Women of artists of color: we were selected

When Nora Noranjo Morse of the Santa Clara Pueblo was a little girl, she saw her mother, a potter, rely on the white man who sold his pottery at a local curiosity store.

It is a memory that still haunts the artist based in Española today.

Noranjo Morse said his mother “was a big presence” in their home. But when she walked into the curio shop to negotiate with the white owner, Noranjo Morse could see the anguish on her mother’s face.

“The way the curio store owner treated her was like someone who was less than that,” Noranjo Morse said. NM Policy Report.

Women artists of color have long been ignored and denied access to opportunities to show their work. A study published in 2019 found that in museum collections in the United States, 85% of artists are white and 87% are men.

Noranjo Morse, who is 69 and works with clay, said women artists of color now face less discrimination than before. But, she said, she felt marginalized in her prime because she is a woman of color working in a particular medium.

“If you’re from Santa Clara Pueblo and an artist, ‘oh you do pottery’ that’s a long held assumption,” she said. “When I first started promoting my work, my forms were so unusual. They were not traditional boats. They were abstract shapes. It was a challenge for people who made decisions in galleries, shops or even institutions.

Noranjo Morse currently has a room called Numbe Whageh, which means “Our Center Place” in English, in the Albuquerque Museum. The museum is working to strengthen its collection of works by contemporary artists of women of color, said Josie Lopez, chief curator.

“It is important for us to develop our collections to represent the whole city,” said Lopez NM Policy Report.

The museum did an internal review a few years ago and found that while it had works by well-known female artists, such as Georgia O’Keefe and Judy Chicago, it insufficiently reflected the diversity of women artists of color. contemporary, Lopez said. With this in mind, the museum has strived to improve in these areas.

The City of Albuquerque gave the museum $ 100,000 last month specifically for the museum to purchase works by living artists from Albuquerque to diversify the collection.

Lopez said that while appreciated, the money is just a start for the museum’s efforts to better diversify its holdings.

“It’s a wonderful and generous start to creating these opportunities, but in terms of our larger goals, it’s a small part of how we can build these collections,” Lopez said.

How women artists of color are neglected

Discrimination can take many forms, including not taking seriously the medium in which the artist works. Lopez said that historically women have been “left out of the conversation because of the work they have done or the message expressed through the work.”

Artistic mediums that have historically been viewed as craftsmanship are one way that women artists of color have historically been overlooked by museum collections. Museums tend to focus on works considered to be fine art, which have historically been dominated by white males. Lopez said there are other ways that women artists of color are discriminated against.

“What is access to opportunities and how are pipelines constructed? She asked rhetorically.

Paula Wilson, a mixed media artist living in Carrizozo who is black, said the history of museums, in and of itself, has its roots in oppression.

“Museums began as a colonial project to promote stolen spoils of war and conquest. I think they have a unique position to show how art enriches our lives. (Now) these are safe public spaces for critical thinking, ”Wilson said.

The way women artists of color are overlooked, looked down upon or discouraged can affect the artist’s confidence, Naranjo Morse said.

“People who do different types of work, women who do experimental work are more easily accepted (now). In my day it was much more of a challenge. I was not an Aboriginal, not a white, I was not just any man. It was a mark against my inclusion in the opportunities that I think I could have done, ”she said.

Diana Moya Lujan, who is a straw applique artist in Santa Fe, said she sees a lack of gender parity on the boards that oversee the art or a lack of women becoming directors of ‘an art tip. Moya Lujan, who is 73, said that when she decided to take woodcarving lessons, the lessons were all for men.

Expectations of what a woman of color artist might or should look like can affect an artist’s career in other ways. Wilson, who is 45, said that although she was presenting nationally and internationally, being recognized in New Mexico “felt like it had taken a very long time.”

“I feel like there’s an expectation of what an artist might look like in New Mexico and it’s often not a black woman,” Wilson said.

The Albuquerque Museum recently acquired works by Wilson with the help of a donor, Lopez said.

Wilson said representation matters.

“If you don’t see other people who are like you, it’s natural not to imagine that there is a place for you in this area,” Wilson said.

But, being “symbolized” can also be “exhausting,” Wilson said.

“I also think a lot of artists of color are invited to take on the role of the whole population,” Wilson said. “You are meant to speak for your entire racial group and to be symbolized is an ever-pervasive reality that can be exhausting. “

About Margaret L. Portillo

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