As International Women’s Day nears and the intermittent spotlight focuses on the global majority, it’s a good time to focus on some women in visual arts who, despite the odds staked against them, continue to develop their art practices.
Women are not an autonomous group and the fickle nature of the arts can be added to by personal circumstances, be it either childcare or eldercare.
I know some women who were developing great careers until they had children and became the sole carers. Others who found motherhood and a supportive partner brought them time for their careers to flourish.
There are women working at all levels of visual art from hospitals, working with people with dementia, with those with learning difficulties and mental health issues. There are art therapists who are bringing an added clinical therapeutic aspect and those working in prisons, to name a few.
To love visual art is easier than making a career out of it, yet many try and at different stages of their lives have varying degrees of success. That success could be because of the planets aligning, or someone giving encouragement at a crucial time or buying a piece of work. It could be a chance meeting or lots of hard work. Meeting likeminded people who support your work or a part time job to fund your ideas can also be crucial.
The women in Array Collective: Sighle Bhreathnach-Cashell, Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell, Jane Butler, Emma Campbell, Alessia Cargnelli, Clodagh Lavelle, Grace McMurray, and Laura O’Connor have pushed off the shackles of a lack of recognition for their art with the winning of the Turner Prize. In the process they have put Belfast artists on the map and the acclaim is pushing them further ahead with their careers.
Jane Butler and Clodagh Lavelle spoke at the Reclaim the Agenda IWD rally in Writers’ Square on Saturday 5th March, giving them a platform for their political and artistic activism.