Thursday, October 4, 2018

39 An Art Journey Letter

Dear ______________,

I would like to take a few minutes of your time to share some thoughts with you; thoughts that are important for parents, like us, of daughters.

If my memory is correct, I met you when you were just out of college and I was 27 and showing my paintings for the first time at ___________'s gallery downtown LA.  It would have been around 1980.  It was so long ago that I can hardly grasp how much time has slipped by.  It was wonderful to be so young and optimistic.

As a woman painter at this time in history (if I may be a bit pompous) and of my age, I have seen and experienced a lot that I didn't expect when I was young and starting out.  I came of age during what is being called, I believe, the second wave of feminism.  I was so naive it is almost laughable.  I went to an art school (SFAI) that had zero female painting teachers.  Janson's (History of Art) didn't even include it's first female artist until the 1980s, long after I had finished art school.  I had a male painting teacher tell me I had to become a mother before I could become a real artist (granted he was a shitty, though well regarded, painter himself.)  No point in going on, you get the drift.  I thought I was part of a new era when women were equal in the eyes of, if not the greater lands of the planet, certainly equal in the eyes of sophisticated worlds of culture, like art.

I have been painting 45 years.  I would be lying if I said it hasn't been a fantastic journey.  I had a very macho mentor at art school who taught me what good painting IS and though he struggled with his own machismo and misbehavior it didn't change the fact that he was a rarity-a REAL painter and a great teacher.  Of the 50-60 art teachers I had in six years of art school, he was one of the very few who could not only make fine paintings but he could also bring students into an understanding of why a good painting is good.  It was a serendipitous turn of events that I moved to San Francisco when I was 19 to study art at that school at that time in history.  San Francisco in the 1970s was a painter's city in a way that LA has never been, and never will be.  I brought the knowledge and sensibility I learned in SF back to LA with me.  I could never have found it here.

I remember spending a day with you when you were studying in NYC.  You were talking about how much you loved "Mannerism."  While I didn't share that enthusiasm, I loved your passion for painting and art.  You were a wonderful young guy, so different from most of the LA kids we native Angelenos had grown up with.

You've had your own art journey-no doubt as surprising and wonderful as my own.  Even so, perhaps your life on the business side has been more difficult and challenging than you expected, as has mine as a painter.  If I had known how damaged the art world is when I started out, would I have continued as a painter?  Probably, but it is a good thing I didn't know because maybe I wouldn't have continued.

When I was young I expected the art business to be egalitarian when judging men and women-well, that misconception is gone.  I thought the art business would be about ART, the best art, no matter who made it.  God, I was young.  Not only are women still pushed to the bottom (if you're interested, take a moment to read some gallery stats, including your own)-but astonishingly, sometimes it is women who do the pushing.  I won't go on, too distressing.

You don't have to respond to this letter.  For now, I hope that our daughters will, god willing, live out their lives in a world more respectful of their talents and contributions.  We shall see.

Regards,   Karla

1 comment:

  1. Again LA artist, Karla Klarin, exposes a reality of the art / painting world. Especially noteworthy in this time of exposure of the exploitation of women in many domains. Well-written and clearly an authentic personal memoir.