It’s the occasion of the awarding of the prestigious “Pietrasanta e la Versilia nel Mondo” Prize that brings us to write these words on the subject of “Women in Art.”.
We could call this an “open letter, to whom it may concern” – or more accurately an open post; we could call these words a simple comment to the Mayor of Pietrasanta, although he is not the committee that awards the yearly prize, … (We’ve generally come to expect few, or no answers to tricky questions, open or otherwise, in a country where ignoring “problems” is often the preferred strategy in dealing with issues large or small.)
We want to say that Ron Mehlman – this year’s winner – is a very talented sculptor, and a truly nice person, who, for 30 years has made Pietrasanta the home of his creative endeavors – our heartfelt congratulations go out to Ron and his wife Janice … who is herself a talented artist!
Pietrasanta, you may have heard us on the topic., is a lively arts community in the northwest part of Tuscany – the city is famous, the world over, for its marble laboratories and bronze foundries. For decades world-class artists have come and worked along the “artigiani” – the talented folk who make the art “happen.”
We write this today because we’ve repeatedly heard from artists – and received letters, on the subject of women artists in Pietrasanta. We have been wondering about the issue of gender because by all accounts Pietrasanta is a progressive and forward-thinking city, that prides itself in having a diverse group of folks represented in art exhibitions in its Piazzas and exhibition spaces.
We have been wondering, specifically, because the ratio of female to male artists who’ve won the “Pietrasanta e la Versilia nel Mondo Prize” … and the ratio of female to male artists who’ve been granted the opportunity to exhibit works in the city’s major Summer exhibitions, … is very … un-evenly skewed, to put it politely.
This year marks the twenty-fourth awarding of the “Pietrasanta e la Versilia nel Mondo” Prize – it’s a prize dedicated to sculptors who’ve helped promote Pietrasanta in the global arts community. You can contact directly the “Fratelli Rosselli Foundation,” the people who put on the prize, on a webpage, linked here. (And we direct you to a page with some of our previous posts on the prestigious Prize, linked here.) The list of winners is impressive. It is a testament to Pietrasanta, and to its enduring power as center for art and sculpture.
… Buuut, of the twenty-six winners (one year the prize was shared between two sculptors) only two of the winners were women. (We put the “two” in bold – as we find it a bit … well, incredible, that this can be true.)
We mention flatly that there are countless amazing female artists and sculptors that live and work in Pietrasanta, some are local, some come from every corner of the world – we cannot overstate the incredible range of approaches, and their true mastery of the medium of sculpture.
We have a chance to mingle and chat – sometimes informally – with artists and sculptors from all over the world, sometimes over an aperitivo in Piazza, and sometimes also privately. The subject of the talk sometimes turns to the space afforded women artists in the “City of Art.” Sometimes it’s a conversation that ends with a quizzical “wtf” expression, and a puzzled shrug of the shoulders, often there’s a tangible sense of bewilderment and dread that stills the chit chat.
The city, in fact, does promote female sculptors through their curatorial decisions: one is the annual “Donna Scultura” exhibition, which, for years, has showcased the work of women sculptors. You can get a sense of the range and talent by seeing some of the artists’ often wonderful work. (We direct you to a page with some of our previous posts about “Donna Scultura,” linked here.)
That said, we feel compelled to join the chorus of people who question the city’s commitment to women in art.
“Donna Scultura,” which is held in the city’s premiere exhibition hall, the truly beautiful Church of Sant’Agostino, usually features the work of 4 female sculptors. (2012 saw FORTY women sculptors celebrated…!! ) Our question here, is: why relegate the exhibition to February… a Winter month known for its rainstorms and generally low attendance to art shows?
This year’s exhibition was rich and reflected the very differing approaches of four very unique individuals, but why was it so poorly curated? The show was mounted in a seemingly hap-hazard manner, the works sometimes fought one-another, the bases of the works distracted from the overall exhibition…
We don’t write longer pieces anymore, to the understandable relief of many, – we did, when we didn’t try to cover all the shows in the area… We certainly don’t habitually write long polemic speeches just to stoke controversy on difficult issues facing Pietrasanta. But, we feel compelled to “wonder out loud” about this, to start a conversation on the issue, … and so we’ve rambled on…
We don’t expect any official “answer” from local institutions, policy-makers, or from individual sculptors, … but we wholeheartedly welcome your thoughts on the subject.
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have something to say. (We won’t publish any letter you prefer kept confidential) we want to hear from you, dear reader, on this – and any other art-related topic.