Tag Archives: renaissance

The Women of Art History Hold a Lot of Surprises


Frida Kahlo

Researching the women of art history was both exciting and deeply disturbing for me. With Women’s History Month about to kick off in a few days and equality across the board in the national and global spotlight, I decided to dig a bit deeper and see what it was like for the women who went before me.
I studied art history in college. I have studied the Florentine Renaissance with none other than the director of the famed Uffizi Gallery’s daughter, a well-respected art historian in her own right. I have pored over books and books on the subject of art history on my own for nearly 20 years, as I love the subject. In another life, I would have loved to be an art historian.
All this is to say: I know my art history, but I had to dig back in my memory pretty hard — assisted by Google — to find a list of 12 women painters. (I stuck to two-dimensional artists, as that is my art form.)

Joan Mitchell

When I look to the past for guidance, as artists often do. I do not see myself staring back at me. I see a sea of predominantly European men. I often ask the question: “Name five famous female artists.” Very few can do that. That is sad to me. Where were all the women?

Mary Cassatt

They were there, painting, when they could. Historically, a woman’s life was primarily centered on caring for home and family. Hard to imagine, but even in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, woman were forbidden from the cafés of Europe. To be allowed into a circle of artists or a movement such as Impressionism, a woman needed a man to vouch for her, both among other artists and among the buying public’s perceptions.
Only three women ever made their way into the Impressionist group. And the rules were different for them.

Artemisia Gentileschi

I also learned in my research that today, in 2017, statistically I make 22 percent less money than my male counterparts, and that potential buyers are more likely to by art from men, and only 30 percent of all artists represented in galleries are women.*
I have no answers for you, my dear reader, only the facts to lay before you, and the invitation to come along with me throughout March as we celebrate some extraordinary woman who, against all odds, did make the history books.
Let us learn, know, and celebrate! Look for this celebration on my Facebook page starting March 1.
As always let’s continue the conversation on Facebook and Instagram. Cheers!

Art Mimics Life



Can you tell I’m hiding out on the peaceful shores of Lake Michigan? Here is Clay Cliffs, a Leelanau Conservancy-protected land. 18 x 18 oil painting

The most fascinating thing about art history is the context.

Artists respond to current events. The Renaissance literally means “rebirth”; artists were responding to the Dark Ages, saying “no more” and looking towards enlightenment. And so it goes throughout the history of art: Impressionists were responding to years of constraint in art. The invention of tube paint and the camera gave a newfound freedom to get outside and paint plein air, leaving literal interpretation to the camera. With such freedom, they made bolder, freer art. The establishment hated it. The Post Impressionist took that even further.


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is another treasure of Michigan, and a favorite resting place. 18 x 18 oil painting

In America right now, current events are blowing up all over every day. Movements are forming and the “unprecedented” is happening everyday. So how are artists responding? I don’t know quite yet. I only know that they are, and they will.

I am wrestling with this issue almost daily in the studio. I don’t know how to respond with art. Almost a decade ago, I made a choice to keep art as my happy place, to make art that brings about a smile. To make art that celebrates the landscapes I love so deeply. And to save the issues that matter most to me for writing and personal exploration. I have long been an activist, a philanthropist, championing for children’s rights for a quality education in Ethiopia. Equality and justice matter deeply to me. Now this struggle is on my own front door … that is more complex to share than boarding a plane to Ethiopia. When it came to Ethiopia, I choose to celebrate the beauty and dignity of the culture in my art. That was what was truest to my heart. It remains truest to my heart to keep art a riotous, joyous celebration.


More Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park goodness. Here, the view overlooks the Glen Lakes. 18 x 18 oil painting

I’ve heard it said, “Leave it to the artist to explain the why.” I cannot explain to you the why, or tell you why life is simultaneously hard and unfair and beautiful and resilient. But I can share with you the struggle: You’re not alone, and neither am I. And I can tell you that this American struggle is deeply on my mind; as a private citizen, I am extremely active and engaged, and I think we are all called upon right now to be so. Even if it’s just putting more kindness into the world — do that!

As for my art, for now I rest, steady in the knowledge that the mere act of making art is enough. The celebration of art is a rebellion. And I promise you this, I will keep making and celebrating art at the top of my lungs, though the words of Nina Simone haunt me: “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”

What do you think? As always I love when you join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram. I’ll see you there!


The skies over Lake Michigan are as glorious as the shore, and never overlooked by my artist’s eye. 14 x 14 oil painting