Why Now is the Best Time for Women Artists to Prosper in the Art World

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The Struggle for Female Artists to Gain Recognition in a Male-Dominated Industry

It was around 2005 and our dealer wanted to refresh our biographies. He hired a freelance writer to interview me and John. She spoke with each of us over the phone, asking us how we got our start in art, what inspired our work, and what our creative process was like as a couple that collaborated. She wanted to know what each of us did on a piece and how we worked together. The whole conversation seemed straightforward and simple; it didn't occur to us to ask to read the bio before it was printed.

About a month later we received a pack of beautiful trifold handouts that showcased our collaborative artwork. I was excited to see it until I saw the final result of our bio. I read such glowing things about John: He'd received a set of oils from his mother at a young age and began painting by 5 years old. He was inspired by his inner spiritual dialogue where he saw abstract form develop. His process was directed by his intuitive and spontaneous sensitivities that produced bold layers and aggressive color choices.

The Elli in this bio, on the other hand, had always loved color crayons, was inspired to work alongside her husband, enjoyed preparing her husband's surfaces, and finds collage fun and creative. 

Artist Couple Elli and John Milan

The disparity between John's artistic credibility and mine was extremely evident in the writing of this biography. I came across as the crafty coifed wife who had a real artist for a husband. I was basically John's assistant.

But this obvious slant wasn't confined to just this incident. When I did the New York Artexpo in the spring of 2010, I faced it again. We had decided that John would stay home with the kids while I went to Artexpo to sell our work. All the designers and gallery owners came to my booth asking to meet John. They were disappointed to only meet the “wife assistant.” Our gallery in Scottsdale, that represented us for about 15 years, would only put John's name in the title cards under our paintings. Every time I came and saw it, I would ask them to add my name and reminded them that the paintings were equal collaborations.

How Biases Against Women in the Art World Still Prevail Today

This favoritism towards men in the art world is not just my experience. As you begin to look at factual statistics, you see that only 11% of all museum acquisitions in the last decade were from female artists. More than 60% of females make up art school rosters, while less than 20% are accepted into Art Basel Miami. Of the $11 billion worth of art sold at auction last year, only 9.3% was from female artists. 

The Influence of Art on Culture and the Importance of Female Voices

Group of powerhouse female artists

Art has the power to change the world. If we look at history and how influential art has been in culture, this male monopoly becomes even more aggravating. Where is the female voice in the shaping and shifting of culture?

As we look over the current landscape of (social media) influencers, we see a personification of what I described in my bio experience. Females are still objectified as sexual objects and beauty symbols who speak about things like “self-care” while plumping their lips, and cheeks with biohazard. Fake bodies, fake lashes, and fake lifestyle have become the norm. Unfortunately this has been their choice — and many other women have patronized the movement with their comments, likes, and purchasing of these products.

Now is the time for all of this to change. Women need to stand as women and lift their voices to speak about deep and profound things that will bring lasting change. Women need to nurture the world with their art and uphold Beauty with vulnerability and strength. It is a woman's overcoming of her pain that empowers her art and gives it authority to influence the world.

The Rise of Women Artists: The Unsung Heroes of the Art World

This is the time for female artists to succeed by bringing hope and vision of a better future with their art. It is our quiet determination that will prevail. Our resilience and steadfast effort to succeed will be unstoppable. The world won't even realize what is happening to it; it will be too late for it to turn back.

Female artists, as a massive army, cannot be thwarted or deterred. We don't need to prove ourselves to galleries or hope to make entry into an auction or museum. Our art and the beauty it presents to the world to behold will be enough. Every follower and every art sale will add to our conquest. As the tippy top of the establishment art world crumbles and topples down, a worldwide movement of women artists will rise and shine, bring freedom to the captives, rebuild the ancient ruins, raise up the former devastations. We will repair the ruined cities and heal the desolations of the generations.

Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

1 comment

  • Phyllis A Taylor

    Oh Yes! It is time. It has always been time for women to be appreciated, recognized and honored for what they contribute to the world. I am a 76 year old female artist whose portfolio had been reviewed (decades ago) and then would get the question “can you type?” Aaaaarghhh! I draw/paint Women of Substance from my Pannet Art Studio/Fierce,
    Fabulous & Feminine Creativity. These women are Survivors and so much more…they are Thrivers! “… Female artists, as a massive army, cannot be thwarted or deterred. We don’t need to prove ourselves to galleries or hope to make entry into an auction or museum. Our art and the beauty it presents to the world to behold will be enough.” Thank you Elli for speaking such powerful words for the generations following to read and hear!
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Thank you!!! Keep doing what you are doing! We are changing the world!

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