That Time When Someone Told Me That I Paint Like a Man

South Tawton Ceiling Boss:
The Green Man (Simhasana — Lion’s Breath)
oil on panel, 16″ x 16″
© 2013 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
South Tawton Church, Dartmoor, Devonshire, England

During the reception for the 2013 exhibition in which I debuted the painting above, South Tawton Ceiling Boss: The Green Man (Simhasana — Lion’s Breath), I caught the eye of a visitor. She repeatedly looked back and forth — first at me, then up at the painting, which I had hung from and parallel to the ceiling.

The viewer approached me and asked, “Is that you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “It’s a self-portrait.”

“But it’s called The Green MAN,” she objected, puzzled.

“Exactly,” I replied with a smile.


When I was in college, there was a fellow art student who liked to make misogynistic comments to his female colleagues. In his case, his main motivation seemed to be a misguided attempt at getting attention, because the more one of his targets objected, the more teasing she received. As a result, though I certainly didn’t care for his offensive banter any more than my fellow female art students, I tried my best to not reveal my irritation, and since we also had a fellow male friend in common, he usually left me alone.

One day after he saw some of my paintings, he intended to complement me by saying,

You paint like a man.

Upon deeper discussion, it became clear that he was responding to certain qualities about my style that he chose to assign to his gender, including bold colors and brushwork, and the way I approached my portrait subject matter. Yet the irony was that my main influence in college was a female artist: Alice Neel.

Since I was ever one to eschew gender-specific roles and mores, I did not forget his comment. Why should anyone assign gender specificity to any certain style of painting? For the first couple of years after I graduated, I ended the initial version of my Artist’s Statement with this colleague’s comment; I felt it was important to make it clear that I was a woman artist.

Fascinated with the story, a curator polled viewers of my work during a 1992 exhibit. When pressed to choose, most thought that I was a male artist until they read my signature.

I hadn’t thought of these experiences until the recent International Woman’s Day and the Day Without a Woman strike on March 8th. So in honor of Women’s History Month, I give you this challenge: how many women artists and those artists who identify as female can you name? No cheating by looking in your art history books or online – just list the ones who come to mind. Post your list by making a comment below, and then I’ll share a compiled list in my next blog post.

In the meantime, while you are listing your artists, if you haven’t seen the film Big Eyes, be sure to check it out this month.

All the best, and Namaste,

Amy

This entry was posted in Archetypes and symbolism, General art discussion and philosophy, Other artists and tagged , .

15 Comments

  1. Julie Funderburk March 22, 2017 at 7:38 PM #

    My list is sadly small. I cheated to fix a spelling. And I am bad with names; I just saw a female artist featured at the HIrshhorn in DC, Barbara Kruger, but I had to google up her name.

    Mary Cassatt
    Georgia O’Keefe
    Frida Kahlo
    Berthe Morisot
    Camille Claudel (sculpture OK on list?)
    Judy Chicago
    Amy Funderburk
    Jayne Johnson

    A note on Joan Miro – my first time seeing his work in a museum, I thought Joan was Joan, not Joan. Hahaha.

    • Amy March 25, 2017 at 9:50 PM #

      Thank you for your list, Julie! You get a large, smiling gold star for including your sister’s name on the list. ;o)

      I certainly welcome sculptors as well as women working in all other media to our communal list — in fact, I am hoping for a variety and not just painters. I have some sculptors on my own tally, as well as photographers.

      Looking up correct spelling isn’t cheating, such as confirming that “Juan Miro” is actually “Joan”. :o) Thanks for participating!

      Amy

  2. James Williams March 26, 2017 at 5:16 PM #

    Female artists (I wrote this list before reading any others):

    Georgia O’Keeffe
    Maggie Taylor
    Sally Mann
    Helen Frankenthaler
    Frida Kahlo
    Berthe Morisot
    Lee Krasner
    Mary Cassatt
    Margaret Keane
    Vivian Maier
    Linda McCartney

    I did not include Amy, since she is my wife!

  3. Badman April 12, 2017 at 4:58 PM #

    Frida Kahlo
    Alice Neel
    Mary Cassatt
    Helen Frankenthaler
    The “Dinner Party” artist
    Louise Nevelson
    Barbara Kruger
    The “Dot” artist (also does some incredible pattern work)
    Georgia O’Keeffe

    The woman performance artist that sat across people and they just looked at each other

    The woman who did the quilt and I just cannot think of her name but I think she also did a Aunt Jemima series…can’t believe I cannot remember her name!

    Rosa something…horse painter, disguised herself in men’s clothes and short hair

    I remember images more than names… time to do better.♀

    • Amy April 13, 2017 at 3:56 AM #

      Well done! Thank you for your list.

      I can fill in a few names here — Marina Abramović is the performance artist you reference who did The Artist is Present.

      Judy Chicago created her signature work, The Dinner Party.

      I’m very glad you thought to include Faith Ringgold, who works in various media and artistic disciplines. Her works include art quilts such as Who’s Afraid Of Aunt Jemima? from 1983.

      Since I recently learned about her work, I too had to look up the name of “the dot artist” when I made my own list. I suspect you are referring to the colorful Pop artist Yayoi Kusama, from Japan.

