Barbara Steveni: On how women artists perceived themselves in relation to their husbands when she was first married to artist John Latham
I AM AN ARCHIVE: Westminster Walk, November 2008. Barbara Steveni taking with Brian Haw, Peace Campaigner in Parliament Square. Photo by John Mallinson. Courtesy Barbara Steveni. Image not licensed for reuse.
Barbara Steveni looks back on the roles she and Deborah Brisley played in relation to the work of their respective artist husbands, John Latham and Stuart Brisley. She mentions the art magazine Studio International and refers to her time as a student at Chelsea School of Art and to the sculptor, Elisabeth Frink.
Barbara Steveni was recorded by National Life Stories for Artists’ Lives in 1998. The interviewer was Melanie Roberts. In 2018 an additional recording began with Steveni, conducted by Victoria Lane.
And I didn’t see myself as a woman artist at the time. Although I’d been at art school and I’d done these things, I didn’t actually see myself as a woman artist, that came much later. Because, I was in a culture, and living with a, quite a bit older male artist, and all men, and all artists were men at the time. So I was very much participating in, as was Stuart Brisley’s wife. You know, I think I remarked, possibly on the tape, that, you know, in Studio International at the time there was Deborah Brisley with her guts being pulled out, you know, meant to be being pulled out by Stuart Brisley and being cut up, and, and everything, on one page of Studio International, and on the other side there was me being, you know, burnt in, in a gallery in Aachen, you know, all wrapped up in books, and just my eyes showing. So, we were very much participating in our men’s events without thinking that we, without thinking, period, you know, how much we were giving or doing or initiating or, anything. So it took me quite a long time to pull out of that and, and claim what I was doing and notice myself, because I was in that culture at the time where the man was it. I mean except when I was at Chelsea, as I think I remember, I remarked before. As a student I felt quite strong about myself in relation to, Lizzie Frink, Elisabeth Frink, and, as a student, you know, where I was finding my way and drawing and painting and, then going into abstract. But, when I got married to John, I then of course, you know, not only were there the children and everything, you know, he automatically, I suppose in the culture, took over, and he was a very strong man and that was it.