“Wonder Women” fails to properly spotlight female artists

5 April 2017
James Whisenhunt, Commentary Editor

The Gilcrease’s event was well-intentioned, but the disproportionate ratio of female/male art on display kept it from being the feminist celebration it wanted to be.

Gilcrease Museum’s monthly After Hours series continued with “Wonder Women,” commemorating Women’s History Month and hoping to showcase the successes of female artists. Having been to past After Hours events, this one seemed fairly scaled back, which was both good and bad.

The good part was that the smaller scope meant the Gilcrease wasn’t completely packed with people. I’ve been to Gilcrease events in the past where it was close to impossible to even get into a gallery, much less see the art, because people were crowded into the building. “Wonder Women” wasn’t a flop, but also left enough room for people to freely walk around the galleries, often with the pleasant music from local singer/songwriter Christine Jude echoing through the halls.

The bad part of the scaled back approach is that there wasn’t much to do at the event. Jude’s performance and some food offered were nice, but the galleries themselves were the standard fare: exhibits with a bit of variety but an overwhelming focus of Native American art, crafts and history. It doesn’t seem that any new exhibits were opened or any new pieces were presented, and there was very little decoration in the building apart from a poster for visitors to pose with.

However, the main attraction of “Wonder Women” should be female artists and themes of empowerment. Entering the museum, everything seemed set up for success. Staff members and visitors were dressed as Rosie the Riveter, Frida Kahlo and the titular Wonder Woman, among others. The main event was a scavenger hunt where participants were asked to hunt down and find information on female-created pieces throughout the museum. People completing the scavenger hunt were entered into a raffle for a prize.

Though the scavenger hunt was a cute idea, it only placed a spotlight on how little of the art was actually made by women. I went through the entire museum looking at the creator of each piece on display, and for every female artist I found there were 10 pieces by someone named John, Charles, or Thomas. I was able to find a piece by Diego Rivera but nothing from Frida Kahlo. To be fair, the Gilcrease may not have a piece from Kahlo to display, but the overall lack of female art undermined the entire theme of the event.

This isn’t to say that the art present at the Gilcrease isn’t worth observing. I still enjoyed the art on display and enjoyed looking at some new areas of the museum I came across during my desperate hunt for female art. The fact that I had to go on a desperate hunt in the first place, however, should convey how little “Wonder Women” managed to introduce me to female artists I could appreciate and challenge an androcentric view of art history.