Here's a little brain-buster ... other than Georgia O'Keeffe and Frida Kahlo, how many famous female artists can you name off the top of your head? Not too many, right? Despite a radical change in women's rights in the past century, many of the archaic attitudes toward female artists that have kept them out of the history books still prevail. On Sunday, March 1, the Flicks screens the documentary Who Does She Think She Is?, a peek into the lives of several women who juggle two difficult job titles: mother and artist. While utilizing interviews with influential feminist commentators such as Leonard Shlain and the Guerilla Girls, the film focuses on five women as they recount their daily routines, artistic inspirations and battles with familial and social pressures to give up their art in order to raise their children.
It's a refreshingly diverse group, from Mormon ceramist Janis Wunderlich to goddess-revering printmaker Mayumi Oda to pastor's wife and actress Angela Williams. As their work is presented on screen, we see clearly how these women's varied experiences and thoughts are individually expressed through their art, the visual representation of their struggles sounding a powerful echo to their sometimes heartbreaking stories.
Director Pamela Tanner Boll largely succeeds in presenting an empathetic, interesting picture of these artists but muddies their stories by interjecting cursory—and aggravatingly dataless—studies correlating female status with global quality of life. Coupled with undeveloped musings about representational and financial inequalities for female artists, the film overreaches its initial aim of documenting the balance between matriarchal responsibility and artistic expression. In tying these women's stories in with cliched feminist stereotypes such as goddess-training and an abundance of fecund imagery—not to mention the sometimes aggressive appearances by the Guerilla Girls—the film risks alienating much of the audience base it should be aimed at educating, i.e. the menfolk.
Who Does She Think She Is? offers an intriguing look at these five talented women, and with a bit more fleshing out, their stories alone would have made a fascinating documentary. It would have been interesting to hear more from the husbands, especially given the marital dissolution Williams experienced during the film's span. By trying to also fit in an expose of the male-dominated mind frame in the art world, Boll partially washes out the beautiful and sometimes tragic picture of these women, and the end result comes across as a soft-hitting but rough-edged melding of two different but individually valuable ideas.
Presented as part of the Treasure Valley Community Television's Documentary Series, this is a one-time showing.
Sunday, Mar. 1, 7:30 p.m., $11. Flicks, 646 Fulton St., 208-342-4222, theflicksboise.com.