In honor of 600 women artists gathering for a photo at the Brooklyn Museum on October 23, 2016, here’s an article all about the painting ladies that I revere, respect, and study. Enjoy and add your thoughts on the women artists, painters or otherwise, who inspire you!
Women Artists Present & Past
I’m not one to put artist before artwork. If I like the painting or drawing, it has nothing to do with who the art-maker is.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in acknowledging an incredible group of working artists past and present, all of whom happen to be women. Here are a few of my favorite female artists and why I think they are worth all the accolades they get and more.
Artemisia Gentileschi—As one of the first documented women artists of the Western world, Gentileschi is a titan of the Baroque period. Working in the style typified by Caravaggio, she brought her own point of view to the Biblical and mythical subjects of her day. She also had an eye for capturing the perfect moment in her fine art oil paintings, as in Judith and Her Maidservant, in which the hand holding the sword resting on Judith’s shoulder looks so natural, and the angle of the two figures’ perfectly indicates that they were startled by a noise behind them.
Louise Nevelson—The power of assemblage hits home to me in Nevelson’s work, and it says a lot that you know her work when you see it. It is distinctive and unlike anything else I’ve seen in terms of iconography. As Her work can’t be tied down to a movement or manifesto; it freely roams from Cubism to Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism and others.
Sherrie McGraw—If I could steal anyone’s hands, I’d make a grab for McGraw’s. Her abilities as a draftsman are truly inspiring, and she creates such a delicate balance on paper, never stifling a drawing’s openness and ease, yet employing so much skill to get there. Her sketching techniques have been a revelation to me. I’ve learned a lot from studying her work.
Lisa Sanditz—Sanditz does something that a lot of artists are trying to do right now: blend representational qualities in their work with abstraction. She must have really honed instincts or she goes through a lot of canvas, because she just seems to get it right.
Betye Saar—I first knew of Saar through her assemblages, which I have been privileged to write about, but I’ve stayed an ardent follower of hers because of her collages. They are incredibly poignant and articulate strong and deep emotions so simply.
Lea Colie Wight—Unflinching is how I’d characterize Wight’s works. She doesn’t hesitate to look hard and peel away the excess and fluff that mask what we really see. I’m especially drawn to her self-portraits, which show a strong will and penetrating gaze, and have learned a lot from her about how to make the most of a simple figural composition.
Our art history brims over with exceptional women artists, and these are just a few of them, but their contributions are amazing in and of themselves. Plus these women artists paved the way for those of us practicing centuries later or who are carrying on the tradition in our own practices today. Sadie Valeri is doing her part; a notable and worthy artist who reinforces what a living, breathing, growing source of artistic inspiration painting is. Her Lessons from the Classical Atelier are certainly worth your consideration. Enjoy!
Leave a comment telling me who your favorite female artists are. I can’t wait to see your top picks!