*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
It is true that art, while indebted to tradition, is usually at odds with it; art is about the thrill of mutiny. Young painters and sculptors are particularly unwilling to be hampered by the past, especially if that past is encased in the cement shoes of gender. But familiarity with tradition can be liberating for an artist because it provides a map illustrating the route other people have taken, which is especially valuable at the start of such a perilous journey. Male artists can inspire and instruct, surely. Artistic concerns are gender neutral. But there are social and personal issues a woman artist faces that cannot be found in the stories of men; these are the obstacles confronted and obstacles overcome. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “For spiritual values and a creative tradition to continue unbroken we need concrete artifacts, the work of hands, written words to read, images to look at, a dialogue with brave and imaginative women who came before us.” It’s instructive as well as comforting to know how other women have managed and what other women have dared. It’s also gratifying to find in their stories an occasional energizing dose of inspiration.