Essay / Sue Te

// A r t H o e Evolution //

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The art hoe is mysterious, modest, and completely self-aware. She goes to museums so she can take pictures of herself next to art. She spends most of her time building her perfect aesthetic. The life of an art hoe is not complicated or even interesting, but that’s the opposite of what she wants you to believe–every move an art hoe makes is calculated, everything is cool. Pastel pink journals, faux fur coats, and succulents are in abundance in an art hoe’s utopia. In her society, American Apparel is the only store in existence and Apple makes products from laptops to glass water bottles. Practicality means nothing here; the only thing that matters is the aesthetic. Art hoes are predominately girls who schedule their time around getting a perfect photo for the purpose of sharing their aesthetic with the internet. Nothing an art hoe creates is careless or casual. The subculture is popular among teenage girls on social media sites that promote the importance of being cool.

The art hoe has a uniform that typically consists of Mom Jeans™, either thrifted from your favorite Goodwill or bought from American Apparel; art hoe chic transcends socioeconomic boundaries. The top is almost always cropped. Is it winter? Cropped sweater. Is it summer? Crop t-shirt. Something about looking like the teens on the cover of a 1998 Spanish textbook appeals to the art hoe. Coats are either denim, faux fur, or something you’d find in your grandparent’s basement covered in paint spatters and various other unidentifiable stains. Shoes and hats are the most diverse category within the art hoe fashion. Shoes and hats are either corresponding Adidas or Nike if the art hoe listens to “Hotline Bling” everyday. If the art hoe listens to Devendra Banhart, then her feet are adorned with Chelsea boots or Birkenstocks, and her head with a beanie from Urban Outfitters. Art hoes are diverse and will switch their clothing multiple times in the same day if required, so this is only a guideline to identifying the sub-subgenre of art hoe you are dealing with.

How did this uniform come to be? How did a group of girls scattered across the world figure out what they all found cool? On the surface, an art hoe is superficial and unconcerned with the meaning behind a piece of art, but rather the aesthetic appeal of it. However, taking a look at the origins of this subculture gives us an insight into what sparked the movement of declaring oneself an Art Hoe.

Girls are, and always have been, constantly forced to defend themselves and their interests against those who believe they aren’t being genuine. They aren’t allowed to like anything without a detailed explanation of their commitment and interest in it; nothing a girl does is authentic because she does it for attention. Art hoes are the result of a collective uprising of millennial females saying “Fuck you” to that concept. The subculture allows young girls to enjoy simply looking at art without needing to explain why they enjoy it. To understand why art and aesthetics are so important to young girls, we need to take a look at who is controlling the mainstream art scene.

White males command the dominant art culture both in institutionalized places like museums and galleries to street art. From Banksy to Ai Wei Wei to Rembrandt, there has been a place in the art world for men since the beginning of time. Where are all the women? The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) houses some of the greatest collections of modern art to date, and yet less than 4% of their artists on display are women. However, if you take a look around at the subject of the artwork, almost half of it is depictions of women; it seems that the only representation women get comes from being models or muses.

To understand why the art hoe culture is so important to young girls, we need to take a look into the inner workings of this group. I am an eighteen-year-old college student whose entire wardrobe aims for a cross between Ina Garten and Alexa Chung. I wear crystal framed glasses and own three varieties of succulents. I’ve seen every Wes Anderson film and I love the color mustard yellow. All these things combined form the quintessential Art Hoe.

An art hoe is a combination of looks and ideas that stray just slightly off the beaten path; nothing about their appearance is dramatically different, but there are subtle nuances that set them apart from, let’s say, the “Basic Bitch” or the “Quirky Girl.” The physical aspects of being an art hoe are easy to achieve and often the looks branch out to a borderline homeless youth who loves pastels. The reason the aesthetic means everything to an art hoe is because now we are in control of the art. We get to decide what is deemed as cool or not. There is power in the hands of young girls to decide for themselves what the meaning behind their art is, and sometimes there’s no meaning at all. And that’s okay.

People have turned the movement into girls who are concerned with their appearance, and that is a large part of it, but there is more to the story.  What does being an art hoe mean to me? It means the same thing it means to every girl on the internet superimposing selfies onto Van Gogh’s Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers. There is an understanding that everything done for superficial purposes gives us a satisfaction that goes beyond that of a “like;” we are able to control the coolness of our products. We, as a group, have cultivated an interesting and creative outlet that we can throw our selfies and line drawings into without judgment from those who do not think we deserve a voice.

A lot of subcultures have come out of a group of people feeling like they are underrepresented in mainstream media and needing an outlet for the frustrations that come from that. There is something that unites all of us as humans, and that is the need to feel included. Art hoes stemmed from teenaged girls needing an outlet for their drawings, selfies, and clothes that the mainstream had not caught onto yet, we were able to deem these things cool for ourselves. Being a young woman in the world full of people who do not care about young women is challenging, but with new emerging subcultures that give them a voice, they can fight against the people who do not care about them one selfie at a time.

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