Louise Nevelson

"Art is everywhere" by Jeannine Cook

American sculptress, Louise Nevelson, once said, "I always wanted to show the world that art is everywhere,except that it has to pass through a creative mind."  I find that a wonderful optic for an artist to embrace, because it gives one carte blanche to seize upon any and everything as grist for the mill in creative terms. It means that ideally, one's antennae are up and working all the time, because you never know when you will find a new idea that leads to doing something creative.

Not only does one needs to be attentive to the world around one, but also, I personally find, there needs to be time to be quiet and not particularly active in thinking about creating art. It is at almost meditative times- when ironing, walking, lying half-asleep at night, etc. - that I find ideas comes floating into my head, or connections between things I have seen or heard are made that can lead to something creative. More and more, I understand that art-making, for me, seems to be a function of being comfortable in one's skin and head, so as to speak, when trust exists in what might float up and happen, leading to ideas and new dialogues. You never know what will surface, but you just need to know that indeed there is art potentially everywhere to be welcomed. It can be the most humble of things or the most amazing of sights. Frequently, I will pick up something on a walk and get a look of surprise from my husband. But later, the resultant art will be greeted with a nod of understanding!

Sapelo     Lichen,  silverpoint, white gouache highlights on tinted ground), Jeannine Cook artist

Sapelo Lichen, silverpoint, white gouache highlights on tinted ground), Jeannine Cook artist

When you think of what Louise Nevelson picked up by way of discarded "rubbish" and then turned into amazing creations, it gives every artist licence to use any and every resource as a bridge to creation. Not only creation, in fact, but the new interpretation and/or version of whatever has been created serve potentially as a source of fresh dialogue and understanding between people around the world, transcending borders and cultures. Art is everywhere and its presence allows more art to flourish in the future.

Art and Gender by Jeannine Cook

When I first became an artist, (which was a fresh departure for me as I had started out in other directions), I was surprised to find how gender still mattered in the art world. I had expected that by the early eighties, the American art scene would have shed some of the bias that was disappearing in other spheres as the pioneering feminists shamed and/or educated the rest of society.

I soon discovered that the world of women's art organisations was well established and welcoming. The diversity and efficiency of opportunity offered to women artists from the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club (founded in 1876 and at http://www.clwac.org/), the National Association of Women Artists (founded in 1889 and at http://www.nawanet.org/), or the Women's Caucus for the Arts (http://www.nationalwca.org/) are really impressive. These are but three of the main groups that enable women artists to exhibit and interact as high calibre professionals. It is felicitous but somewhat ironic, I feel, that now various collections of women's art have been formed, with perhaps the most prominent being the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC (http://www.nmwa.org/).

Catherine Lorillard Wolfe

Catherine Lorillard Wolfe

The question about whether gender matters today for an artist still often remains unanswered, I suspect. The bias has perhaps become much more subtle in some instances, and is thus hard to quantify. I decided, personally, long ago never to consider the issue in what I have tried to do as an artist. However, I do recognise that certain subject matter and certain approaches are more likely to be considered a woman's purview (such as flower paintings....). And, in many ways, the diversity of approach should enrich the art world generally. Today, there are many very successful women artists in many disciplines, but they have certainly been helped along the way by the pioneering work of artists like Judy Chicago, Faith Reingold, Louise Nevelson and many others.

The other aspect of gender in art is whether an artist should be labelled... There is an exhibition, The Rise of Women Artists, opening at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England, which apparently addresses this issue (www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/). I would very much like to have a magic carpet to convey me there to see what they say about it. For my part, I always tend to mistrust labels of any sort. Predictability is almost akin to being boring and that is always unfortunate, particularly in the art world.