Keynote: Lynne Warren, Curator at MCA Chicago
I live steps away from Bradley University's campus and last week, Lynne Warren, Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, made her way down-state to give a keynote address at the university-hosted Midwest Women Artists Symposium. She covered notable female artists from 1960 through 1980 in an address titled "A Stir of Voices", and focused on challenging the assumptions in the art world during this time along with how the efforts of female artists from different regions affected their careers and recognition.
Ellen Lanyon, a figurative artist based in Chicago and a major instigator in the Exhibition Momentum, an exhibition born to give art students a place to show their work after undergraduates were banned from Artists of Chicago and Vicinity. Her work has been characterized as Surrealist or Magic Realist, and is included in collections across the United States. 72% of Ellen's shows were in the midwest.
We looked at Vija Clemins from the West Coast, Audrey Flack from the East Coast, and Margaret Wharton and Hollis Sigler from Chicago, and in all cases the percentage of shows in the artists' home region was always greater than the percentage of shows outside that region.
Vija and Audrey, the two coastal artists, have artwork held in the collections of major museums all over the world. Works by Midwest artists Margaret and Hollis have yet to gain international attention.
A Midwest artist can take more risks in their home region, because it often isn't seen as failure like it would be on either coast. But with so much energy going into a region that isn't valued, the question becomes, is being a Midwest artist a whammy?
Chicago-born artist Barbara Kasten is defying the assumption. Her work from the 70's and 80's has only recently received sustained attention, and at 81 years old, Barbara is showing at Art Basel in Basel. If women from the Midwest are anything, we're resilient!