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Woman's Role in the Arts

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Thank you John...what a flattering intro...,cant wait to hear what I'm going to say.

One thing Im sure I want to say..

It is a pleasure to be here in Vancouver in the company of those who appreciate the significance of the Decorative Arts.

It is a pleasure to meet so many of you that share my enthusiasm for one of the most significant design movements/

not only its inherant lovliness;

a time when the art was not merely art for its own sake/

but art with conscious intent

created by artists determined to enhance people's very lives

While we often speculate on the origins of the a&c movement...Some say morris , some think pugin, some ruskin, i say it goes back further than that.

1 Neanderthal family

Any anthropolists/archiologists/socioligists/ paliontologists, any kind of ologists here...


For the next few minutes....Everything I say is speculative, hypothecal, theoretical, a generalization or simplification...

covered all my bases

One notion universally accepted is that

men were the hunters

1 Primative tools

Women were the gatherers

2 gathering tools

Its fair to assume (did I say assuption) Now lets see...hunters...gatherers...who would have been the ones to create makeshift containers..who would have stumbled (pun intended) over reeds, fibers and clay? Women were certainly among the first crafters.

2 Pierced discs

3 Pages of artifacts

Voila...the first arts & craft objects ...Fits all the criteria. Inexpensive materials in their natural form, hand made...expressing an intimate relationship to nature.

Let this sink in...our forebears had to spend 95 % of their waking hours on maintenence just staying alive...yet the need for art was so powerful, that creativity overroad necessity.

Pendants fashioned by human hands from various natural materials, shells, Stones, bones and ivory and wood

date from 45,000 to 30,000 years bc.

You know what the most powerful drive of every species is? ....Survival !

So its no great shock that fertility symbols are among the earliest objects found

4 Venus

So what if these objects were made for religios purposes...It does not negate their aesthetic significance...You can practice religion by sacrificing a beast...eating a human brain...

3 Bone necklace

Our ancestors worshipped by making objects of beauty.

Life was frought with danger and hardship.But not only did we survive..our physically challenged ancestors prevailed as the dominant species.

The tribes that overcame adversities...were those who learned to cooperate and act for mutual protection. Altruism and personal sacrifice are deeply imbedded in our very DNA.

Life spans were short--perhaps two or three decades no more, less for women..our forebears would have been constantly pregnent...nursing...gathering...making a little basket here...fashioning a little pendant there.

These abilities ... procreation and gathering, providing the majority of food for the family...granted women...if not primacy in matriarchal societies...certainly equality.

Here's the rub... by the time we achieve civilization human relationships were drastically changed ..

By the time we are organized into 'cultures' we also have class privelege, slavery and the gender gap.

By the time of recorded history ...some 5000 years ago...

women were completely reliant on men fathers, brothers, husbands and even sons. They no longer had the independant means of earning a living. Except for two professions...(ask audience) priesthood and prostitution.

Now women's role in procreation reduced them to virtual chattels. We can theorize but no one really knows why this occurred in every recorded civilization.With the invention of private property and birth rights.

While much was being learned about the making of fabulous objects...

4 Egyptian gold working

All professions and crafts were solely the province of men

This condition remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years...Through biblical and mythical times, the classical period... the dark ages...Through feudal times. So you will be relived to see that we can fast forward here a for about 14/16 centuries.

5 Ecclesiastical buckle

5 16th century Spanish

An elite group of artists and artisans in the manors and in the monasteries were the makers of works of art for the aristocracy and the church.

Did women work? Of course they did, women and men alike would have struggled continuously.

The difference was, women did not own their labor.

6. Tech

Now with gradual advances in technology and trade, power gradually passed to a new class, the bourgoisie...those involved in trade and commerce.

7 Merchant ring

independant craftsmen begin selling rings to still illiterate merchants at fairs & markets, Livings could now be



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