I wasn't a tomboy growing up. I cherished my one Barbie and her friend Midge. Ken, not so much. He didn't have real hair. I learned to sew in a junior high home-economics (ha ha, economics!) class and thereafter using my mother's Singer sewing machine was off to the races in time for the 1960's costume parade; lace sewn on my jeans and a gold brocade jacket for school wear.
I left all that fun behind when I went to art school. I had to get serious and that meant being like the guys. No lace or gold brocade. Although there were plenty of female students-SFAI in 1972 did not have more than a couple of women teachers in all the departments combined. None in the painting department.
Even though I'd read Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan I accepted the lack of female teachers. To my shame, I don't remember thinking about it much, if at all.
While rejecting previous artists and their art is de rigueur for young artists, like it or not, the fact is that we all build upon the past. It's one of the many contradictions of art and art making. For a young female art student it was confounding. How could a 110 pound 19 year old girl model herself after a middle-aged sloppy 200 pounder with whiskers and a drinking problem?
Well, that's the way it was. And for many years I thought I had to live my life and make art to fit the model I'd been fed. Living in uncomfortable, funky studios in bad neighborhoods and depriving myself of female luxuries (hair salon visits, femme clothing) was part of the deal if I wanted to be a "serious" painter.
As for the traditions of family-did Picasso or de Kooning drop their kids at kindergarten as they headed to a day in the studio slaying art dragons? Did they get up 5 times a night to change diapers and breastfeed? Did they install a car seat in their Toyota pickup? Somehow I kept going.
Not only did I struggle with how to insert my gender into the macho mindset of art making-so did and does the art world. Why are women still dramatically underrepresented in galleries, museums and sales? I don't think the art world knows what to do with us.
What has kept me painting is that the most important element of art is that of human experience, neither male nor female, just human.