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Zingmagazine #25

Holly Miller

I remember attending the Women's Group in the mid '90s, maybe? Elena Herzog was presenting at the time. I only attended a few of them. I think I joined late and then eventually it dissolved. I remember attending the presentations of Drew Shiflett, Theresa Hackett and possibly Jessica Stockholder, Katherine Bowling, and Jacqueline Gourevitch.

I did a presentation of my work in my studio which was in Chinatown back then, probably around the year 1995. I participated because I thought it would be interesting to have a group discussion with other women artists. My expectations were to have interesting conversations, feedback, criticism, and informative dialogue. My experience in the Women's Group was mostly positive. I found meeting with a group of female artists always enriching and there was a sensibility in all the criticism. It could be tough and informative but never mean or patronizing. We were definitely supportive of each other.

I feel the Women's Group influenced my art by making me feel like I am not alone out there because the art world can be really tough and trying to get your work shown can be very discouraging. So the Women's Group is helpful in making one feel part of a network that is not threatening. There is a strong feeling of solidarity and support in this predicament and the feedback is always important and helpful. It's always good to hear other artists' points of view on your work but because art is so subjective it is interesting to have group conversations and then filter and digest the input. The fact that these exchanges happen only between women just makes it more intimate and to a certain degree safer and more open. There's one less power struggle to deal with.

I can't say that I felt excluded by male artists nor that I have ever felt overly discriminated as a female artist but I do sense a stronger competitiveness from male artists versus female artists. I feel that some male artists try to keep me at arm's length, never quite allowing me to be part of their group. Possibly it's that my work threatens them or just doesn't interest them. Maybe because I challenge the "masculine" in my paintings. I do feel dismissed by male artists more than female artists.

Back then in the early '90s my methods of networking in the art world would be to attend tons of openings, send out slides, meet other artists, and invite people to my studio. Today I still go to tons of openings but only to artists and gallerists I know (which are a lot!). I have a website that I update regularly. Once in a while I will post to Facebook or Instagram either a new painting or an announcement for a show. I will try to create a relationship with dealers of galleries I am interested in and cultivate that relationship by going to see the shows on a regular basis and trying to go to their openings. Basically I stay in touch with my friends who are artists. I am still in touch with many artists from the Women's Group.

As for strong female mentors in my career, I have several very close friends that I share art world experiences with and exchange studio visits fairly regularly. We often go see shows together to continue our dialogue on art but in general I feel part of a strong, inspiring, and supportive group of women artists in New York and that we are all on the same level. We respect and follow each other's development as artists. J don't mentor younger female artists however I know several and we exchange dialogues about our own work and art in general.

Today I think that there's a more open approach to showing women artists than there used to be. We are finally getting to the point where there are group shows of just women artists but that's not the show's title. It doesn't need to be mentioned as much anymore.

I also get a sense that very young female artists who are straight out of graduate art schools and much more elderly women artists (80 or older) seem to be commanding more interest in the art world than mid-career female artists. My advice to younger female artists would be to keep working, develop your artistic voice but also be part of the art world. Go to openings, follow the galleries that have a program that you are interested in or you relate to, and keep meeting other artists.

Overall I love interacting with women. I feel that the Women's Group was and still is an intellectual exchange of ideas in art while being supportive, encouraging and enriching both emotionally and intellectually.

Holly Miller in her studio on Grand Street, Chinatown, circa early 1990s


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