      One of Rosa Bonheur’s most noteworthy paintings is The Horse Fair, 1852-1855. Her work is amazing!

      Amy

  4. Paul Watson April 12, 2017 at 11:37 PM #

    Käthe Kollwitz is a big influence for me, so she’s top of my list.

    And the rest off the top of my head:

    Frida Kahlo
    Paula Rego
    Leonora Carrington
    Georgia O’Keeffe
    Louise Bourgeois
    Cindy Sherman
    Jenny Holzer
    Jenny Saville
    Rachel Whiteread
    Tracey Emin
    Gentileschi (I think I spelled that correctly and I can’t remember her first name)
    Barbara Hepworth
    Marina Abramović
    Bridget Riley

    • Amy April 13, 2017 at 4:56 AM #

      You’ve contributed a fantastic list, Paul! I can absolutely see the influence of Kollwitz on your work.

      When Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi painted Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1614-1620, she chose to depict her protagonist as someone truly capable of doing the beheading depicted. Many versions of this theme by Gentileschi’s contemporaries make Judith look as if she is barely able to lift a sword.

      You’ve included a few names here with whom I am not familiar. I look foward to researching them!

      Amy

  5. Pam J. Richards April 14, 2017 at 2:51 PM #

    My list will be short and in no particular order (like my memory!) but does include a few wonderful artists that I’ve recently discovered and connected with via Twitter…

    Tracey Emin
    Frida Kahlo
    Karen Cater
    Barbara Hepworth
    Louise Bourgeois
    Tanith Hicks
    Rima Staines
    Jennifer Robson
    Amy Funderburk

    (I only cheated *slightly* by looking up the spelling of names after I’d compiled my list – honest Guv!) 😉

    • Amy April 19, 2017 at 2:02 PM #

      Dear Pam:

      You’re allowed to check spelling after the fact; I did the same thing. :o) And a big gold star to you for listing yours truly; hee hee!

      You’ve listed some new-to-me names — I look forward to checking out their work.

      Many thanks for your participation!
      Amy

  6. Gina April 19, 2017 at 3:09 PM #

    This list includes many different media in addition to painters:

    Lee Bontecou
    Kara Walker
    Catherine Opie
    Julie Mehretu
    Coco Fusco
    Frida Kahlo
    Dora Carrington
    Georgia O’Keeffe
    Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith
    Karen Finley
    Annie Leibovitz
    Lee Krasner
    Dorothea Tanning
    Berthe Morisot
    Amy Funderburk
    Alice Neel
    Joan Mitchell
    Jody Pinto
    Jocelyn Taylor
    Jay Defeo
    Nancy Spero
    E.V. Day
    Gretchen Bennett

    There are a few others on the tip of my tongue. I can see their work; I can’t remember their names.

    • Amy April 19, 2017 at 9:31 PM #

      Thank you for a fantastic list, Gina! I am delighted that you included women working in a variety of art forms on your list, and not just painters. You have shared the names of several incredible artists that I am learning about here, as well as a couple that I had forgotten to include on my own list.

      Well done; I appreciate your participation! And you also get a big, shining, happy, smiley-faced gold star for including my name! I’ll do my very best to try to be remotely worthy of inclusion in such esteemed company. :o)
      Amy

  7. Jennifer Robson April 22, 2017 at 6:34 AM #

    Hello Amy,

    Thanks for the invite, I know loads of female artists but hard to think of them off the top of my head! Here’s a few who have influenced me. Some doublers, but they mean a lot to me. Also Alice Neel is AMAZING! 😉

    Social media/mates who I admire:

    Deirdre Nelson
    Jill Skulina
    Joyce Gunn Cairns
    Beth Fischer
    Aileen Stackhouse
    PJ Richards
    Tanith Hicks
    Jackie Anderson
    Paola McClure
    Penelope Gavin
    Beth Robertson Fiddes
    Lorena Carrington
    Lorraine Robson

    Famous artists:

    Kiki Smith
    Louise Bourgeois
    Frida Kahlo
    Paula Rego
    Ru Paul
    Jenny Saville
    Karen Kilimnik
    Alison Watt
    Leonora Carrington (different from the above Lorena)
    Dorothea Tanning
    Tracy Emin
    Vanessa Beescroft
    Marlene Dumas
    Elizabeth Peyton

    • Amy April 24, 2017 at 11:05 PM #

      Hi Jennifer:

      Thanks so much for participating, and for introducing me to some new names via your list! I’m very glad you know about the work of Alice Neel.

      All the best,
      Amy

  8. Julie April 22, 2017 at 1:22 PM #

    Frida Kahlo, Elizabeth Siddal, Tracy Emin, Polly Morgan, Yoko Ono, Louise Bourgeois and Amy Funderburk

    • Amy April 24, 2017 at 11:08 PM #

      Dear Julie:

      Hurrah! I’m so glad you listed both Elizabeth Siddal and Yoko Ono. I’ve been surprised that Ono hadn’t appeared on anyone’s list but mine until your contribution. I was not familiar with the work of Polly Morgan until now.

      Many thanks for participating!
      Amy

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