A few hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to paint — at least not in any way that was taken seriously. Painting was a man’s world: They, and only they, were privy to technique, invention and innovation. Only they could display their artwork in galleries and museums. Women were often the subject of the paintings; people gazed upon their forms rather than what their forms could create.
Over the years, women staked their place as creators. Their art sits alongside men’s art in galleries and museums, often highlighted for their change of perception; a necessary viewpoint to finish a story that was only half written. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe once said, “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”
For Women’s History Month, Muse Paintbar wants to celebrate the women, past and present, who forged the path that allows their women-owned businesses to thrive.
“We’re celebrating the women who stepped out of that convention and made a name for themselves and a mark on the world by bringing art into it,” Marta Senn, mid-Atlantic regional manager of Muse Paintbar, says.
I got to visit the Ballston location of Muse and inside was this colorful, industrial and cozy atmosphere that inspires creativity. The tables are covered in paint splatters from paint nights past, art that inspires different paint nights lines the walls and blank canvases on easels await guests. There’s a bar in the back that offers selections of wine, sangria, beer and cider. The whole space asks patrons to create, to not be afraid of the process and to embrace the mess that accompanies discovery.
With this month’s focus on women, Muse plans to celebrate by painting different aspects of womanhood. When I went, the group painted a carefree woman, her hair blowing in the breeze, her arm extended, holding a champagne glass.
“It’s called Say Yes to Champagne,” Senn says. “Just a girl out on the town, living her life.”
Senn also mentioned some feature pieces of the month’s lineup. To celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s birthday on March 15, patrons will paint a vector portrait of RBG, a flower crown on her head. There will also be a piece dedicated to body positivity by using a painting called “Flowers in Her Hair” for inspiration. At Muse, an artist leads these painting sessions, guiding patrons in the process of creating and helping customize details of skin tone and hairstyle to reflect every shade of humanity.
Senn, an artist herself, understands the power of vulnerability in art.
“We hope to inspire people to come and create something,” Senn says. “We live in a very tech-driven world; we live in a world that’s very driven by our appearance, who we are, what we put out there, what people perceive of us. And to do something where you have to be creative and take a little bit of yourself and expose it to the world, is very challenging for some people. It’s very vulnerable. But we want people to know that’s okay.”
While the experience asked me to step out of my comfort zone, I was never alone. The women at my table were all laughing and cheering each other on, even as we made mistaken strokes and odd color-matches. The camaraderie at this women-only paint night energized the entire room.
“You have to take a chance on something,” Senn says. “If you can take the risk of creating something and sharing what you have to say visually with the world, I think we make each other better because we’re willing to visually listen to each other.”
At the end of the night, our paintings lined the room and carefree women in every shade held glasses of champagne, their hair blowing in the wind. I looked around at the women who painted them and saw art reflecting life. We held our drinks up, we took pictures, we laughed — for just a moment we were carefree, too, celebrating a small piece of how far we’ve come.