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Successful Single Ladies in Art

My life is confined to a couch, a computer, a book, my phone, and Apple TV. Oh, and I have coloring pencils and white paper just in case I get desperate. Why? Simply because my knee was crushed, pulverized and manhandled last week. It was felt up on a sunny morning in a surgery room in Bern, like a slutty teen in the back of a pickup truck in 1963. I’ve digested magazines back to back, procrastinated on reading the last ten pages of my book because I don’t want it to end, skimmed over endless movie trailers online to pick one film, and I’ve starred at my dangling foot and a pack of ice over my knee that is currently the size of an elephant, more than I’ve dared to look at myself in the mirror in the past week. It’s not about vanity; it’s about the blasting pain I feel when I get up and the blood rushes back to my foot. Surgery is the price to pay for ski season. After all, I do live in Zurich and when in Switzerland – ski, or so the saying should say.

Finally, I came across an article on Marina Abramovic in the June UK Harper’s Bazaar that agreed with me – or rather with my last post. Just in case you missed it, it was about Abramovic’s performance this summer in the Serpetine Gallery where she will be walking around interacting with visitors for 65 days. There will be nothing to frame, nothing to buy, nothing of nothing. And as the author of the article states, “when the work is, you, alone, occupying a gallery for three months and inviting people to interact with you, where does the work stop and ‘you’ begin?” Dammit! I’m just sad that she (the author) was able to put it more eloquently than me…

But no time to sob about it, I salute Miss Sophie Elmhirst for her precision and let that be that.

The point of all this is that this article was the culmination of a chain of thought; the cherry on top of the cake on a series of three different stories (curiously all in that same magazine) about three outstanding, powerful and successful women in the arts that have already been written in the history books. However, none of them are married or have children. Is that a price to pay? I’m talking about the great architect Zaha Hadid; London’s Serpentine Gallery’s director for 23 years, Julia Peyton-Jones, and of course my beloved Marina.

Since we’re on a first name basis, Zaha said, “…With architecture, if you stop, it’s hard to go back. It’s long hours, lots of travel. If you have kids, it’s not obvious how to make it work… When I could have had kids, it just didn’t occur to me”. In between these two remarks the author states that Hadid is childfree. It’s not offensive but it just sounds so incredibly sad, doesn’t it? Or is that just me being old fashioned and having my scary maternal side starting to come out? Yes, this issue about children and society’s expectations of a woman can be debated from so many different angles but at the end of the day, if life is so ephemeral and we have no idea when it will end, and we as women have the innate ability of being beautiful, portable ovens for tiny humans, why not live life to the fullest of our physical abilities?

Marina, however, knew that she would never have children. She says that everyone has one source of energy and if you have kids, you’re forced to divide that energy. As a result, “it is impossible to be a great artist and raise children”.

Again, does that make anyone else sad? Unfortunately I’ve come to realise that other great female artists like, Cindy Sherman, Tracey Emin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Yayoi Kusama and Frida Kahlo also don’t or didn’t have kids.

Now I’m sad! It might be time to stop writing and take out those coloring pencils.

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