Sexism in academia, publishing, conservation, curation, and all other institutional levels can greatly exacerbate gender inequity. Morineau referred to a stumbling block that the Art+Feminism
Wikipedia editing project often experiences when trying to expand wiki entries on women artists. If information about them has not been previously published, it cannot be reliably cited, compounding the artist’s lack of legitimacy. AWARE works with specialists to write the biographical texts on the site “because very often, they gather information from unpublished sources, which is contrary to Wikipedia rules of publication,” Morineau explained. “As art historians, they can indeed propose new interpretations based on recent research. We also pay permission fees to have images on our website, which can’t be added to Wikipedia unless they are copyright-free.”
Even the physical upkeep of artworks by women in museum collections has been impacted by prejudice. In Florence, Italy, the nonprofit group Advancing Women Artists
is tackling the restoration of paintings and sculptures by women famous in their time, but whose works have been neglected and left in disrepair in museum storage spaces away from public view. They, too, will soon launch an illustrated online database called A Space of Their Own, focusing on American and European artists active between the 15th and 19th centuries.
The ability to actively synthesize research beyond the archive and broadcast it into the public sphere is what makes AWARE somewhat unique compared to similar database projects, such as Clara
, from the National Museum of Women in the Arts
in Washington, D.C., and the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative
, run by Concordia University in Montreal. All of these projects require significant financial resources, and with a recent university analysis
finding that works by female artists typically sell for 47.6 percent of the prices male artists earn at auction, we need all the support we can get. There’s no time to lament the fact that so many talents have been ignored. With more records now easily available, we can learn in earnest about the figures—and the work—that can no longer be overlooked.
Our culture still evaluates women disproportionately as lacking talent, fortitude, and expertise, and in some cases, the results are tragically self-fulfilling. If we are stuck debating whether or not women deserve to live, we hardly get to broach the awesomeness of their creations. Imagine if you were raised looking up to an equal distribution of male and female creative icons. We’re closer than we’ve ever been. AWARE shows us that we can trace a new trajectory through art history by consolidating new research and mobilizing it to teach the next generation.
Looking again into those eyes, I see her tenderness, her hardness, her suffering, and a hint of the ecstatic love for what she has made of her life. The trust she endowed to herself alone is written in a knowing smile that says: They sure didn’t like it, but I did it anyway! And now I’m smiling with her.