Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

When I was a kid, I overheard the term "glass ceiling" pretty often, meaning an invisible barrier to women and/or people of color seeking advancement into high level corporate positions. While I never dreamed of making it in the corporate world, I kept an image in my head of an actual clear glass ceiling, and how it would feel to accidentally bang into it.

As an artist, some of the gallerists and administrators who favor my work have suggested that I'd sell more and show in more galleries if I were a man. While I recognize that these comments are meant to be supportive, I am not 100% convinced that being female has hampered me. I know a far greater number of disappointed male artists than female artists, for instance.

So, what is a glass ceiling in 2015? I am not sure exactly how I would define it. I think the glass ceiling of my 80s childhood has shifted and changed shape. I unfortunately do think that misogyny still permeates our culture in sometimes obvious and other times subtle ways. For instance, I've noticed Facebook posts describing how women silently tolerate subtle forms of abuse — inappropriate sexual remarks or jokes, unwanted physical contact — in social and/or professional settings where speaking up seems unfavorable. I am disappointed to see women close to me in age feel as though they cannot voice disagreement with behavior that belittles or maligns. While experiencing unwanted remarks or physical contact is not a glass ceiling, the psychology of grinning and passively participating in unwanted behavior encourages women's all-over passivity. Instead of self advocating, we laugh off something offensive, hurtful or inappropriate when we should be demonstrating a lack of approval and advocating for ourselves. If we won't stick up for ourselves in the context of casual banter, how will we ask for a raise or a more flexible schedule? How will we advocate for better parental leave and other benefits? How will we shift antiquated ways of thinking and behaving?

In a series of sculptures and characters now in formation, I am playing with the intersection of fiber and glass. Both of materials can be seen as delicate (and by extension feminine) while also being surprisingly resilient and strong. In the below piece, which says "breaking the glass ceiling," the figure's arms are glass beads. I've since taking this photo somewhat changed the structure of the piece, and am adding a jacket with more text about breaking my own glass ceiling. Stay tuned for more photos.

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