“Will you still need me … When I’m 64?” OR: Why Gender is relevant

Er, make that 94.

From the New York Times:

After six decades of very private painting, Ms. [Carmen] Herrera sold her first artwork five years ago, at 89. Now, at a small ceremony in her honor, she was basking in the realization that her career had finally, undeniably, taken off…

Shocking Pink #20 (1949)

… her radiantly ascetic paintings have entered the permanent collections of institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and the Tate Modern. Last year, MoMA included her in a pantheon of Latin American artists on exhibition. And this summer, during a retrospective show in England, The Observer of London called Ms. Herrera the discovery of the decade, asking, “How can we have missed these beautiful compositions?”

Indeed. How did it happen?  She was private, but she wasn’t invisible. She had shown in a number of shows, but never sold anything. 

Black and White (1952)

“Ms. Herrera said that she also accepted, “as a handicap,” the barriers she faced as a Hispanic female artist. Beyond that, though, “her art was not easily digestible at the time,” Mr. Zugazagoitia said. “She was not doing Cuban landscapes or flowers of the tropics, the art you might have expected from a Cuban émigré who spent time in Paris. She was ahead of her time.””


Who knew that in the art world it is bad to be ahead of your time? 

Of course, art that is outside the conventions can be neglected and perhaps discovered only decades after the artist’s death.  But this work is certainly not so unfamiliar.  And she did have promoters.  She did have friends in the art world during all those decades.  But she remained in effect in an outsider’s position.

There’s a wonderful research project here.

Added:  Since newcomers to this blog might not have the context for this post, let me say explicitly what  its point here is:  Many people think that calls for more women’s presence among lists of  invited speakers, etc., make gender  relevant where only excellence should matter.  But the case of someone like Carmen Herrera makes a clear that excellence is not always clearly perceived by those making the relevant choices. 

Unfortunately, gender does matter, in ways that are often hidden from us.

CfP SI Interacting with Computers

I ran into this call (via Danah Boyd) for papers for a special issue of Interacting with Computers about Feminism and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) that didn’t pop up in my mailing lists so I thought I would post it here.

From the CfP:

[…] The “Feminism and HCI: New Perspectives” Special Issue seeks to provide a forum for scholarly contributions and applications of feminism to the discipline of HCI. Though the topic of feminism has many inputs and applications, we confine our focus to the interaction design implications of this problem space. Specifically, we are concerned with the design and evaluation of interactive systems that are imbued with sensitivity to the central commitments of feminism—agency, fulfillment, identity and the self, equity, empowerment, diversity, and social justice. We also seek to improve our understanding of how gender identities and relations shape both the use of interactive technologies and their design. Additionally, feminist HCI entails critical perspectives that could help reveal unspoken values within HCI’s dominant research and design paradigms, and underpin the development of new approaches, methods and design variations.

  • Abstract submission (300-500 words) deadline: February 28, 2010
  • Full paper submission deadline: June 1, 2010
  • First-round reviews to authors: late August/early September, 2010
  • Revised papers due for final review and comments to authors: November 2010
  • Final papers due: Dec 15, 2010
  • Special issue publication: March, 2011

You can read the full text here.
And to get into the spirit, I will add this Geek and Poke cartoon here:

Abortion compromise and the logic of “states’ rights”

Feministe has a great post on the senate’s new health care bill. It explains where things stand if this goes through:

The women’s health compromise essentially kicks the issue to the states — it keeps the Hyde Amendment in tact across the board, and allows states to scale back abortion coverage even further if they choose. It’s better than Stupak, but it still really, really sucks.

But the best bit of the is actually a quite from Ezra Klein, discussing an argument from David Waldman:

The problem with leaving the decision up to the states, he says, is that it doesn’t go far enough. “I think states should leave the abortion question up to the counties,” he explains. “Then I think counties should leave the abortion question up to municipalities. Then the neighborhoods should leave the abortion question up to each block.” And each block, as you might have guessed, should leave the abortion question up to each household.