Ladies about town

I recently returned from a visit to Michigan.  There I hung out with my mum while my dad was off on an annual golf outing.  Mom and I were ladies about town.  Some highlights of our gallivanting include, going out for lunch, (more than once!) perusing local antique shops, and visiting the art museum.  Each time I visit we spend an afternoon at the Flint Institute of Arts.  I know I've said this before, but it really is a very nice museum.  They offer up interesting exhibits and have a fine permanent collection with some sparkling highlights, (such as their WALLS of glass paperweights! Love!).  Prior to my visit there had been quite a bit of chatter on my Facebook feed about the gender gap in art galleries and museums, sparked, in part by this article.  So I decided to take do a little impromptu tally of the FIA.  I'm not a numbers gal, but I would guess that the ratio of men to women artists exhibited was 10 to 1, (maybe less).  How unfortunate.  There are a number of big names in their collection...Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, Deborah well as other lesser known women artists, a few of whom to which I'd like to give a shout-out.

 Letta Crapo Smith 
The First Birthday, aka, Premiere Fete, 1904

Letta Crapo Smith was a Michigan native, granddaughter of the state's first governor, and with this painting she became the first Michigan woman to exhibit at the Paris Salon. With this work she was also awarded a Bronze Medal at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.  Go Letta!

 Elisabetta Siriani
Cleopatra, 1638
As a woman, Elisabetta Siriani was prohibited from attending the Royal Academy.  Instead she apprenticed under her father, Giovanni Andrea Siriani, assisted to the noted Baroque painter Guido Reni, and became a professional artist at the age of 17. She was one of a small number of women to attain status during the Baroque period and created over 200 paintings before her premature death at the age of 27.  Elisabetta, you rock.

Clara Deike
Westside Cleveland, 1943
Clara Dieke demonstrated the commitment and tenacity demonstrated by so many artists, women and men alike.  She earned a degree in education and then went on to attend The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  For over 40 years she successfully performed the day job/studio dance, teaching art in the Cleveland public schools and exhibiting her work annually. Hey Clara, you go girl!

One thing I noticed in my unscientific tally of the FIA, is that there was only one living woman artist exhibited in their collection; Deborah Butterfield.  Come on FIA, on so many levels, you can do better than that! 

Also while in Michigan I visited Pewabic Pottery.  Holy smokes, I can't believe I had never heard of this place until is a treasure!  Pewabic Pottery, the Midwest's only historic pottery, was founded in 1903 by Mary Chase Perry and her business partner, Horace Caulkins.   Under Ms. Chase Perry's direction the pottery produced nationally renowned vessels, tiles, and architectural ornamentation for both private and public installations.  Work from Pewabic can be found throughout the United States.  The pottery is renowned for its iridescent (and mind blowing) glazes. 

Mary Chase Perry (later Mary Chase Perry Stratton) was a dynamic and ambitious woman.  Her story is worth reading.  And, if you, dear reader, ever find yourself in Detroit, I highly recommend a visit to this place.  More than just a National Historic Landmark, Pewabic Pottery is an active and growing institution, offering education, lectures, residency programs; producing heirloom quality tiles and vessels; and showcasing the work of established and emerging artists.  I said it before and I'll say it again, this place is a TREASURE!  It makes me want to throw some pots!   Yay for you and your enduring legacy, Mary Chase Perry! 

And holla! to all you female artists out there continuing to make awesome work in spite of the obvious inequalities and biases present in today's art world.    Each and everyone of you are beautiful and badass.


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  2. wow!! Really interesting text on the individual female painters. Never thought about the gender issue in exhibiting art, either. Never heard of the pottery either, but it seems very stop-worthy. You're just like a mini-MI-traveloguer!! Thanks.