“Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” a bright yellow billboard yelled out at New York City in 2012. Beneath the question was this statistic: Less than 4 percent of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 76 percent of the nudes are female. Created by art activists the Guerrilla Girls, the message was directed at the Metropolitan Museum. The National Museum of Women in the Arts in D.C. states “51 percent of visual artists today are women,” but “only 5 percent of the art currently on display in U.S. museums is made by women.”
Five UO graduate students founded The Feminist Museum under these conditions. Britt Bowen, Cat Bradley, Stephanie Johnson, Mattie Reynolds and Sarah Turner — all specializing in museum studies — came up with the idea in a cultural administration course. “We were all interested in museums and we all had a strong backing in feminist ideology,” Turner says. “We all recognized that there was a lack of feminist museums.”
The Feminist Museum currently exists as a website whose mission is “to educate the public on feminist theory and the radical women in history and art,” but, beginning March 10, the museum will shake its online restraints and debut its first exhibit, Object/Subject: Femininity in Contemporary Culture, at the LaVerne Krause Gallery on campus.
As the founders of The Feminist Museum point out, the glass ceiling for women in the art world is not just wall space; it’s behind those walls as well.
“The genesis of museums was white-male driven,” Reynolds notes. “That is a lingering trend. You get a lot of women in lower-level positions, but you get into the board or the director positions that are high pay, high public value — they’re men.”
In addition to organizing the exhibit, the administrators will also show their own work including Turner’s video installation on “Resting Bitch Face” (a “syndrome” that went viral via a CollegeHumor.com video), Bradley’s vibrator sculptures and Reynolds’ 54-square-foot chalkboard on which visitors are encouraged to write down their thoughts on feminism (the chalkboard will be given to the Center for the Study of Women in Society).
The Feminist Museum hosts an opening reception for Object/Subject 5 to 7 pm Monday, March 10, at the LaVerne Krause Gallery, Lawrence Hall, with music by local band Lady Paw; Object/Subject runs through March 14. For more information about The Feminist Museum, visit thefeministmuseum.wordpress.com.