is an equal partner (Village Farm, Part n’ Parcel, After the Fall, Singing Nettle, Brightberry Farm). Those of us who are women in agriculture are so fortunate that there is a vibrant tradition of shared work, responsibility and reward between women and men in the agricultural community. This is not the case worldwide, I understand that, in lots of places women do all the agricultural work and men own the land and thus the profits but at least here in Maine it is different. We are also fortunate to have access to the services of such organizations as WAgN (Maine Women’s Agricultural Network) to promote and sustain women in their agricultural calling.
So hurrah for women farmers! People who can truly lead a balanced life where work and family get equal attention and time and who are not forced to choose which is more important: their relationships or their calling.