I was recently reading the World Economic Forum report claiming that gender parity is still 170 years away at the current pace. When I think of an art image for the gender parity discussion, the first that comes to mind is the Guerrilla Girls poster claiming that only 3% of artists in museum collections are women, but 83% of the nudes displayed are female. So my writing contribution to Women’s History Month is to name ten women artists from around the globe whose work I find inspiring. Maybe you also have woman artists that inspire you?
1. Paula Rego, Portugal
Paula Rego is a stark characters master, and likely the best Portuguese artist of her generation. I chose “The Dance” from the Tate collection, because it is a way of linking two favourite topics, art and dance (you knew I would find a way somehow in this post too). It is a wonderful moonlit dance scene. My favourite element is a little more distant from the viewer. In the background there is a circle dance with three women, each of them standing for a stage of life. It is a combination of two very classic, recurring images in both dance and art history. I also love the moonlit night hues, they brought me back instantly to memories of the years I lived in Estoril.
Link to this work at Tate: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/rego-the-dance-t05534
2. Chiharu Shiota, Japan
From Portugal to Japan, to admire the work of Chiharu Shiota. I like “Accumulation – Searching for the Destination” because it is the kinetic piece that made me notice her. It evokes a recurring theme in human history, mass migration. There is one lonely, smaller red suitcase in the middle, perhaps a children’s suitcase. It made me think that when mass migration occurs, a next generation’s potential can get either lost in or be rescued by a crowd. Did I mention the word kinetic above? These suspended bags occasionally “dance” in seemingly random groups.
Link to the artist’s instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/chiharushiota/
3. Beatriz Milhazes, Brazil
Beatriz Milhazes is one of the most famous Brazilian contemporary artists. I am inspired by a mobile I saw at the Fondation Beyeler in Switzerland. It shows some of her trademark visuals – the over-layered round shapes, flowers, bright colours, everyday materials – in a slightly less common format for her. Milhazes’ mobile was originally created as a stage design for a dance piece choreographed by her sister. Its function reminded me of how new creations in dance have an interdisciplinary nature at heart. Many memorable dance pieces, such as Nijinsky’s “Rite of Spring” or Cunningham’s “Rainforest” resulted from a collaboration between different fields in the arts.
Link to artist’s work exhibited in 2011 at Fondation Beyeler: www.flickr.com/photos/didier
4. Rina Banerjee, India
From India, I selected contemporary artist Rina Banerjee. Banerjee’s mixed media work above is the most recent work on this list. The work above is called “Lady of Commerce. Hers is a transparent beauty, her eager sounds, her infinite and clamorous land and river, ocean and island…”. Her sculptural work combines common materials in unusual ways, but many artists do that. I like how much effort Banerjee puts into her titles. They are among the most poetic, least factual and longest I have read. They can sound slightly pompous, in direct contradiction to the nature of the materials she works with. I was attracted to one of those small brown bottles to the left on the image, the one with the word “Portugal” in it. I suspect poetry had little to do with that word choice.
Link to Rina Banerjee’s site: http://rinabanerjee.com/
5. Sabrina Mezzaqui, Italy
This is the first work on this list using paper as a main material, but not the last. I find the idea of creating a three-dimensional experience out of a flat sheet very appealing. The work above is called “Nodo Escher” or Escher Knot, by Italian artist Sabrina Mezzaqui. It is literally a knot made by cutting and folding pages from a Taschen book about M.C. Escher. Mezzaqui creates an original work of art by reshaping a mass edition with reproductions of art into a three-dimensional object, evoking one of Escher’s most popular image types. Her concept is a dynamic tribute to Escher. Every time I look at this image I wish I could reach out and change the object’s shape.
Link to the gallery representing Mezzaqui: http://www.galleriacontinua.com/
6. Kara Walker, U.S.A.
There are many wonderful women artists from the United States to pick from. Kara Walker is among the most thought provoking. Many of the silhouettes in Walker’s works feel as though they were caught in a dance pose, also in the “Insurrection!” installation above. Her creations are often interpreted through the lens of African-American history. I was recently reading about South East Asian dance history, and Kara Walker’s cut-paper silhouettes brought to mind Javanese dancing shadow puppets. I thought there would be something interesting in exploring the bridge to a culture from another corner of the world.
Link to this work at the Guggenheim: https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/9367
7. Katharina Fritsch, Germany
From the United States we travel to Germany, home of Katharina Fritsch. I really like the “Rattenkönig”, installed at the Schaulager Basel. Somehow I associate this “Rattenkönig” with “The Nutcracker” ballet, even though a “Mausekönig” would be the more accurate association. These towering, slant-eyed, hunched rats look far scarier than any mice I have seen in a ballet production. Even though you know they cannot move, their tails entwined, nullifying their mute threat. Maybe one day someone will think of a dance piece to stage in this room. I think these rats wouldn’t be fazed in the least.
Link to Schaulager collection: https://www.schaulager.org/en/schaulager/collection/works
8. Yehudit Sasportas, Israel
The next artist comes from Israel. I like Yehudit Sasportas’ work because she uses ink on paper, and I am a fan of Japanese ink painting. “Night Voices” above feels on the opposite end of the spectrum, when compared to a zen style painting. There is something attractive in it, I can’t stop myself from looking at the spidery, needle-thin black branches in “Night Voices”, and conjuring strange creatures. Much like one carries on reading the ghost stories in Ghostly on a stormy winter night.
Link to the gallery representing Sasportas: http://www.eigen-art.com/
9. Kenojuak Ashevak, Canada
Kenojuak Ashevak was an Inuit artist. I thought of restricting this list to only living artists, but Inuit art is a rarely featured category. Ashevak’s owl prints are a treat. Looking at one is like savouring a fresh chocolate truffle. “The Owl” stone-cut print on Japanese paper is one of the most cheerful works on my list. There is something of an optical illusion in its construction of shapes and colours. And there is definitely a very zen feel about the restricted colour palette and simplicity in the lines of this owl.
Link to her works at the National Gallery of Canada: https://www.gallery.ca/en/see/collections/artist.php?iartistid=2882
10. Tacita Dean, United Kingdom
Tacita Dean is a well known British artist. I really liked “FILM”, the work she created for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in 2012. That is not the work I am featuring on this list though. In the exhibition notes for the Turbine Hall piece, another piece was referenced, “Craneway Event”. In 2008, Tacita Dean filmed modern choreographer Merce Cunningham and his company. Both artists had embraced film throughout their career. The “Craneway Event” was Cunningham’s last film collaboration. He passed away in 2009, while Dean was still editing the work.”Craneway Event” can also be read as a piece of dance history. It is the last record of activity from one of the most influential modern choreographers. It is a note on how much impact film had in the ability to preserve performance art and its creative process.
Link to the gallery representing Dean’s work: http://mariangoodman.com/
Every day I am inspired by artists in different ways. They occupy mood boards when I am thinking of a new project or brand, suggest ideas for new articles, provoke thoughts on challenging contemporary topics, and provide the soundtrack to my work. There are many other woman artists beyond this list inspiring people around the world, already known or just ready to be discovered. What about you, is there a woman artist inspiring you?
Note: all images above are the property of the designated copyright holder in the image’s caption.