Have you ever looked at a piece of art and assumed something about the artist who produced it?
At a recent Art Exhibition Opening entitled “Top Choice” at the SOBO Gallery, in historic DownTown Winter Garden, I did just that.
I was discussing a photographic piece I admired entitled “God Bless America” with a local artist and photographer Angel Lalumondier, asking her input on how the photograph was actually created technically. We both stood admiring the photograph of a bald eagle, staring directly into the lens. The eagles face is the only thing shown in the piece and the artist replaced the background with a heavy dense black frame so that the eagles head is seemingly suspended in the beautiful black and white picture. Bold, beautiful and masculine. At least this was our assumption. We started to refer to the artist as a “he”. As I leaned in to see the name of the photographer I was shocked to discover that “he was Barbara Russo! So “he” was actually a “she”! Yet why had we both assumed that the photograph had been created by a man? We had both made assumptions about the artists gender based on the qualities of the image. So, I suggested we play a game. We started examining other pieces throughout the exhibition and guessing the artists genders. Much to our surprise we got most of them wrong!
Most artwork contains elements of both masculine and feminine sensibilities. The Ying and the Yang. According to these ancient Chinese principles we each contain masculine and feminine qualities regardless of gender. This led me to ask what other assumptions we make about the artist when we look at a piece of work? Perhaps subconsciously we even assume age, experience and perhaps hair color!
The work of British street artist “Banksy” probably asks us to examine this idea even further. Banksy is a graffiti artist who creates stencils in public spaces featuring striking and humorous images usually used as political statements. Although Banksy’s name and identity remain unknown the artist is always referred to as a “he”. Banksy’s identity has been guarded as the work is produced on public buildings without prior approval making it “illegal”. The public is left with the question of who is Banksy? Even the name in itself, Banksy, doesn’t give us an indication as to the gender, age or background of the artist. Everyone has assumed that Banksy is a man although it’s possible that Banksy could be a woman or even a collective group of individuals.
So the next time you are in an art gallery ask yourself if you are making assumptions about the artist as you admire their work.