Like in many other industries, in the art world there is a severe lack of female representation.
Women artists have historically been overlooked in many main aspects of the art industry — from auction price differentials to solo exhibition programs. Rebecca Campbell, a painter and an assistant professor at California State University, has made it her mission to create an artistic tribute to all of the female artists who inspire her. To put her mission into action, Campbell has create a series of portraits entitled the You are Here project, which showcases women artists from a variety of disciplines.
In an artist’s statement regarding her work, Campbell states, “I struggle with not only the vast gender inequities across the board when it comes to women in the creative world, but also the particulars of my idols and friends being underestimated, underrepresented and underpaid. I am watching women disappear. I’m not a theorist but of course I want to have a say in the course of history so I am using what I do in a very literal way. I’m painting the portraits of every woman artist I know. I’m painting them so they will not disappear.”
Campbell began the You Are Here project in the fall of 2015 with portraits on sculptors, writers, performers and painters. The first 19 paintings in Campbell’s on-going project were exhibited at the L.A Louver from January 13 to February 13, 2016. Her complete portraits include Amy Adler, Sarah Awad, Linda Besemer, Heather Brown, Kyung Sun Cho, Patricia Fernandez, Alexandra Grant, Annie Lapin, Gwynn Murrill, Julie Orser, Susan Silton, Jennifer Steinkamp, Mpambo Wina and Eve Wood. “I am not interested in making photographic portraits. I don’t sort people out by what they make; I just choose people who are serious, diligent, hardworking and good at what they do,” Campbell states in regards to the subjects of her portraits.
When examining Campbell’s portraits, there is clearly a formulaic process to how she goes about creating each individual piece. But at the same time, each portrait has it’s own unique sense of identity, drawing from the personality of the artist who Campbell is depicting. Each portrait’s subject meets the gaze of the viewers and asks her audience to marvel at her confidence and at her vulnerabilities.
It may still take a while for female artists to claim their true recognition and representation in the art world. But with bold and impactful artists like Campbell who are determined to go out and make a statement, significantly sweeping changes may be taking place in the art world sooner than we think.