Claes Oldenburg, who made public monuments of mundane things, like clothespins and baseball bats, died last week at age 93. His claim to fame was turning everyday objects into momentous events. (More about that in a moment)

A distinction of a second kind

But he could claim another distinction. Unlike several other famous artists, Oldenburg credited the women who collaborated with him on his work.

Both his first and second wives were artists who he teamed with to make his sculptures. His early foam-filled vinyl “soft sculptures” were the result of joint efforts with his first wife, Patty Mucha.

And he partnered with his second wife, Coosje van Bruggen on colossus like “Towel 1.”

How unusual is this collective action? Very.

Surreal photographer Man Ray not only denied credit due his lover and fellow photographer, Lee Miller, but he also claimed something she invented – a system of developing film known as "solarization" – as his. He even submitted Miller’s work as his in a competition.

Then there was artist Josephine Hoppe, wife of Edward Hopper who sought to stop her from painting by making fun of what she did. She’s quoted in Olivia Laing’s 2017 book “The Lonely City” saying that her husband didn’t want her to have a career as a painter.

It’s notable that ideas in her paintings often ended up in his.

I’m thinking of her painting Shacks,” made in 1923 of a house fronted by a dead tree. You can see the same subject in his painting “House with Dead Tree” made in 1932. Her “Movie Theater – Gloucester” painted in 1926, also prefigured his “New York Movie” painted in 1939. Anyway, he got his wish. She quit painting.

Mistaken identity

Then there’s the case of Margaret Keane, famed for painting women and children with large eyes. For a long time, her husband Walter Keane took credit for this. As she told The Guardian, he threatened to kill her if she revealed the work was hers. It was only after she divorced him that she was able to tell the truth.

The truth that runs through these tales is the long-held view that female artists don’t compare with their male counterparts. How else to explain the notorious praise Hans Hoffman heaped on Lee Krasner: “This is so good; you wouldn’t know it was done by a woman.”

With that view, it’s no wonder that the first-place prize that Anna Hyatt Huntington won in a 1910 Paris competition for her life-size statue of Joan of Arc astride a horse was rescinded when the judges discovered she was female. Her work was too good to be made by a woman, you see.

Compared to these stories of male insecurity, Oldenburg comes across as tall as his towering sculptures. When Chicago Tribune architecture critic Paul Gapp complained about “idiotic public sculpture” like that of Oldenburg, calling him “a veteran put-on man and poseur who long ago convinced the Art Establishment that he was to be taken seriously,” he clearly didn’t give the work much thought.

As I see it, Oldenburg’s outsized objects of everyday life are the stuff of Jonathan Swift’s novel “Gulliver’s Travels,” a satire about perspective and how we measure others by how we look. Far from “idiotic,” Oldenburg’s sculpture makes Lilliputians of us all.