• Steven Heller

Art Herstory

Anita Kunz, illustrator extraordinaire, has had enough of male dominated art history that is still taught in school, despite shifts in the art landscape. Recently, she produced “The Alternative History of Art by A.E.Kunz,” a compliment, of sorts, to the great historical omnibuses by Sir E. H. Gombrich and H. W. Janson, and I asked Dr. Kunz to explain her unique perspective. (Incidentally, the gaggle of monkeys refers to Kunz’s recent volunteer work at a monkey sanctuary.)

Thomasina Gainsborough 1727-1788.

Your alternative history is an hilarious “what if . . ” Tell me how this book took form?

I have long noticed that many artists recontextualize paintings that previous artists such as Botero and Bacon (as just 2 examples) have created. I have rearranged iconic paintings in the past for any number of desired effects in my illustration work, but this was a personal project and I wanted to experiment. Unlike illustration work, which I still do, my fine art work is more open ended. I work big!! I experiment and try and come up with new and interesting directions. It’s part homage and part political statement. And of course I’ve always wondered where women were in art history. We seem to have been written out of the conversation, and it’s not just because we had babies! So I wondered what an alternate history of art might look like – one that may have included someone like me.

Roberta Campin 1375-1444.

Woman have long received the short end of the brush, although that is changing somewhat. Do you believe there will ever be parity?

Well, even if women obtain some sort of gender parity, we still have many other marginalized groups that have been overlooked. It pains me that there is so much great work that has never made the “cut.” The art history that we’ve all learned seems so myopic and exclusionary to me.

The idea to have the great masterpieces fictitiously repainted by women is a great conceit, but why are the paintings, well, so goofy? Are they?

I have no idea how people perceive my work, and maybe that’s a good thing. I’ve always used humor as a weapon I think. Humor can be very subversive. In my illustration work, in particular, I’ve always used satire and parody to somehow tackle subjects in a way that simply wouldn’t be printed otherwise.

Fiona Bacon 1909-1992.

Johanna Van Eyck 1390-1441.

Oaola Picasso 1881-1973.

Satire, like revenge, is a dish best served cold. Are you taking revenge on the male art world and its history. Or just having a good laugh?

Neither. I didn’t make this project with any preconceived outcome. It was a work in progress, and it had a natural flow. The interesting thing was that as I was working on it, there was more talk in the media about alternative facts and alternative narratives, etc., so somehow the timing seemed right! And when I put the book together and changed the pronouns of all the artists biographies it added a different element as well. Nothing in any of their biographies would have ever happened to a woman. So it ultimately showed me how complicated and nuanced sexism really is.

How can people get a copy?

Right now it’s a self published project on Blurb.com. This is still a work in progress. But I’d love a publisher!!!

Franka Halls 1582-1666.

Helene Rousseau 1844-1910.

Gertrude Klimt 1445-1510.

Anonymouis 1594.

Leona Da Vinci 1452-1519.

Tiziana Vecelli 1488-1576.

Johanna Memling 1430-1494.

Davinia Hockney 1937-

Renee Magritte 1898-1967.

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