Women in the Year 2000, 1977

Women in the Year 2000-from 1977

By the year 2000, no young woman artist will meet the determined resistance and constant undermining which I endured as a student. Her studio and istory courses will usually be taught by women; she will never feel like a provisional guest at the banquet of life; or a monster defying her “God-given” maternal role; or a belligerent whose devotion to creativity could only exist at the expense of a man, or men and their needs. Nor will she go into the “art world,” gracing or disgracing a pervading stud club of artists, historians, teachers, museum directors, magazine editors, gallery dealers—all male, or committed to masculine preserves. All that is marvelously, already falling around our feet.

She will study art istory courses enriched by the inclusion, discovery, and reevaluation of historic works by women artists: works (and lives) until recently buried away, willfully destroyed, ignored, or reattributed (to male artists with whom they were associated). Our future student will be in touch with a continuous feminine creative istory—often produced against impossible odds—from her present, to the Renaissance and beyond. In the year 2,000 books and courses will only be called, “Man and His Image,” “Man and His Symbols,” “Art History of Man,” to probe the source of disease and mania which compelled patriarchal man to attribute to himself and his masculine forebears every invention and artifact by which civilization was formed for over four millennia.

Our women will have courses and books on “The Invention of Art by Woman,” “Woman—The Source of Creation,” “The Matriarchal Origins of Art,” “Woman and Her Materials.” Her studies of ancient Greece and Egypt will reconcile manipulations in translation, interpretation, and actual content of language and symbolic imagery with the protracted an agonizing struggle between the integral, cosmic principles ofmatriarchy, and the aggressive man-centered cultures gathered as the foundation of Judeo-Christian religion in the Western world.

Fifteen years ago I told my art istory professor I thought the bare-breasted women bull jumpers, carved in ivory or painted in fresco about 1600 B.C. in Crete, could have been made by women depicting women. And I considered that the preponderant Neolithic fertility figurines might have been crafted by women for themselves—to accompany them through pregnancy and birth-giving. And I wondered if the frescos of the Mysteries, in Pompeii—almost exclusively concerned with feminine gestures and actions—could have been painted by women. He was shocked and annoyed, saying that there was absolutely no authority to support such ideas. Since then, I have given myself the authority to support and pursue these insights. By the year 2000 feminist archeologists, etymologists, egyptologists, biologists, sociologists will have established beyond question my contention that women determined the forms of the sacred and the functional—the divine properties of material, its religious and practical formations; that she evolved pottery, sculpture, fresco, architecture, astronomy and the laws of agriculture—all of which belonged implicitly to the female realms of transformation and production.

The shadowy notions of a harmonious core of civilization under the aegis of the Great Mother Goddess, where the divine unity of female biological and imaginative creation was normal and pervasive, where the female was the source of all living and created images, will once again move to clarify our own conscious desires. The scared rituals of forming materials to embody life energies will return to the female source.

One further change will be the assembling of pioneer istorians—themselves discredited or forgotten by traditional masculine authority. In the year 2000, they will be on the required reading lists. What a joy to welcome Helen Diner, J.J. Bachofen, Michelet, Rilke, Gould-Davis, Jane Ellen Harrison, Robert Graves, Jacquetta Hawkes, Ruth Benedict, Robert Briffault, Erich Neumann, Marie de LeCourt, Ruth Herschberger, Bryher, Hays, Minna Mosdherosch Schmidt, Clara E. C. Waters (1904), Elizabeth F. Ellet (1859).

The negative aspect is simply that the young woman coming to these vital studies will never really believe that we, in our desperate groundwork, were so crippled and isolated; that a belief and dedication to a feminine istory of art was despised by those who might have taught it, and considered heretical and false by those who should have taught it. That our deepest energies were nurtured in secret, with precedents we kept secret—our lost women. Now found and to be found again.

first published in Maggie Tripp, ed., Women in the Year 2000 (Arbor House, 1974); revised for Cézanne, She Was a Great Painter (1975)