Art Works Blog

Notable Quotable: Phenomenal Women Edition

What is the purpose of art? According to many, if not all, of the artists we've interviewed over the years, art is a powerful vehicle for making us stop and reconsider our point of view--on a particular issue, a person, a time period, even an object. The same is true of these 10 quotes we've picked out from interviews past--each a little nugget demanding that we stop and think about what we only think we already know by women artists whose work demands the same. (Click on the artist's name to access the full interview.)

Have your own favorite quote by a phenomenal woman artist? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.

"It was very important to me to make every one of the characters that I really write about as complicated and as unique and as real as possible. Because that's the way that you begin to change; perspective that you have to humanize your characters in your art. I mean, especially if you're a writer like me who is writing about a community, I think that has been largely absent from American letters. And so it's very important to me to humanize them as well as I canI mean, really make them live on the page. — Jesmyn Ward
"Short fiction is like low relief. And if your story has no humor in it, then you're trying to look at something in the pitch dark. With the light of humor, it throws what you're writing into relief so that you can actually see it. Otherwise it's just a dark room, and what you're trying to write about will be invisible to your readers." — Elizabeth McCracken
"I transitioned to writing after failing as a painter, and I do recommend failure. I think it's a very good experience for anyone to go through." —
Julie Otsuka
"I think increasingly, especially in a culture where artists are pressured to commodify themselves and where there is this tremendous pressure for art to make money, for art to be profitable, we have this idea that art is this finished product that is manipulated, engineered, and available for sale, and we don’t think of art making as a collective process, as a communal process, as something that continues to evolve even after a piece of work has been put out into the public realm. And so, art becomes this specialized function rather than something that we are all engaged in every day of our lives. And we’re all impoverished by that." — Shailjah Patel 
"Since I was a child I have come to the realization that I have a way of giving voice to the struggles of people and that's something that called me or compelled me to look at the inequality that our people experience." — Veronica Castillo
"Everything's so accessible that it's even more important now as an artist to make sure that you tell the truth. Things that are uncomfortable, maybe some people don't want to face, don't want to admit, or look at it---it's your job to make them look at it. Even if it's for five seconds, you've changed a perspective. You've affected them immediately. You've affected them forever. That is the strength and the importance of the art. That's why art works." — Ramona Emerson
"There’s no conversation about joy, and I feel that that’s something art can do, and the community can listen and believe, or challenge and talk." — Leyya Tawil
"I'm a writer. And I also happen to be a person of color and I happen to be a woman. I no longer try to distance myself from those labels. It's just who I am. It's how I see the world, it's how I move through the world. So, of course, my writing will sometimes reflect that. It's part of my identity but I'm still a writer. These are just facts of life. I have no need or interest in separating myself from these facts. But it's not the sum of what I'm about or what I write about either. And I think all too often women and writers of color are pigeon-holed and they're forced to carry certain labels. I reject that." — Roxane Gay
“I live a quiet, an ordinary, an old-fashioned woman's life: the kitchen, the grandchildren, books, the woods. I am unadventurous, don't flirt with danger. But when I sit down to write I give myself permission to dare anything.”   — Linda Pastan
"I feel like the role of the artist is to be a conversation-starter. It's about framing a topic, a subject, a statement in a different manner and a different way than we have it framed for us every day. That hopefully suggests or provokes deeper contemplation and dialogue about that topic or that issue." — Rachel Grossman

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