Women in the Arts

Tribute by Michele Stapley, Mayo Center Collection. southwest art.
Tribute by Mich ele Stapley, Mayo Center Collection.

By Margaret L. Brown

I am not a woman painter!” insisted Georgia O’Keeffe in the early 1940s. Yet the label remains firmly attached to her a reputation as America’s greatest woman artist, with the new Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, NM, heralded as the first art museum dedicated to a woman.

The difference today is that the meaning of the label has changed. In fact, the term “woman artist” has moved so far beyond its earlier negative connotations that even discus-sing the topic can sound dated. In this issue’s Con-versation Piece, we ask three women artists if collectors are surprised to find traditional western artworks by a woman. No, they all say.

Today, many women artists embrace the term, forming groups such as the Western Academy of Women Artists and the Women Artists of the West. Author Betty Ann Brown emphasizes the importance of such organizations in Expanding Circles [reviewed on page 148]: “Change has been brought about not by individuals but by groups of women working together, creating communities in which to work and exhibit their art.”

We celebrate Women in the Arts this month with profiles of five women artists, a look at the art col-lection of the new Mayo Center for Women’s Health in Scottsdale, AZ, and an article on the women pioneers of the contemporary art glass movement. In Looking at Prints, Tamarind Lithog-raphy Workshop founder June Wayne discusses her six-decade career as an artist and the future of lithography in this country.

We also honor five Notable Women of 1997, including Georgia O’Keeffe Museum founder Anne Marion and 84-year-old artist Bettina Steinke, who coincidentally was featured in our first Women in the Arts issue in 1981. Steinke’s advice for women artists is: “Don’t have a studio in your house. No one will take you seriously.” Even today, with failing eyesight hindering her ability to paint, Steinke continues to go to work in her studio. It is this kind of dedication that is required of all artists, male or female, a point echoed throughout this issue.

In the end, dedication leads to quality art, and quality leads to equality in art. As former Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Director Peter Hassrick says of O’Keeffe in the recent issue of El Palacio, “I don’t particularly care what gender she was. She was good.”

A final note: Thanks for your calls and letters this year in support of our Best of the West events column, which debuted in February. In response to your suggestions, however, the column is now located after the feature articles.

Featured in June 2000