This article was originally published by Megan Wimberley here.
In 2018 I went to a prestigious yearly western art exhibit. This show was exhilarating. There is something special about standing in front of an original piece of art. I was lost in colors and brushstrokes, interesting compositions and heartfelt narratives. As I walked through the exhibit of nearly 100 artists something else started to become very apparent. Almost all of the artists were men. Sure they were all incredibly talented, but there are incredibly talented women artists too. Where were they? Before I left, I got a catalogue of the show so that I could get the actual stats. They were bleak-- out of around 95 artists there were approximately 5 female artists. (I still have that catalogue as a reminder and motivation). I recently decided to take a look at the catalogue of artists for the 2021 exhibit and discovered that after 3 years the stats were almost identical.
Total Artists (2021): 95
Male Artists: 86 (91%)
Female Artists: 9 (9%)
In addition to the lack of representation of female artists, there was a lack of representation of women as subjects. When represented, women were statistically more likely to be young, with a child, or with a man when compared with male subjects. In fact. there were only 28 representations of females, 83 of males, and 77 of animals.
Don't get me wrong, I clearly love animals as a subject. But the stats on representation of women artists and women as a subject (and the way in which they are portrayed) in this nationally renowned exhibit should make us stop and consider what is going on here. It's really nothing new. It's an issue that female creatives have dealt with for a long long time, but why are we still accepting this as the norm? Maybe it's just so common that people don't see it. It is like being nose blind. But it is time to expect more.
Making measurable gains is going to require a conscious effort and nuanced approach. It's going to require organizations and shows which are by invitation only to be more aware and make conscious efforts to bring more women in. It is going to require us to be conscious and vocal viewers and connoisseurs. And, it is going to require grassroots efforts, like Cowgirl Art Rodear, to increase representation and support female artists.
With that being said, I am excited to introduce "Cowgirl Artists of America." The mission of Cowgirl Artists of America is to cultivate a community for and promote the work of cowgirl artists. It is in its infant stage right now, but I see so much potential for our community and I really hope you join me.
Cowgirl Artists of America will will evolve as an organization. Right now the focus will be on sharing art by cowgirl artists on Instagram and growing the community on facebook. I don't have all the branding down. I don't have all the businessy things set up to make everything look official and perfect, but I also know that few things compare to the powerful force of a determined group of women.
Please join me on instagram @cowgirlartistsofamerica
and on the facebook community group The facebook community group is meant to be a place to ask questions, learn, share calls for art, and support one another-- a real community. It is a private group so you will have to answer the membership questions.
Leave me a comment if you have any questions and please help me get the word out. And if you are part of an organization that is under-representing women please join us in this effort. We don't want to fight with you, we want you to join our team to create positive change.
(Note on stats from exhibit: Paintings with subjects in the distance were not counted as they were more of a scene scape and less of a focused subject. There were a couple of paintings that were obscured enough that it was not completely clear if the subjects was male or female. I made my best judgement. As there were only a couple of these it would not significantly alter the conclusions if I were wrong.)
11/2/2021 09:10:43 am
Thank you for talking about this inequity! I have wondered the same. Why aren't more women represented in the western art community? It is on all of us to change that and through Cowgirl Art Rodear, I am grateful to be a voice for this change. Thanks again, Megan!
11/2/2021 04:14:27 pm
Thank you Karen! Yes Cowgirl Art Rodear is doing great work to help make this change! They are such a great non-profit supporting cowgirl artist!!
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