Thursday, November 8, 2007
The Abbess and the Entrepreneur Inspire Women Today
Above: Student work from "The Abbess & the Entrepreneur" at PSU
A couple of weekends ago I taught the first in a series of classes on women artists. This is a Portland State University 1 credit series that I proposed and have had accepted for this year. The class was all women students of various ages. For most, this was their first Women's Studies class and the first class about art. We explored the highly diverse and fascinating lives of Caterina Vigri, also known as St. Catherine of Bologna, and Lavinia Fontana, Europe's first woman artist to compete with men in the art marketplace.
Caterina (1414-14630 gave up a lavish life at court to become a nun in her early teens. She later became an Abbess of a Poor Clare convent, wrote a book, poetry, music, and painted.
Lavinia Fontana (1222-1614) supported her parents, her husband, herself, and gave birth to eleven children. She was famous throughout her native Bologna and other parts of Italy for her portraits, religious, and mythological paintings.
The members of the PSU class did creative projects based on the lives and works of the two artists we studied. Several made evocative collages for both women. One student wrote a poem to each woman. The poems were so deeply felt they had several of us in tears. Another student drew her visions of the two artists and said it was "the first time I have drawn in 20 years."
I am happy to see that my belief has proven to be correct; that women of the past can provide inspiration for women (and men) today to overcome obstacles and to create lives full of meaning.