ZART Coference 2022: Women in Art

Post by: Korin Lesh
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September 19, 2022

This conference was jam packed full of information about contemporary Australian artists, art-making by women and fabulous workshops with women artists. Fortunately it was online, because I am down with a lurgy and would not have been able to participate in person with the other AENT members at the Durack Community Arts venue.

Highlights for me where the keynotes. The conference opened with Julie Rrap’s keynote. Julie noted EH Gombrich’s 1950 text The Story of Art and how not one female artist was represented. She also reminded us that 25% of National Gallery of Australia’s collection is by women artists and suggested that institutions consider ‘Deep Collecting’ of women artist’s works thoughtfully. She then went through an unchronological survey of some of her artworks. Her performative practice presents an ongoing commentary on historical artworks, reinterprets bodies – in particular female nudes (often using her own body) to challenge how women are presented in imagery. She creates artworks through a range of mediums –photography, painting, sculpture, performance and video. Her exhibition Loaded, would be a great one to share with Primary classrooms with extensive mark making explorations and references to Jackson Pollack. In this exhibition Rrap explored how images become part of culture and how all imagery is ‘loaded’ with context and meaning. I was really challenged by Rrap to make sure that I include and make obvious to students the inclusion of female artists in my future lessons.

The other fabulous keynote presentation was with Tai Snaith, a multifaceted, multitalented artist who interviewed 5 other female artists – Angela Tia Tia, Marikit Santiago, Kim Leutwyler, Julia Gutman, and Stanislava Pinchuk. I have come across artworks by many of these amazing artists in southern gallery visits, and to hear them talk so openly and thoughtfully about their practice was really informative and enriching. They all explore contemporary female experiences through varied practices – Julia Gutman uses donated textiles in sewn portraits – reminiscent of painting, Stanislava Pinchuk uses text and sculpture, Kim Leutwyler is portrait artist known for her progressive representations of gender and beauty, Marikit Santiago is a Filipina-Australian oil painter whose artworks are rich with cultural symbolism, and Angela Tia Tia is a multidisciplinary artist who explores contemporary culture, commoditisation of the body and neo-colonial themes. So awesome to become acquainted with these inspiring talents… whose artworks are challenging, changing and rewriting female art histories.
The hands-on workshops with Tania DiBeradino Draw and Stitch, Kyra Mancktelow Weaving were so restorative and generous. They were great introductions to techniques I would like to use in my Primary classroom, a chance to trial ZART materials and another opportunity to acquaint ourselves with two more fabulous female artists. Tania DiBeradino is a ZART artist educator who likes to explore traditional feminine crafts in contemporary considerations. Kyra Mancktelow is a First Nations artist that explores untold histories through traditional weaving and printmaking.

It was very confirming for me to listen to Cassie Stephans (online US arts educator, blogger – whom I have borrowed from and applied many art tips & videos) about how she developed her philosophy for a happy Art teacher – aligning teaching and creating. This is the philosophy I sketched out during her session:
I am here (teaching Art Class) because I know Art affects me and helps me think through my place in the world. I love to make and create, and explore connections and ideas through and with Art. I want you (students) to know that Art changes the world and that your creative contributions are part of that change.

The final session for the 2 days was a presentation by Cindy M Foley a US museum educator who outlined the vital need for creativity to be included in institutions – galleries, museums and schools! She quoted a number of authors’ works on creativity. The research work of Tony Wagner, Harvard – on how schools are missing the mark and that creativity declines as we get older; work by Susan Engle who wrote The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood; and she quoted Edith Cobb author of The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood. Cindy’s work is aligned with the Harvard Zero Visible Thinking work which I have been applying in my classroom and at the Gallery through Thinking Routines. I would like to read some of the above books because they sound like they would compliment and support Visible Thinking ideas and help me foster more curiosity in my short hour long Art lessons.
A jam packed 2 days! I am already looking forward to the ZART Conference next year – hopefully in wellness with some of my peers. 🙂