Blink: Gender and The Arts

I just finished reading Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, an incredible book about how we think and make decisions. (See "Books" on the left.)

There is a section in the book that discusses fairly recent changes to how musicians audition for symphony orchestras. Over the past 30 years, most venues have adopted a "blind" audition, in which the musician auditions behinds a screen. Since this has become common, the number of women playing in symphonies has risen by 500%!

I wonder what would happen if women visual artists were nameless and faceless? Or, as has been the case with at least a handful of well-known artists, if they adopted male names?

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6 comments to Blink: Gender and The Arts

  • Cleo

    I am thinking of using a one word name for my work. I am wondering if this is a good idea. Also, what are the legal implications? Has anyone tried this? Thanks, Cleo

  • Rob

    Having just finished Marcus Buckinghams “The One Thing You Need to Know”–which was also a great read with some thoughts, particularly in the last chapter, that I think would nourish the soul of any artist–I’ve been looking for my next book. Sounds like Gladwell’s book would be a good choice.

  • Randall

    It’s very common for artists to select a more desirable way to identify their work than the use of their actual signature. Actors and writers do it all the time. I have seen southwestern artists adopt native American sounding names to make their work seem more “authentic”. Erte’s real name was Roman de Tiertoff (or something similar). You might stop thinking of it as your name and more the brand name of a product.

  • Excellent point, Randall! Visual artists ARE doing this when they think it’s the best route for them. Some, however, haven’t even considered it. I counseled an artist this week on a similar subject. She wanted to do more of a production line that she thought might be seen as “selling out” or compromising her other work. I advised her to do it under a different name. As you say, a different brand.

  • Phipps

    What if you have a web site? How does “one” keep their artist web-site gender blind without sounding off-putting?

  • Alyson

    Good question! I don’t always recommend gender blindness, but if it’s something you want to do you must be committed. I guess you wouldn’t have any photos of yourself and would use “I” as much as possible (rather than the third-person he/she). I’ve been to quite a few sites where I can’t tell if the artist is male or female. Wish I could recall some of them now.