Sunday, September 28, 2008

Who Does She Think She Is ?

Who Does She Think She Is ? by Pamela Tanner Boll is an eloquent and often heartbreaking testimony by five women artists on finding their true selves as creators of art while meeting (or failing to meet) societal expectations of women as mothers and wives. While a male artist is allowed (and indeed expected) to have his entire existence defined by his art, the standard is very different for a female. Unless she decides to eschew having a home and a family, she is required to be a wife and mother first and create her art in any spare cycles her other responsibilities leave her with. To do otherwise is usually met by censure from both her partner and the world outside.

Janis Wunderlich is a mother of five who does everything a typical suburban soccer mom does and then she has a second life as a sculptor feverishly creating works that she must haste to get out the door lest the they come in harms way in a five kid household. Her life and art beg the question how she does it as much as who does she think she is.

Wunderlich is not alone is struggling to find balance between her desire to be a woman as defined by marriage and motherhood and to be an artist at the same time. Of the five women artists profiled in this movie three of them have been forced to choose their art over their marriage because their husbands were simply unable to reconcile with the intense need these women felt to keep creating art.

We meet the experts who talk about how phenomenally underrepresented women artists are in the professional arena when you consider the statistics on name recognition and solo exhibitions. One of them, Leonard Shlain hits the nail on its head when he says hindering female artists from reaching their full potential is akin to having half of the body paralysed after a stroke. The whole society suffers when half it is immobilized.

Pamela Tanner Boll does an outstanding job of putting in perspective what would be considered by many as a fringe issue - namely the struggles of women artists in the context of much larger and far more critical social issues. She makes a compelling case for why we would not be able to move ahead as a society if we restrained the creative energies of half of it.

No comments: