Thursday, May 07, 2009

Who Does She Think She Is?

Oh, I would so like not to be cranky and cynical. I wish I could turn off my critical eye. But it's hard.

I went to see Who Does She Think She Is? at the local arts center. It's a lovely arts center. I went with my friends. I love my friends. Lots of nice women I know were there. I'm sure the women I didn't know were nice too.

Who Does She Think She Is? is a documentary about women who are artists and mothers. That's a lovely topic. And at first I was all into it. Mothers! Challenges! Supportive children! Art! And not just art, but interesting and beautiful art!

Only, after a bit, I started to wonder: who is funding this art? Do these women not need to make money? Children, yes, children get in the way of women's autonomy, but, especially in this day and age, don't women also need to support themselves and their families, or at least help support themselves and their families? I sure do. In a full-length movie, approximately 90 seconds were about money. Who was talking about money? The divorced women. I'll let you figure out the underlying assumption about women and money, but I also think to not talk about money underscores another powerful set of assumptions about art and money, that is, the idea that the life of the artist is above and beyond material things.

Except, you know, there's health insurance and shoes and mortgages and food, and those things take on even more importance once you have children. Art-children-money: you can't not triangulate them. Well, I guess you can, since the movie does, but to refuse to triangulate, to insist on a binary art-children relationship, is to profoundly obfuscate contemporary reality.

And then even the art-children binary eroded, as the film slipped into a pretty standard feminist critique of the art world, complete with Guerilla Girls, Judy Chicago, and the paucity of women at the Guggenheim and MOMA. Yeah, yeah, yeah, important, appalling, etc. But haven't we heard it before? And what does it have to do with mothers? (Then the talking heads started talking about goddesses and my good will, well, it started to seriously erode.)

But the actual mother-artists were really interesting. And their art was interesting too, and quite wonderful. And they were truly diverse: Black woman from the Caribbean, African American woman, Japanese woman, Latina woman, and Mormon white woman. Oh, I just couldn't have borne it if they had all been white middle-class artist moms, so huge kudos to the filmmaker for walking that walk. And most importantly, the movie made me think.

So overall, a positive experience, even though I missed the discussion and any post-mortem with my friends, because I had to come home to my KIDS. But I do wish I could just say, "I loved it!" Only then there would probably be no blog post...

(Caroline was more wholeheartedly enthusiastic.)


Kelly said...

I'd seen the trailer a while back and wanted to see it, but it's not playing anywhere near me, of course. You bring up interesting points and I agree, it's odd to not talk about the money. I don't know anybody who does art who isn't at least trying to earn a living of sorts from it. And I only know a few who do, all of the others squeeze that art in between motherhood (or fatherhood) and work for pay in order to support the family...or if they're single...they take care of their pets and work to pay the bills.

Dawn said...

This is part of what my agent wanted me to pitch and I'm sometimes intrigued about it but you know, too busy trying to make a living to think much about it. (sigh)