Feminist Art in Three Acts

Feminist Art in Three Acts

Female subject, redefined.
Female subject, redefined.

A fter Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait, Diego Y Yo, sold for a staggering $34.9 million last year, breaking the record for a Latin American female artist (Georgia O’Keeffe remains the highest-priced female artist at auction, at $44.4 million), it’s possible to imagine an art world beyond gender lines.

The conversations happening now about intersectional feminism–feminism which acknowledges the disparate experiences of women from different races, classes and gender identities– makes feminism more important now than ever.
Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939) is an iconic feminist artist who strongly believed in the importance of representing her experience as a woman, especially as feminism gained traction in the 1960s and ’70s. Chicago’s notorious Dinner Party (1974-1979) celebrates women’s history with a group of place settings designed for 39 important women. The installation cemented Chicago's influence in the art world, but prints and multiples as a medium have also been an important endeavor for the artist to reach a wide audience.

Judy Chicago Mary Queen of Scots 1973
“Through the Flower” is one of the most iconic images from Judy Chicago’s career. Sharing the same title as her autobiography, “Through the Flower” reflects Chicago’s philosophy of life. A flower, here a psychedelic explosion of color, is Chicago’s personal symbol of femininity.

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois (French-American, 1911-2010), was from an earlier generation of feminists than Chicago, and her work explores emotions that supersede gender. Bourgeois’ work was especially critical of the patriarchal power structures at play during the 1950s. In response to this hierarchy, she began to explore women as the subject rather than the object of art. As a sculptor, Louise Bourgeois embraced different mediums — from yarn to bronze — in order to deliver her social commentary.

Louise Bourgeois Crochet V 1998
Louise Bourgeois’ “Crochet” is part of a larger series, titled “Crochet I-V,” which was made at the Mixografia workshop in the 1990s. As a child, Bourgeois assisted in her mother’s tapestry workshop. The twisting, meandering lines represent a woman’s braided hairstyle, undoubtedly influenced by her childhood.

Ruth Bernhard

Ruth Bernhard (German-American, 1905-2006) was a minimalist photographer who was involved in the lesbian subculture in late-1920s New York. Bernhard’s most recognizable works are her nudes, which explore questions of sexuality and body image. Today, conversations about LGBT rights are as important as ever, and in the age of social media, when people are looking at themselves closer, photography as a medium has been instrumental in driving more substantial discussions on equality.

Ruth Bernhard Rockport Nude 1946
Ruth Bernhard’s “Rockport Nude” focuses on the sensuality of the human body. Looking at her storied career, Bernhard’s portfolio reveals her to be a master of light. In this composition, the nude figure is sculpted from shadows and charged with erotic power.

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