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Last summer, we set out with the intention of making our annual spring Art Issue focused solely on women in the arts. We had never done an issue totally devoted to women, and the time felt right. Then in November, with the election of Donald Trump as president, a man with a known history of misogyny, our mission gained some urgency.
The election and the current administration did color many of our conversations for this issue, which took place late last year and early this year. Many artists, however, had long been driven by their activism, including our cover artist Marilyn Minter. We are so excited to debut the cover she created for this issue—it’s both empowering and beautiful. Visiting her in the studio, she shared that activism is not only fueling and feeding her work, but saving her. As she told us, “I love doing activism work because it makes me not feel powerless.” We also learned from collector Pamela Joyner that her groundbreaking collection is taking on a new activist direction for future acquisitions and plans.
Over several studio visits, we encountered the assumption that the subject of work by women is inherently biographical, while that same assumption is never made of a man’s artistic oeuvre. In our conversations with artists like Lorna Simpson and Diana Al-Hadid, what we learned was biographical was the way that it was made—how the artist felt that day when making part of the work. There are moments in Simpson’s paintings or Al-Hadid’s sculptures where their emotional states have been worked through.
Sitting down in her studio with Al-Hadid, an artist known for her monumental works, she told us something that became a lightning rod for me for this issue. She said that despite being asked to take up less space in every aspect of her life, as all women are—to be smaller, to speak more softly, to accept less—in her own work she had no problem taking up space. “I have no issue making large work,” she told us. “I don’t know why I got that lucky, because some women don’t have any outlet to be big and grow into a different size or let themselves be the size that they are or they want to be.”
It made me realize how fortunate I am to be able take up space in these pages as an editor and writer with questions for so many in the creative fields, and in this issue in particular to give space to wonderful women I so admire.