Art Is Genderful! An Artist’s Notes on Navigating a Sexist System

Posted by: Kevin Coyle

This post was curated from an article written by Despina Stokou for

A lot of people mistake my work for a man’s. When I venture to find out why, they mention how BIG the pieces are — the “Size = Penis = Value” equation has, alas, dictated many a Schnabelesque work; not mine, though. Then again, a lot of people also mistake my work for graffiti. So I wouldn’t read too much into this.

Art does not have gender. If you were so inclined you could — maybe — try to differentiate between nuances of female and male energy. But, really, why should you? The discussion we are having, then, takes place in the social context surrounding art. This context has seen some eras of rigid and slow development, but right now it has more of an ever-changing, reading-on-the-iPad-while-on-the-toilet character. It is important to remember that.

There have been occasions. My teacher before I enrolled in art school (an archetypal male master, all alcohol abuse and sleeping with his assistants) threw a beer at my 17-year-old self and said: “You know what your problem is? You can’t come.” I made a point of learning that lesson _ thanks, master! I live in Los Angeles now, and your career never left that building. A “big” artist I once tried to show my work to, who told me: I like your ass more than I like your work. (A few years later, he congratulated me on my success and told me to buy him dinner.) And there was a trip to South Korea where the (female) translator blatantly refused to translate my project proposals — me being the youngest member of the group, and an unmarried female to boot. The trip ended with me nearly getting arrested at the airport after donating my work to a woman who turned out to be a hooker. The police were called upon to retrieve the work, and the curator showed up at the airport to rescue it, somehow managing to feel me up in the process. So, yes, there is sexism. You could also say these are all examples of people abusing their power.

“Men get ahead in the art world.” Is this a useful distinction to make at this point in time? Or should we focus on: “Stupid, dishonest, unimaginative people get ahead in the art world.” We will come back to that.

Eau de Bro — the Micro Farts of Sexism

When I hear my gallerist-man say he is going to take that mega-douche of an artist-man to the art fair and not artist-woman me — merit, or balls?

When I am invited to an all-women show titled something to the effect of: “Women.”

When I hear a collector-woman gush over this muscular, process-painter-man: “He is so hot!” Is he? I thought he was rude. Not that one excludes the other. Is this really happening? Do I need to be cute in addition to everything else? Note I said “cute,” not hot — being a hot artist-woman, you enter into a whole different (ahem) ball game. I always feel I get uglier when I work on a show. But don’t worry, I pull it together for the big day.

Or when I hear an art advisor-woman brushing off an artist-man’s incompetence with a little laugh. “You should have seen it; it was so dumb,” she says admiringly. As if all men have to do is act dumb, and bingo! Goal achieved. Look at artist-women complaining; the ceiling for poor artist-men is set even lower: they can just be Bad, Goofy, or The Muscle.

I visited an exhibition by this young artist-man spreading his talent so very thin to cover the vast real-estate entity that is David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles. The press release read: “He constructs his practice starting with the most basic of materials: himself.”

Eau de Bro.

No wonder he had to send his clothes to cleaners.

“What is your problem with Feminism as you see it practiced today?”

This sentence was written on papers scattered on the table at LACE gallery during a feminist roundtable I attended for the five minutes it took them to say that they couldn’t support Bernie Sanders because he is not established enough, while Hillary Clinton is. The event was hosted during the show (En)Gendered (In)Equity: The Gallery Tally Poster Project
, organized by Micol Hebron. Interesting show; unfortunate title.

I am glad you asked.

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