My love of art has grown over the years because it can be political, moving and simply stunning. But, I fell love when I saw underlying feminist messages. I want to share my favorite feminist artist and maybe they will give you perspective too.
Frida Kahlo (yes, Frida Kahlo, I do not care how clique it is because our souls are connected)
I am a fan of any individual that shows their pain through their art. She is the definition of vulnerable and captivating. Although her artwork first caught my attention, her life inspired me. Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist that also was a political activist. I admire her strength. At a young age, she was in bus accident that left her with a broken spinal column, collarbone, ribs, pelvis, fractures in her right leg, a crushed/ dislocated foot and a dislocated shoulder. Doctors thought she would not survive or even walk again. She began painting in her bed and surprised many when she began walking again. Later, she married Diego Rivera, a famous Mexican artist. Their relationship was very tumultuous filled with infidelity and her health continued to suffer due to the accident. He was the subject of many of her paintings because he was also a source of pain and the love of her life. Her work speaks to me because she shows her pain and dares the viewer to not be afraid to tackle theirs. My favorite Frida Kahlo painting is Two Fridas (located above), which displays her style as an artist.
Last fall, Lalla Essaydi came to JMU to discuss her artwork and I was amazed. She is a Moroccan artist that redefines orientalism. Orientalism “is a term that is used by art historians, literary and cultural studies scholars for the imitation or depiction of aspects in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian cultures (Eastern cultures). These depictions are usually done by writers, designers and artists from the West.” Essaydi proclaims her art is her personal definition of Moroccan culture. She displays beautiful women often with calligraphy printed on their bodies like the image above. In her artwork, she denies Eurocentric beauty standards. The image above is Les Femmes du Moroc: Grande Odalisque 2 and it is her version of Ingres’ La Grande Odalisque, which is considered a prime example of orientalism and fetishizing of “exotic” women. Take a look at Essaydi’s website to view her artwork and thoughts on orientalism.
Judy Chicago makes effort to portray women’s importance in history. She created a massive piece called the Dinner Party, which has a place setting for women that have made an impact in history like Georgia O’Keefe and Sojourner Truth. “The Dinner Party is a monumental work of art, triangular in configuration, that employs numerous media, including ceramics, china-painting, and an array of needle and fiber techniques, to honor the history of women in Western Civilization.” I appreciate her effort to put women in history because museums typically only show nude women in paintings instead of showing various facets of women.
I could go on and on about those making feminist statements in their art. Who is your favorite feminist artist? Let’s start a conversation below!