In my offline conversations with Tricia Matthew I’ve been pondering how best to get more white women involved in conversations about race, feminism, and academia. One of the things I keep hitting on is the need for women with power to use it for “good” (in a variation of Spiderman/Kennedy).
As I wrote a recent book review, I realized that I’d slipped myself in follow my own dictum. I always attempt to provide supportive criticism, but of course, criticism itself is not a neutral thing. As I attempted to summarize the 20+ articles in an anthology as part of a three-book, three-thousand word review, I wrote the following
Finally, the widest impact of the feminist art movement is considered in a set of essays that move both geographically, and temporally, into the late twentieth century. These seven essays, which are so broad as to defy easy summarization here, in some ways relate to the other works included in Entering the Picture, but at some points seem to be linked only by their focus on “women artists.” However pieces about Chicana feminist art, Asian American women artists, American Indian women’s art, and Pacific Rim women’s arts, provide valuable contributions to the discussion of the feminist art movement, which often focuses too much on the work of white women artists.
Because the book begins with the Fresno “feminist art” program [read gendered but not (necessarily raced)] I lapsed into generalized summary of the more complex articles that treat intersections of ethnicity, race, and feminism. In large part because I’m working right now on the “stories we tell” about feminism, I realized the error, and I cut out some of what I’d written to be able to treat these essays more extensively.
Finally, the widest impact of the feminist art movement is considered in seven essays, which are so broad as to defy easy summarization here. These pieces in some ways relate to the other works included in Entering the Picture, but at some points seem to be linked only by their focus on “women artists.” However, Sylvia Savala’s How I Became A Chicana Feminist Artist provides a valuable first hand account of alternate routes taken by an artist a generation after Fresno. Lynda Nakashima Degarrod’s essay reveals both similarities and differences between organizations of nineteenth-century white women artists and that of late twentieth-century Asian American women artists. Tressa Berman and Nancy Mithlo’s discussion of curation in the creation of American Indian women’s art provides fascinating overlaps and divergences from feminist curatorial practices. Ying-Ting Chien asks “what viable connections might there be between the work of [Judy] Chicago from the eastern rim of the Pacific Rim” and concomitant exhibition of women’s art in Taiwan. These essays all provide valuable contributions to the discussion of the feminist art movement, which often focuses too much on the work of white women artists.
188 words versus 110, do those extra 78 word really make that big of a difference? I would argue that they do. Book reviews have the power to call attention to the works of individual authors. In this case, naming names is a good thing, and it does matter. I obviously couldn’t work in every author in the anthology, and thus the choices I made are even more fraught and laden.