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Stuff We Love

5 Feminist Artists That Might Change the Way You Think

Stuff We Love 02/22/2019


“Feminist artists tend to make me feel instantly seen,” says Melanie Brewster, who is a Columbia psychology professor and an artist herself. “They are able to capture common gendered experiences, such as marginalization and disconnection, and encourage you to think about them from a slightly different vantage point.” For her, creative works are also sometimes a better way to get to the truth of someone’s story, she explains: “We are constantly bombarded by content that aims to manipulate us to think one way or another. Art is inspiring to me because it speaks for itself and isn’t coercive.” With that in mind, here are five artists—and one gallery show—that she can’t get out of her head.


“I especially love Lesson’s Water Women series, one of which you can see at the Whitney in New York. These images speak to me because they are clearly forms of women, but because they are distorted silhouettes, they remain unknowable. There is something beautiful and fragile about recognizing the outline of a figure but not being able to recognize or connect with its interiority.”


Kara Walker is probably the best known by New Yorkers for her gorgeous installation in the completely repurposed Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. I love her work because it forces you to acknowledge our history as a nation but does so in a playfully dissonant manner. My favorite pieces are her silhouettes of scenes from the Antebellum South. Silhouettes were traditionally forms of art that were commissioned only by the wealthiest (white) families. Flipping this medium to instead depict scenes of Black Americans in great joy, pain, or sexual circumstances is about as subversive as you can get.”


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Kymia Nawabi is a first generation Iranian-American artist from Brooklyn who draws mystical feminine and/or agender forms. For me, they tend to speak to the pain of transitions and transformations. She currently has a solo in Seattle that has some stunning pieces reflecting on motherhood.”


The Museum of Sex in New York has a stunning exhibit right now featuring Leonor Fini, a surrealist artist who was in the same crew as Dalí and Ernst but didn't reach the same levels of acclaim because of, in my opinion, sexism at that time.”


“The Guggenheim in New York is running an exhibition of Hilma af Klint's pieces that is truly breathtaking. They have metaphysical/mystical overtones, and the setting of museum itself also plays a special role in the display and history of the paintings. If I say more, I'll spoil it, but definitely don't skip reading the history of the paintings once you are there.”

BONUS EXHIBIT: Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today

Posing Modernity at the Wallach Art Gallery in Harlem doesn’t feature solely by female artists, but it is on the subject of women in art and was curated by an African-American postdoctoral fellow named Denise Murrell. The exhibit highlights how Black women have been portrayed in art from the mid 1800s to modern day. It's on through mid-February and then will move to Paris's Musée d'Orsay.”



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