Jenny Holzer on the Difficulties of Being a Successful Female Artist

Photo of Jenny Holzer's "Truisms": Nadja Robot, Flickr

I would describe [my career] as a slow incline with various dips rather than a steep trajectory, but I was relatively young when I did a show at DIA, then the Guggenheim, and represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. During that time, I also had a baby. Those three shows all took place within a few years, and that was an insane time. I worked on DIA when I was pregnant, had a young child for the Guggenheim, and my daughter celebrated her second birthday at the Venice Biennale. I don’t recommend that. I see why guys don’t do it. Although it was a great period for learning-realising, art is hard (and it should be). The rest of my life was desperately difficult at moments.

It’s tough on relationships when you’re obsessed by art, and to be honest, I think it’s harder for women than for men. Successful male artists appear to attract adoring people while successful female artists tend to make partners and acquaintances angry, and babies (properly) confused. What is considered a good thing in a man is potentially troublesome in a woman but I was determined not to crumble, tempting as it was. It’s almost impossible to balance one’s personal relationships and mothering with the art imperative. I still apologise to my daughter with some regularity.

Conceptual artist Jenny Holzer talking about her creative origins in the March 2010 issue of Dazed.

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