An Art Revolution That Has Been a Long Time Coming

Today’s blog post features the groundbreaking art movement simply titled Women Painting Women. The movement was founded by Alia El-Bermani, Diane Feissel and Sadie J. Valeri, whose inspiring story is featured in a recent issue of The Artist’s Magazine, and I’m honored to share it with you here. Enjoy! ~Cherie

Women Painting Women: (R)evolution by Louise Hafesh

While the feminine muse has long been a source of inspiration for works created by painters of both genders, traditionally (especially from a male perspective) women have been represented as passive subjects, sexual props or mere objects of beauty. Today, that mindset is changing as an increasing number of women artists redefine their dual roles as creators and models. These artists not only embrace the female viewpoint, but also thrust it into an arena wherein it has long been overlooked. As a result, women are painting women–regionally, nationally and internationally–and thanks to the efforts of three artists/bloggers, the art world is taking notice.

Women Painting Women

Rest (oil, 36×48) by Lauren Tilden appeared in the 2013 exhibition “Year of the Woman: Paintings of Women by Women” at Artists’ House Gallery in Philadelphia. “As a new mother,” says Tilden, “I found adjusting to the needs of my infant daughter difficult, but the more I gave of myself, the more purposeful I felt my life to be. On another level, the two figures could be viewed as the same woman, representing the passing stages of life as described in the hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend: ‘from life’s first cry to final breath.'”

An Idea Whose Time Has Come
In 2009, artists Sadie J. Valeri, Alia El-Bermani and Diane Feissel started a blog as a way of highlighting underrepresented women artists actively portraying female subjects in the figurative tradition. Recalling the group’s humble beginnings, co-founder El-Bermani explains, “I had begun to read Sadie Valeri’s personal blog, where I soon found a post about her dismay over a Sotheby’s auction entitled ‘Women,’ in which not a single female artist had been included; women were merely the subject. From there, a discussion progressed both in the comments section of the blog and privately; soon thereafter, Sadie reserved the domain www.womenpaintingwomen.blogspot.com, and fellow artist Diane Feissel and I came on board as co-founders and contributors.”

Women Painting Women

Year at Sea (oil, 68×46) by Alexandra Tyng appeared in the 2013 “Women Painting Women: (R)evolution” exhibition at Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia. Tyng saw the subject, a personal friend, as a well-grounded woman who, after her mother’s death, was able to navigate the difficult waters of charged feelings and changing priorities.

The resulting Women Painting Women (WPW) blog quickly became an international hit. Featuring work by female figurative painters from around the world, it boasts 1,400 followers and more than 9,500 Facebook fans. The WPW blog is the spearhead of a movement that’s garnered serious media buzz and spawned eight major exhibitions–and that’s just the beginning. “There are some wonderful painters out there,” says Feissel, who, along with her counterparts, is overjoyed with the role that the WPW blog has played in raising awareness about the vast collective of female talent. “Some artists are known and some lesser known, and it makes us happy to be able to provide a venue where their work can be seen and shared.”

Toward that goal, the founders had posted a call to contemporary female artists, encouraging them to submit images of their work for inclusion on the blog. The quantity and quality of the paintings sent in proved energizing. “I honestly don’t think any of us thought we were forming a movement,” says El-Bermani. “We were trying to create an online resource, a collection of incredible figurative paintings that just happened to be painted by women. It wasn’t until a year later, when Robert Lange Studios in Charleston, South Carolina, contacted us about a potential exhibition, that we realized just how many people had been following our little blog.” The bloggers put out a call for participants in a brick-and-mortar gallery show, and thus, serendipitously ushered in the next phase of the WPW phenomenon. ~L.H.

Continue reading this article in The Artist’s Magazine (April 2014); subscribe; and scroll down to learn more about the founders of Women Painting Women.

**Subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and ideas, and score a free download on Human Figure Drawing: A Two-Part Guide by Sadie J. Valeri.

Founders of Women Painting Women

(left to right) Alia El-Bermani, Diane Feissel, and Sadie J. Valeri; founders of the Women Painting Women blog

Meet the Founders
Alia El-Bermani studied art and dance at Roger Williams University (Bristol, Rhode Island) and then, under a scholarship for Excellence in Fine Arts, transferred to Laguna College of Art and Design (Laguna Beach, California), where she received a bachelor of fine arts degree. Since then, El-Bermani has participated in solo and group exhibitions in both galleries and museums across the country. Haynes Galleries in Nashville, Tennessee, and Thomaston, Maine, represent her work.
Diane Feissel studied painting at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and later took painting classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Fleisher Art Memorial, both in Philadelphia, as well as the Studio Escalier in Argenton-Chateau, France. She has shown her work in juried exhibitions in the United States and also in France. Haynes Galleries in Nashville, Tennessee, and Thomaston, Maine, and Artists’ House Gallery in Philadelphia represent her work.
Sadie J. Valeri is the director of Sadie Valeri Atelier, a traditional art school in San Francisco. She holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence, and has studied with several masters of realism, including Juliette Aristides, Jacob Collins, Michael Grimaldi, Ted Seth Jacobs, Timothy Stotz, and Michelle Tully.

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