The other night I was trying to find a certain show on TV (me? I never watch TV). But I ended up watching another show that I had heard about. It was very funny. But what I noticed was how casual it was. How easy-going. Not like the many decades ago of TV that I recall, which was more – well – more formal, more scripted. This show was wonderfully messier. Delightfully so. I felt relaxed watching it. The women on the show were easygoing, impromptu. They could have been talking to me. Like best friends. They just had lights shining on them.
By chance, this morning, I was reading Linda Nochlin’s essay in which she – 30 years later – revisits her essay, “Where are all the Great Female Artists?” It’s now 2001 when she’s writing – and think how much has changed since then(!) But one of the first matters she addresses is the definition of “great”. Great as in genius. Great as in Michelangelo. As in – well, male for most of art history – but also: great as in perfect.
However, with the shift that has happened in so much art since the 1970’s, inclusive of art made outside Europe and the US, the criteria for recognition has shifted from “great” to “significant”. And in the art itself, there is admission of mess. Not just the messy human body, but in the confusing world that surrounds us. Furthermore, this has affected all genders, succeeding in freeing not just female artists.
I would not have tied all this together. I would not have attributed the changes that I was noticing on the show I watched to changes that have been brewing in art – at least with that clarity. Of the female/feminist influence resulting in a more relaxed, inclusive show. And that show as a signifier for broader truths.