The word museography properly refers to the systematic description of objects in museums, but it might also do for the culture and ideology surrounding that dusty old figure of legend, the artist’s “muse.” If her aura is fading now, anyone educated during the twentieth century remembers when she played no small part in our curriculae, both formal and informal. (The male muse, back then, existed only in the homosexual realm.) To avoid her, you had to spend a lot of time in libraries seeking evidence of her opposite: not the sitter but the painter; not the character but the author; not the song but the singer. And a few women did appear to have avoided the state of muse-dom: Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Zora Neale Hurston, Patti Smith. In fact, such women could be said to have acquired muses themselves, or to have been involved in a mutually beneficial muse-ology with other artists (Vita Sackville-West, Alice B. Toklas, Langston Hughes, Robert Mapplethorpe). But it was slim pickings.
Image: Celia Paul, Painter and Model, 2012
© Celia Paul
Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice