Fridays with Avery
Written by
Carol Jenkins
August 2009
Written by
Carol Jenkins
August 2009
My daughter has the good sense--and luck--to live not far from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I took my granddaughter Avery there recently for her first lessons in the importance of art: she's all of four months old. We'd been there once before, when she was only three weeks old. That day we concentrated on the Greek and Roman rooms--and the new American wing. I'll be thruthful: she slept through most of it. But on this last trip we had a mission. I wanted to begin to tell her the story of how this, and many other temples of culture have been built and maintained without more than a moment's thought about women.I had a couple of important stops to make before she retreated into a much needed nap. First, to Mary Cassat. I said, "Avery, if it weren't for Mary, there would be no such thing as Impressionism in America." It was Mary, who hailed from Philadelphia, who convinced her wealthy American friends to start buying up French impressionists.Somehow, she'd escaped home for Paris in 1866, She happened to be a great painter herself, I'm very fond of her Japanese inspired prints. Our next stop was the Picasso painting of Gertude Stein. I said, "Avery, if it weren't for Gertrude, no one would have known about a lot of the artists hung so belovedly on the Met's walls." Gertrude bought them for next to nothing and stacked them up, floor to ceiling, on her Parisian walls, and by her sheer eccentricity, made the artists famous. And then we paid a visit to Helen Frankenthaler.We passed Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock on the way--their massive canvases demanding to be looked at--I closed my eyes. Here was Helen--the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice, the wife of Motherwell who still managed an art of her own. And the reason I love her wildly expressionistic work: she is a woman who knows how to use a big canvas. "Avery--if you're going to paint, please make sure it's on a big canvas. If not, what's the point?" As I pushed her carriage through the galleries, the rest of my comments were more in the vein of "Oooh, look at the pretty colors!" I could have sworn that her eye was captured longest by Monet's deep blue Waterliilies. But she's still young, and I'm committed to making sure she appreciates the fact that in a temple that big and that rich and that revered--telling the history of people and creativity throughout centuries-- women are virtually absent. August 12, 2009

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  • LaTonya

    Hi Carol,
    You have to blog more. Sad that I didn't know about you and your work sooner at Women's Media Center. I had no grandmother like but I am wasting no time complaining. I've spent the last 20+ years playing catch up and I'm committed to mentoring young women so they don't have to wait till older to discover how amazing they are.

    Would love to feature you at Color Online. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

  • Robin Sherwood

    What a great story! Keep talking to your granddaughter even when she's sleeping. I guarantee you it will have a profound effect. . . eventually! Great women, as you know, are everywhere. . . it's getting more of us to write, film and talk about them that's the key. . . in addition to being more vociferous about our continued subjugation in the media. If I hear one more comment about Hillary's "bitchiness" or whether or not Michelle Obama's outfits are fittingly stylish! Puhleazzzzzzze!