If there’s one thing in this world that I love more than anything, it’s art. Everything about it: art history, performance art, paintings, sculpture, making art, looking at it, reading about it. If I could live in a gallery, I probably would. But here’s the thing: if you try to name a famous artist off the top of your head, who do you think of? Maybe Leonardo da Vinci or Vincent Van Gogh. Maybe Keith Harring or Damien Hirst. These people all have one thing in common: they’re men. And sure, there are a few well-known female artists: Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, and Louise Bourgeois all come to mind. But for those not in the know, the art world can definitely look like a bit of a boy’s club.
Doing my own research for college, however, I’ve found that this really isn’t the case at all. So, I’ve decided to tell you a little bit about some of my favourite female artists whose work inspires me.
Alice Maher is an Irish artist who works with lots of different media, from hand-drawn animation to sculpture to huge installation work (“instillation work” means art that’s designed to be displayed within a specific setting or for a temporary period of time- for example, if a sculpture was built into the walls of a museum). She is well known for her charcoal drawings of hair, which are inspired by mythology, and look at the complex relationship women have with femininity and their appearance. I’m also a huge fan of her simple acrylic drawings on paper, such as “Running Away from a Bunch of Nettles” (below)!
I am obsessed with pretty much everything Elly Smallwood does. She works with paint a lot, usually large-scale oils and acrylics of the female figure. Her work explores relationships (both platonic and romantic) between women. Her use of colour is absolutely gorgeous and her work always feels really intimate. She also has a really active social media presence and a beautiful Instagram, so I’d really recommend giving her a follow @ellysmallwood
Betye Saar is a legend in the contemporary art world who has created some of the most incredible pieces critiquing racism in American society. She works a lot with printmaking and assemblage, which is an artistic technique that involves arranging objects to create a piece, kind of like a 3-D version of a collage. Her artistic career spans more than 50 years, leaving an impressive and thought-provoking body of work.
Mickalene Thomas is best known for her paintings using rhinestones, enamel, and acrylic, though she is also accomplished in collage, ceramics, and photography. She is inspired by both art history and pop culture, and her work explores themes of race, beauty, sexuality, and femininity.
Anna Valdez is from Sacramento, California, and originally studied sociocultural anthropology. She found her passion for art while on an archaeological dig in Dublin, where she had to sketch artifacts as they were uncovered. Now, she’s well known for her colourful still lives, which look at identity and how objects can tell us the stories of the people who own them. She uses everyday objects as a method of storytelling through paint, print, collage, and ceramic.
I could write about art for days, so I’ll leave it at these five so as not to bore you all! Who are some of your favourite non-male artists?
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