Friday, October 3, 2008

Striking the Transit Gendered Ire

In angst unrelated from last night, I am frustrated. Again, it is with the art world (the comparison post is still coming, by the way).

Men On Maps, in Bronx's Haven Arts Gallery, closes soon. I think the premise is really neat as a map lover and transit devotee.

The exhibit presents "unique aesthetic responses of over 40 male artists when presented with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s map of the New York Cities subway system as a base upon which to create." WHY WEREN'T ANY WOMEN HANDED ANY MAPS?

Because the gallery already did an all-female show. Really. I'm serious, that's their reason:
appreciate your concern about the apparent exclusionary nature of "Men on Maps" at Haven.
The show was conceived two years ago to balance an exhibition shown at Haven Arts at our previous location, called "13 Women on 13 Walls." In that show, we invited 13 women curators to curate one wall in our old gallery. Since that show excluded men, this show excluded women. These were highly unusual shows, we certainly welcome everyone's participation in all the rest of what we do.

Best wishes,

Carol Zakaluk
Director of Non-profit Exhibitions

Zakaluk points out that these shows are not typical. But I think the gimmick of 13 Women on 13 Walls is just as dumb. But I also opposed Boys Against Girls teams in high school and in soccer scrimmages, and my dissent was never popular. I think separating anything by gender is a ridiculous and archaic pratice, even in art. Haven is not the first gallery to do this. It will not be the last. But it's otherwise great exhibit is mired knowing that if I were a working artist in New York I'd have been left out. Despite a large catalogue of work about maps and personal exploration.

Haven Arts, lover of Great Titles (see below) probably doesn't agree about segregating by gender, not because they've done it twice now, but because both titles have a great ring to them. Also, you know, it's a good idea to build a show around a really great title. From founder Barry Kostrinksy:

"Men on maps" had a good sound. I hope to run "Ms on maps" one day. The 2 shows would offer a small research ground for the different approaches men and woman may have to the topic.

That was the gallery's first response, actually. Their first explanation was a half-assed, we came up with this title and thought we might build something around it instead of taking a great concept from the idea and brainstorming a better, more creative, title.

I've curated shows, and as a group, devising the title was the most difficult process. Trying to satisfy a group of 20+ twenty-somethings on a title that isn't lame is almost impossible. I think my favorite shows had the worst names, actually. And I recognize that having a great title will help bring people in the gallery. I know, I know. But really? This is actually about alliteration? People, get the dictionary and start looking up M.

I also think the promise to "one day" have a Ms. on Maps is patronizing. You know, one day, when I got nothing else to do and I've wrestled up enough women to participate. It's so hard to find good help. (And if it's all about M then why not bring the Men and Ms. together?) I promised to "one day" print a zine about transit stories. It's been almost two years (because "one day" I'd start the blog and it took a year to sit down and sign up for blogger) and I've only committed to liking a handful of stories.

The attitude continues from there though, that men and women are inherently different about their approaches to the project. Wouldn't want different viewpoints in an gallery now would we?! This prehistoric idealism is counterprodcutive to the central focus of art. One of the greatest lectures I heard during my education was that "No one has taken a photograph of a flower like you have. And no one has taken a photograph of a flower like I have."

I let some of my stubborn ideologies go after recognizing that the reason I create art is because I think I have a different perspective than anybody else. It's also the reason I write. And it's the reason we look at art, to see what someone else's interpretation is. But Haven wants its single-minded estrogen and testostrone separated.

And if that's how they want it, I invite them to carry on without my work, without my friends' work. Because we'll find someone else a little more open. I want someone who sees my work, not my tits.

(As an aside, if Kostrinsky's website worked, I could say conclusively that his paintings are amazing. They do look beautiful. I just don't agree with his decision making.)

1 comment:

Annie said...

I'd like a breakdown by sex of all of the artwork they've shown, actually. Sounds like a classic scenario to me.