If we were to explore the creative spirit of Syrian feminism in art, with the assumption that creativity has gender and nationality, we might follow a methodology of thinking similar to that adopted by novelist Virginia Woolf at the start of the 20th century or that adopted by the art historian Linda Nochlin in the 1970s. The subject of women and creativity is not limited to particular geographies or societies: it touches us all.
Woolf’s book, A Room of One’s Own (1929), is considered a major example of feminist criticism. In it, Woolf concludes that if a female wanted to become a writer, she should have her own place as well as a steady income. This is arguably a simple and obvious conclusion that could apply to any creator, regardless of gender. However, the issue becomes more complicated where the fine arts are concerned. One private room is not enough; there is a need for a place independent of the daily living place. In art, it is mandatory to master the adaptation of materials and to possess a thorough knowledge of their nature and the relevant technical skills. This is why Nochlin’s seminal essay ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’ (1971) is considered the beginning of women’s intellectual intervention in the history of art. Posing the question in this manner creates a controversial situation, for it seems like it is a matter of fact that there haven’t been great women artists. Similarly, Woolf ponders over the existence (or lack thereof) of women writers throughout history and imagines that Shakespeare had a wonderfully talented sister called Judith. What could have happened to her? In the same manner, Nochlin questions what would have happened if Picasso were a female. Like many artists who were influenced by their family environment, Picasso’s father Ruiz, a painter himself and professor of art, had an important role in the artistic maturity of his son. Nochlin wonders whether Picasso’s father would have shown the same interest in little ‘Pablita’?[He did indeed have two real sisters, Lola and Conchita]. Would he have encouraged her ambition and driven her towards success? Woolf, on the other hand, argues that if a woman in the time of Shakespeare had possessed his genius, her fate would have been death or madness whereby any woman with a great talent, born in the 16th century, must have gone mad or shot herself to death or ended her life in a lone cottage outside the village; a half-witch feared and mocked by people. If she were destined to escape that fate, then everything she wrote would have been influenced by a worthless and useless alternative resulting in twisted and distorted writing.