Women Artists and the Freedom to Create

This Autumn, the work of women artists will be pervading the art scene from gallery exhibitions to solo shows in museums. Women have always been artists—expressing themselves early on in forms from weaving to ceramics—and in more recent centuries have been patrons, collectors, muses, and critics. The acceptance of women as “fine artists” is a modern phenomenon.

Historical repression of women as artists

Although western society no longer has moral and social barriers to perceiving and celebrating women as artists, for most of recorded history women artists have encountered gender bias and opposition to their training and education, to their focus on formal artistic expression, and to recognition.

For hundreds of years, women were thoroughly excluded from the records of art history because of the dismissive attitude that art forms like textiles and decorative arts were not fine art—but training in fine art wasn’t afforded to women. Also, men who commanded the art world often dismissed women as being inherently inferior artists. Sometimes husbands or other family members took credit for the work of women artists such as Margaret Keane (the 2014 movie Big Eyes was based on her story), Mary Beale and Gwen John.

Even in the mid-twentieth century, art was considered to be a masculine field and when a woman artist was acknowledged for her talent, she was believed to be an anomaly. In the mid-1900s, the influential abstract impressionist painter Lee Krasner—one of the few female artists to have had a retrospective show at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art— received a left-handed compliment from the German-born American expressionist painter Hans Hoffmann who famously said of her work, “This is so good you wouldn’t know it was done by a woman.” Credit for the growth of inclusion and appreciation of women artists goes largely to the intervention of feminism later that century.

Women artists today

Women often use the medium of art to try to awaken the world and cause it to grow—a trait inherent within feminine nature. Modern female artists often use their creativity to address women’s issues. In the 1970s, British multi-media artist Margaret Harrison’s drawings focused on the objectification women face daily. Currently, sculptor Cornelia Parker’s work motivates us to understand how idealized images of the female body compare to those of real women. Today many women artists are exploring personal and transnational issues of identity, racism, and also global politics and the politics of displaced exiled populations. Exiled Iranian-born New Yorker Shirin Neshat and Lebanese-born Palestinian Mona Hatoum, based in London, create works that give insights into conflicting countries, cultures, and gender roles.

Some of the artists whose work will be featured in 2016 and 2017 are Charlotte Moorman, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Beverly Buchanan, Agnes Martin, Pipilotti Rist, 87 year old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and 101 year old Carmen Herrera.

Why not create?

Now that, in the west at least, most women can find the education, training and support to develop their talent as artists, we can express our innate creativity in any medium—or fashion a new one. But many women experience that their creative energy is consumed by the responsibilities of work and family. They find that their creative spirit is suffocated by routine work, stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Though responsibilities and other goals can consume our energy, creativity, and nourishing power to some degree, we each have unbridled access to a storehouse of these qualities where we can regenerate ourselves.

Consciousness and creativity

At the source of our thought, the mind’s essence is infinite. There is no limit to the energy, intelligence and creativity in our nature. Every thought we have is a display of energy; when energy has content or takes a direction, that is an indication of intelligence—and intelligence structuring energy is creativity. We never run out of thoughts in our lifetime, therefore the source of our thought is an infinite reservoir of the qualities of energy, intelligence and creativity. Often our greatest insights and best ideas come spontaneously from deep within us. A flash of creativity can be a subtle abstract feeling that bubbles up from our quiet depth.

A woman only needs a way to tap into that inner reservoir and she can then easily express herself in a powerful, meaningful and authentic way. The Transcendental Meditation technique is a twice-daily practice that opens awareness to subtler realms of experience, sharpening perception, appreciation and fascination with life. TM also rewards us with more refined clear perception as stress and imbalances dissipate—for example, artists who learn TM notice even in the first few days after being instructed that colors are more vivid and inspiration abounds.

Joey Fauerso, a professional artist and art professor in San Antonio, Texas, says:

The most important way that TM has affected my work as an artist is primarily that it taps into an abstract experience that is incredibly lively and incredibly creative…. It’s something all-encompassing that creates an experience that I later draw on in my work…. I let the work flow in an intuitive way (with) the ability to be flexible and draw on this creative experience that is very abstract—a creative space that I connect with on a regular basis. The more time I have for meditation, the more surprising, creative and fresh I find my work to be.

Your inner muse

A woman has to be stable and flexible, with a solid foundation in her own unique Self. She thrives when connected to her innate, divinely feminine energy, which the transcending process enables her to access automatically. The TM technique produces deep relaxation to neutralize the accumulation of daily stresses and evolves bliss and inspiration to maintain effortless creative flow. Twice-daily TM practice keeps an artist tirelessly attuned to that inner source, promoting spontaneity, originality, and freedom of expression, giving her full reign to delight in the field of all possibilities. The freedom to create is not just external but is also internal. It is there for us to take and enjoy.

Individuals practicing TM showed increased creativity, higher levels of pictorial flexibility and verbal fluency in comparison to controls. The Journal of Creative Behavior 13: 169-180, 1979.

About the Author

Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals, a division of TM for Women in the USA

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