Gorilla girls

The original question is very close to the one I keep at hand for whenever I hear someone suggesting that the art world isn’t sexist. I challenge people to name three non-photographer female artists since most of the famous female artists people know of are photographers and I want to force them into the other arts.

When I first came up with the question, I was shocked to realize that the three most-famous female artists were all married to famous men. I suppose it’s at least refreshing that none of them changed their names.

My answer, while flip, does have a point beyond the wise-assery. Are those three women famous because of their art, or did they get a boost from their famous partners? And does it matter?

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

4 thoughts on “Gorilla girls”

  1. I’m not sure how much can actually be made of this…I mean, I’m tempted to argue that it’s our language (and modes of address) that are sexist, and that’s it. Of those three pairs, I would argue that only Yoko Ono is not more famous than (i.e., household name value) than her spouse…and even in Yoko’s case, she’s probably almost exactly as well known. (Just not considered as significant.)

    Certainly I’m positive that outside photography circles, I’d have an easier time introducing Stieglitz as Mrs. O’Keefe than O’Keefe as Mrs. Stieglitz. We just don’t normally refer to men by their wives’ names. Although I do routinely refer to James Brolin as Mrs. Streisand.

    But I guess that would be ducking the actual question, which I guess is “Are (famous?) female artists more likely to be married to (famous?) male artists than the reverse, and if so, why.” Not a question I know anything about, of course…

    1. My question is actually whether those three would be famous now if they hadn’t gotten a boost then from their already-famous-at-the-time husbands.

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