The Badass Women of Abstract Expressionism
Helen Frankenthaler: "There are no rules. Let the picture lead you where it must go."
I've been fascinated by abstract expressionism since one of my art history professors cried during his lecture about Robert Motherwell. One of my English professors cried while reading T.S. Eliot, too, and I love T.S. Eliot. That's liberal arts for you...but that's another topic!
Abstract expressionism is about direct gesture and process, which reveals inward thoughts and feelings about people, places, memories and experiences. This is what we do at Bohemia in all of our various projects! Expressive or intuitive painting is about making marks, making choices on color and gesture by feel, and doing, rather than thinking and planning.
An amazing exhibition at the Denver Art Museum in 2016 highlighted the often unknown female artists of this mid-twentieth-century art movement: Mary Abbott, Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Deborah Remington, and Ethel Schwabacher. Many of these women were married to established working artists: Helen Frankenthaler to Robert Motherwell, Elaine de Kooning to Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner to Jackson Pollack. In the late 50s it was quite revolutionary that these women broke out of the roles of muse or wife to forge a path as artists themselves.
I'm just starting a book called Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art, by Mary Gabriel.
"Set amid the most turbulent social and political period of modern times, Ninth Street Women is the impassioned, wild, sometimes tragic, always exhilarating chronicle of five women who dared to enter the male-dominated world of twentieth-century abstract painting--not as muses but as artists. From their cold-water lofts, where they worked, drank, fought, and loved, these pioneers burst open the door to the art world for themselves and countless others to come."
Here's a link to another cool article I read in the Sunday 11/10 New York Times Magazine about women artists Cecily Brown and Celia Paul: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/magazine/women-art-celia-paul-cecily-brown.html.
"I carry my landscapes around with me." - Joan Mitchell