Happy International Women's Day! Today also marks a day of protest aptly titled; #ADayWithoutWomen, a rally call for the ever continuing fight for equality, justice, human rights and anti-gender suppression - strikes which may resonate a bit more south of the border, given the current political turmoil. Fortunately, here in Canada, we have a leader who declares himself a 'feminist' (although I'd like to see him take a much stronger stand for mother earth, but that's a protest for another day). So since 'striking' would be futile around this house (I'm not sure if anyone would notice if I didn't paint today, but 4 small voices would definitely notice if I didn't show up for mom duties (good thing dad is equally on call). So I would like to support women's rights by sharing a personal experience.
This morning a particular image resonated strongly with me. It was that of the bronze statue of the fearless, little girl standing in front of a statue of a charging bull, which has been all over social media. Having our own small, fearless little girl; who day after day holds her own in a house of 3 brothers, made that image strike a chord. My hope is that she goes through life with courage, & the freedom to make choices to be whomever or whatever she wants to be. The metaphor also resonated personally for me as I look back on my decision to pursue a career in the fine arts.
Many years ago, when I was offered my first gallery representation, I was given some horrible advice. I was told not to sign my first name to any of my work, because then viewers/buyer would know I was female! I wouldn't be taken as seriously as an artist. I wouldn't be able to sell my work for equal value compared to a male artist. Worse, I was given this advice by two women! One the gallery owner, the other a very well established art consultant. Maybe they were just being 'protective' of my young, naive self (later I realized they were actually being protective of their own economic interests). At first I listened to them (instead of my gut) - after all they had much more experience than me right? The piece in question that particular gallery took was titled 'Cautious Quench'. It was a classic wildlife piece of zebras drinking, (to me personally; a metaphor for how it feels to be 'women' navigating the world). It was my first formal art sale, it sold quickly & it sold for a considerable chunk of change. That's when the wake up call came - the buyers insisted on meeting me. They didn't care if I was male or female; it was the work that resonated with them. They wanted to know me, because it made them feel more connected to the art. I'm glad I figured out quickly that hiding behind my gender wasn't the way to move forward with career advice. So I decided that if I was going to pursue a career in painting, I would do it fearlessly, and as openly as possible. I would put myself out there for who I am, & do it passionately, & to the best of my ability. I think about this mantra in every role I play as a 'woman' in this life. I hope I'm teaching this to my daughter. It's not always perfect, and it's always messy but it's empowering.
So today I will paint, as my own personal form of protest against gender bias.
Signed sincerely, 'Cheryl Paige Bozarth'