Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Diversty, America, and Etsy

Narrator: Tabitha of The Pairabirds

I was thinking about the Barbies I owned as a child. My cousin and I collected tons of them, including some of the celebrity ones (Jem, Hammer, Michael Jackson). We had all sorts; Beach Barbie, Veterinarian Barbie, Teen Skipper. But, the most important thing for us was to collect all of the ethnicities/nationalities Mattel made. Thus we had white Barbies, black Barbies, Hispanic Barbies, Asian Barbies, White Ken, Black Ken (we would have had Hispanic and Asian Kens, but they didn't exist). Being Americans, we wanted our community of plastic humans to look like, well, America (granted Barbie isn't the most realistic representation of any human).

I see collecting art the same way. I enjoy mulitcultural subjects. A lot of times, however, I have a hard time finding it.

I was recently searching for a painting of an Indian woman (not Native American) on Etsy. Unfortunately, I didn't find much. Which got me thinking about other under-represented ethnicities/cultures. I tried to find a painting of a Japanese man (not samurai). No luck.
I love Etsy. And, I certainly see it as becoming a wonderful place for artists to share ideas and thoughts, especially since it is international. I was just a little disheartened by the lack of diverse race/ethnicities. There are several reasons I think there is a lack:

1)Etsy is still new. Not many people know what Etsy is. As more people find out, the more people from all walks of life will sign up.

2) People paint/draw what they know. Many people, including myself, draw from their own experiences and influences. I grew up surrounded by 70s albums, so my work reflects the images I saw on those covers (afros and all).

3)The diversity is there, it's just not labelled. I think this is a Catch 22 for any artist, and that is labelling. Labeling goes beyond tagging a piece "African American" or "Latina." Giving any art a tag suddenly pulls it into an exclusive group. Here's an example:

An artist does a painting and tags it "Punk." The artist is trying to attract people who like that subject matter/style. However, she doesn't want to make it seem like her art is exclusively for that group.

If I have a piece and the subject matter is Black/African American, I tag it African American. I do this so if someone is looking for African American art they'll find it. However, this may run the risk of people thinking my piece is exclusive to that race (which of course it isn't). So, if I don't tag it African American, those looking for that type of art won't find me. *Sigh* Catch 22.

As a result of this, I have decided to pump up my stock of multicultural art. I want my art to look like my pretty, colorful community of Barbies (minus the -3 size waist).

Original Drawing

Found at: The Pairabirds


rtisan said...

Interesting post, thepairofbirds! I am multicultural, myself, and do find it difficult sometimes to find my nationalities represented in the art world. I guess, for this reason, I am an etnic folk art painter.

PurpleZoe said...

I am right there with you when it comes to seeking underrepresented cultures on Etsy (and everywhere else for that matter).
I found a group on Etsy for Etsy Artists of Color, and posted it at UltravioletUnderground. The link is included below.

I also highly recommend Sojournals for networking. I've already found another funky Etsian there in addition to your refreshing vibe.

Will definitely be back.

Etsy artists of color links:





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