The combination of art and woman is among the most controversial in the history of art, female names are hidden from male predominance in the pages of books, up to the claim of feminist artworks in the seventies. But in recent years interest has grown on the side of historians, critics and the public of art on rediscovering life and artworks of the protagonists who have changed or who are writing the history of art without gender exclusions. In the catalog «Collage by Women. 50 Essential Contemporary Artists» (Promopress, 2019), the artist and curator Rebeka Elizegi presents fifty international women artists who use collage, among the most experimental artistic techniques used since the late nineteenth century. This precious publication is an invitation to reflect on the creative possibilities of the practice of collage, whose importance was taken away from the history of art, but it is above all an important testimony of contemporary female art, from the emerging artists to the most known.
In the introduction to the catalog, you share the main purpose of the publication: “Placing the spotlight on women artists, who have been overshadowed by a history of art that has always been written by men (…)”.
In fact, the main objective of this book is to pay tribute to women artists, who were overshadowed by a history of art that has always been written by men, when women have in fact always contributed cultural value that has enriched society as a whole. I personally had the fortune to grow up in an environment in which I was educated not as a “girl” but as a “free person.” I was always encouraged to defend my space, my views and my personal choices, and this further enhanced my creativity. However, unfortunately, the reality faced by many other women has been and continues to be very different. In a hypothetical egalitarian society (which, unfortunately, we do not live in), I wouldn’t have felt the need to propose this book, as if there were a balanced coexistence of genders, we would all, without hierarchies or subjugation, work and contribute value in an identical manner, in both the arts and other walks of life. Through the artworks of these fifty contemporary women artists and their different ways of understanding and practicing collage as an artistic expression, this book reveals a diverse, intergenerational and international reality of women who work intensely.
What were your personal experiences as a woman and an artist?
In my own case, I think that my being a woman has not shaped my career, neither as a graphic designer nor as an artist. At least, I am not aware that it has done so. However, and as we said before, it’s clear that the same is not true for many other women, and this is something that we must solve collectively as a society, men and women, in order to achieve an equality that is real and not just theoretical, both in the art world and in the rest of everyday life.
In the collage world, the artistic community seems different from the rest of the competitive artistic circuit. Artists collaborate and work together for collective artworks; it seems that there is a free creative confrontation without prejudice.
I really believe that this happens, and it’s one of the characteristics that I like to belong to that great collage family. Around the world, collage artists come together, communicate, exchange opinions and give light to other colleagues. This is the intention of my book as well, to give light to the work of other women collagist, to give a collective and vindicating impulse to our work, each one from its style, its reality and its own ideas.
In Collage by Women, the artist and cultural promoter Blanca Ortiga writes: “[…] collage has been pushed to the background in both art history and the art market”. Therefore, the criticism is not only about the inadequate promotion of female artists but also of the collage itself as an artistic language.
Indeed, the claiming intention of this book is twofold. On the one hand, it vindicates women as artists and on the other hand, claims collage as an artistic discipline more in the context of contemporary art. In her introductory text Blanca Ortiga also says: “Women artists have been doubly excluded: on one hand, by inequalities in political, social and economic structures’ productive conditions and, on the other, by the conditions particular to the art world, where it is not just production criteria that have been colonized, but also the way in which the world is looked at and value is attributed”.
What changes do you desire for the future of art?
I would like the future of art to be a more open space, one that does not discriminate based on race, social class or gender. Above all, allowing alternative ways of looking at artists. We live in a society that is full of patterns that confine us, Capitalism doesn't help to be free, and in which everything is prefabricated for us, including even ideas. Suggesting alternative ways for viewers to look at things and disquieting, challenging and provoking them, whether this is done through collage or any other artistic discipline, is a healthy way to combat the intellectual alienation that we are subjected to. It lets us assert each individual’s personal judgment as an indispensable pillar of a free and responsible society.
Who are your female references in art history?
Although they are not popular, there have been many women who are referents in the art world, and specifically in the world of collage. Of course Hannah Hoch, first surrealist woman, a reference figure in the world of collage and general art, in a time and a country (Germany) in which she broke molds and stood out for her daring, and also Grete Stern, Toshiko Okanoue, Barbara Kruger, Wangechi Mutu, all the women in this book, and many more! At this point, I would like to emphasize that choosing these fifty artists has been a very complex process, as we would need many more pages to demonstrate the magnitude of the current reality, which is much larger and more varied than what is presented in this book. But unfortunately, like any publication, this one also has its limitations, and as we all know, selecting always implies excluding.
What is your advice to women who are taking their first steps into the world of art?
First of all, I would tell them to investigate, give themselves in their work, work very hard and also defend their place! And I hope that the artists in this book will inspire them! Women with diverse backgrounds, ages, experiences, careers and styles, but united all of them by the passion for collage and a constant search for a new, solid and personal language for engaging the world in dialogue.
Featured image by Caro Mantke
Collage by Women. 50 Essential Contemporary Artists Cover image: Rozenn Le Gall Editor: Promopress Editions www.promopresseditions.com Curator: Rebeka Elizegi www.rbkcollage.com Introduction: Blanca Ortiga Book trailer: https://youtu.be/w5gDjVv8haI