I recently saw “20 Feet From Stardom” and was touched by the depth of longing and commitment in the message of this movie, which was more of a documentary than anything else. It was about these wonderful singers who spent a lifetime perfecting their voices, and still remained backup vocalists. This was a documentary about black female singers whose names are associated with top stars like Michael Jackson, Sting, Mick Jagger, Ray Charles and the list goes on, yet no one actually knows their names. Their voices are every bit as good, if not better than the stars they backup, so what’s going on here? What makes one artist rise to greatness, while the rest of us struggle for any kind of recognition?
When I was younger I entered every juried exhibit possible, joined all types of art groups and aligned myself with artists whose work I admired…and we all struggled to get noticed. Years later I have less energy for the art groups and juried shows, but still obsess over the work, which is the good news. In fact, I can’t think of any other way to live. Everything I think about is art related. But I do understand how artists become discouraged after years of hard work with little recognition. It’s especially harder for woman artists who at some point give up and compromise themselves into life.
The message of the movie was how women with great talent tend to underestimate the gift they have, for whatever reason, and often sell themselves short. This really resonated with me as I often see my female peers putting household and family obstacles in the way of their work. Female artists tend to be more compromising than their male counterparts and it makes me angry. In some cases it’s self-imposed. It’s as if female artists are more fearful of success than male artists and that needs to stop. We need to instill in our children, both male and female, to excel equally and not settle for anything less.