Art and women are two intertwined concepts. Nonetheless, many female artists shaped and still shape the artistic scene worldwide. I have been following an account on Twitter dedicated to women in art and their work. It has opened my eyes and enriched my knowledge on many levels. From understanding the crucial role of women in art to seeing amazing work done by them through history.

I decided to reach out to the creator of the account, PL Henderson, for an interview. She was open to it and we had a conversation about art, women, and research. PL is a writer, art historian, feminist activist and artist. She is the creator of #WOMENSART.

When The Journey in Following Female Artists Began

PL has always been interested in art from a very young age. She was just obsessed with images in picture books. Her mother was an artist and she encouraged her creativity by providing painting and drawing equipment for her since she was very young. Thus, she followed her mother’s path. As a teenager, she became absorbed in looking at different artist’s work, such as Cezanne, Dali and Klee, all male artists, not female, because they were the ones in the art books.

Her mother’s work was the only source she had as a memory of looking at female artwork. The journey into exploring the work of female artists began after she started a degree in art history. She then began to more fully understand the historical and also global contexts of exclusion by the art establishment. 

Impact of Gender in Understanding Art

Understanding sexism in art leads you to consider the connections to the limitations placed on females in wider society. However, she was already a feminist and was already contributing to initiatives to improve things for women. PL has worked with female asylum seekers in the UK. In addition to creating platforms for female artists on a non-professional and voluntary basis. Arts generally, poetry, music, painting sculpture have shaped her life.

”I couldn’t imagine life without creativity. I draw, I became a musician and now I write, mostly about art and ecological issues. ”

PL Henderson

She was inspired by many female artists but the first women in the arts that inspired her were poets and musicians. Not painters or sculptors because they were more obvious in culture and included poets like Sylvia Plath and Stevie Smith and singers/musicians such as Ari Upp and Kate Bush. Kiki Smith and Prunella Clough were amongst the first female artists she started to like, but that was later in life as she expressed. 

PL’s Research Scope: Art & Women

As an art historian, her focus now is on researching the creative work of women. She chose to look into this field because it’s a neglected area still. Women’s artwork even today remains less valued by culture as exposed by their lack of promotion in galleries and the systems of the art world. She also find it incredibly interesting to uncover just how essential and innovative the practices of women historically and globally are, especially as they’ve always faced particular assumptions and limitations imposed upon them culturally. 

Regarding her famous Twitter page, #WOMENSART, started about 5 years ago. The point was to research and post art by women which at first was for her own enjoyment. It was more of a hobby in the beginning. But then, as more people followed, it became more of a mission. It has become, as it’s grown, a mixture of positive promotion of artists, education and also entertainment. ”I’m learning too by curating the account, so I feel like I’m not ‘the teacher’. But often finding out about creative women from history or around the globe at the same time as the people who follow.”

Learnings From Research & Writing

PL has learned, through her contact with many women artists, that there are some amazingly talented, kind and generous people out there. She has enjoyed the connections she has made with people on a personal level. Most importantly, she also learned to be thick skinned and not let the negative comments bother her. ”Social media can be a challenging place.”

I asked Mrs. Henderson what opportunities it has opened and she said ”I think in that way I’ve learned about myself, my convictions and aims for integrity. As far as opportunities go, I like to think the account generally has helped in creating discussion on the lack of representation for women artists.”

Even in the past five years of the account’s existence, she has noticed more media focus on the subject. Also, galleries starting to take more action. She strongly believes in setting up initiatives and have done this all her life. From forming groups, setting up workshops to creative platforms and social media is just an extension.  Henderson’s advice to female artists is:

To really believe they have a right to do what they do. That’s the bottom line.