Sweet Nothings

About a year ago I stopped buying a number of well-known womens’ fashion magazines. Magazines rot your brain anyway, but really I had become fed up with their coverage of art. To begin, I don’t think fashion magazines should even really bother fluffing around with the arts, or global politics for that matter, but for some reason they do. The magazines I have in mind are aimed at young (very young), creative women, and as such have an obligation to feature such types within their pages. This I can understand. What I cannot grasp, is why every young female artist they have ever profiled seems to make the same clichéd girly pap.

You know the sort – images of other girls –watercolour and line drawings with candy coloured accents – wide eyed, dressed to perfection, hair swirling about the face, accompanied by bunnies and kitties and little birds and cupcakes and cuteness with clouds and trees and rainbows and rainshowers. Is this really all that these women are capable of? Technically accomplished, sure, but are we to believe that hairstyles, clothes styles, the weather, forest critters and fairy stories are the extent of their inspiration as artists? Is this all that younger artists have to look up to?

I got so steamed that I wrote a letter to the editor of one of the magazines – I even gave her a list of young female artists who were making work that actually meant something, who actually had something to say – even if it wasn’t pretty and fluffy.

The launch of Curvy 09 in Sydney this week has put this phenomenon back under my radar. A whole book and exhibition dedicated to ‘100 of the best female artists from around the world’. Read: ‘one pretty picture each from 100 women who are pursuing careers in design and advertising and entered our competition to be in this book that helps us sell more magazines’. It’s initiatives like this that are selling women artists short, perpetuating stereotypes and portraying them as being concerned only with trends and the pursuit of beauty. Save me.



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  1. I was trying to google for pictures of the event and stumbled across this. I’m one of those artists picked for this years Curvy. There’s no denying you’re right generally… a lot of the work fits the stereotype you just painted. I think it also has a lot to do with what’s popular in illustration and marketability and the bottom line is people like art with pretty girls. Most of it is predictable, but there’s a lot of great work in there too.

    I sort of went to the opposite extreme when creating work for the exhibition though. I live in a third world country where women have always faced dire challenges, now more than ever. I recognize that the experiences that inform my work are way different, I had an opportunity of being the only female representing X country and I tried to do it justice, even if it meant being overlooked by less subtle eyecandy. Granted, the image of mine that they chose to include in the book is one of my most colourful and frivolous. It’s a quid pro quo system I’m fully aware of, I need the exposure, they want a book full of pretty pictures. I’m not sure I would have been selected had I submitted the work that I did for the exhibition, but I won’t say it with certainty because I guess I also chose to give them what I thought they were looking for.

    I guess my point is that if you look further than just a single cute image representing an artist you’ll find many of them aren’t as creatively one dimensional as you’ve been made to expect.


    • Reem, you’re absolutely right about it being a very tiny snapshot of the kinds of art many of these women are making. I would love it if Curvy could showcase a wider selection of the artists’ work, to better represent what they do and to show that they aren’t one-trick ponies! Perhaps they could select fewer artists but publish more images of their work? I think this is what bothered me most about the art coverage in women’s magazines – that they have the space to include multiple images and even to write about the artist but they still avoid anything with real guts. I hope that a lot of the girls involved in Curvy are entering other competitions and holding their own exhibitions where they can be completely true to themselves and their practice. I also hope that they send images of their work to magazines, even if it is more challenging than what might usually get published.
      Thanks for posting – it’s great to be able to hear an insider’s view. Now you’ve got me all curious to see your work!!


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