The essence of my art practice is looking to what lies just beneath the stories of historical figures. Eroding the existence or relevance of important contributors of past events is not a new occurrence. There are those who shine brightly, receiving the bulk of the accolades and are thusly represented in media. While others who are just as deserving slip unnoticed, seemingly in darkened sidelines, quickly forgotten. Still, it’s challenging at best to document any major happening in full. With the subjective element of human perspective, some things are bound to get lost in the shuffle. Add to that the audience as publisher, and you’ve got seemingly interminable sources presenting a myriad of perspectives making it more difficult to settle on any “truth”. The larger thesis as it connects to art and artists has been a long-standing preoccupation. At the moment, my focus is squarely on women in punk.
While there are more tools to help disseminate the large chunks of information, it’s still difficult to find the kind of depth that exposes the full picture. To take one more moment will almost always reveal some tid bit that shifts the story. Just because the gatekeepers have grown in numbers adapting to how the information is now culled, it nonetheless continues to proceed with business as usual.
This syndrome seems particularly prominent when referring to women. I realize I’ve spoken to this at length in two August posts. Yes, you will find some previously used passages. Bear with me, as I look through a slightly more academic lens.
Speaking to the role of women in post-WWII era, long time comic artist and writer Trina Robbins captures this succinctly, “Suddenly there was a mass amnesia, and no one remembered that women had been strong.”
This too has been the case with women in punk. In a recent conversation with Exene Cervenka she stated, “Punk was the last time men and women were equal.” She spoke to me at length of the early years, when everyone came together to make it happen. Helen Reddington’s ‘Lost Women of Rock Music’ shows more of the disparate experience. In particular to male music reviewers minimizing the presence of female instrumentalists with the term “punkettes” (p50).
There are now more sources to draw from, but the journey has only just begun. Whether looking back or looking ahead, there’s large gap waiting to be filled. Fortunately many are rising to the call as more and more comes available focusing on the subject of women in the pantheon of rock n’ roll. Starting in the early 90’s with ‘She Bop’ (1995) and ‘She’s A Rebel’ (1992), both which have since been extended or revised, the trend has continued well into the aughts. Books like Zora Von Burden’s ‘Women Of The Underground’, and films like ‘From The Back Of The Room’ and ‘Punk Singer’ show targeted interest growing.