In honor of International Women’s Day & National Women’s History Month, we’ve put together a list of our favorite twentieth to twenty-first century female artists who pushed the boundaries of traditional art by challenging the discrimination and representation of women in the arts.
American (1887-1986): Georgia O’Keeffe is one of the most significant female artists of the twentieth century, remembered for her iconic, dramatic large-scale paintings of flowers. Often covering an entire canvas with just one blossom, these paintings are intensely vulvic, and caused a stir in the art world.
Flower Abstraction, as seen above is among the earliest of her flower paintings. Her technique of cropping the subject matter was learned from modernist photography; she transformed her recognizable floral subject matter into abstract objects by employing this technique.
Mexican (1907-1954): Frida Kahlo began painting following a near-fatal bus accident in 1925 that left her with debilitating injuries. Influenced by her physical condition, Kahlo frequently explored her own identity through self portraits. Although several artists compared her work to that of the surrealists, Kahlo denied the comparison by exclaiming in a 1953 Time interview that she “never painted dreams, I painted my own reality.”
Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair presents the viewer with a look into Kahlo’s reclaimed identity following her divorce from fellow artist Diego Rivera. While the majority of her work features her in a Mexican traditional dress, this work presents the viewer with Kahlo in a man’s suit with her hair cropped; the suit, likely to be Rivera’s based on the size, and the demeanor of Kahlo suggest that she is has formally rejected him in place of herself.
American (1960-present): For decades, Lorna Simpson has been challenging both racial and gender stereotypes through multiple media, including photography, installation and film. Her works are often presented together as mixed media pieces, and she often includes text with her images, encouraging the the viewer to explore the relationship between the two forms of expression.
In Flipside, Simpson questions the meaning of “natural” when associated with African and African American society. The left print depicts a the back of a woman’s head—she is wearing her natural hairstyle. The right print depicts an African mask from behind. Both images depict the subject matter, a black woman, from the “flip” side. The plaque beneath the photo reads “The neighbors were suspicious of her hairstyle,” allowing the audience to contemplate the social experience and identity of the figures presented.
Japan (1929-present): Yayoi Kusama has worked in painting, sculpture, performance, collage and environmental art. Her work is primarily conceptual but demonstrates attributes of several movements, including feminism, surrealism and abstract expressionism. Kusama’s vibrant works usually involve repetition, and often require audience participation.
Infinity Mirrored Room–The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away is an immersive work that provides viewers with an out of body, ethereal experience. Kusama creates an illusion of infinity by use of mirrors and repetition of LED lights. The installation simulates outer space as the LED lights flicker to resemble stars.