The Pseudonym a Necessary Tool


"Poet With The Brown Hat" 1955

Did you know a number of women Abstract Expressionists resorted to changing their names to combat oppression by their male counterparts? Not an uncommon act throughout history really, but it's always interesting to see this documented and validated in writing.  

"Red Squares" 1971

The artist I have featured here
is Michael West (1908-1991). Michael West
was born Corrine Michelle West 
and in the course of her painting
career felt compelled to use a pseudonym
that identified her as male vs. female
in the art world. 

Although West was considered one of the 
pioneers of Abstract Expressionism she
was not nearly as recognized as her
male counterparts. Artists like
de Kooning and Pollock.

West was gestural in her expression
and explored the relationship between 
surface and depth, sometimes painting 
over previous works. You will find
bold brushwork and works where the
paint was applied direct from the
tube. The anger and frustration
with world events was tangible.

As an observer and considering the
titles of some of her pieces I
wonder how much of the frustration
and anger may have been deeply
rooted in the undeniable fact that
she felt the need to deny
part of herself to have a voice. As
did other women artists in this

Anger might be my reaction
to oppression such as this. I think 
women as artists continue to be
under-represented and that needs 
to change. Their message and talent
is of equal value and significance
and always has been.

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