Great artists don't just have to exist in galleries. Books have given us some really inspirational pre- or post-feminist characters that are good at art, and this liberates them either emotionally or physically. What unites them is their independent thinking, as they are determined to go against the grain and not end up like their peers, bitter or vacuous. Some examples here are from classic novels, such as Jane Eyre, where art is a form of escapism for our heroine, whereas in Andrew Davidson's modern novel The Gargoyle we find a sculptress whose work is so consuming that it leaves her exhausted. Whatever the situation, it is clear that these women take their art seriously—it's not just a hobby to keep them occupied before they're whisked off by Prince Charming. This is so much better than a fairytale.
My ultimate empowered female art heroine is a woman who made a career for herself long before the word "feminist" was in use. Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652/3) is a force to be reckoned with, taught by her father Orazio and following in the footsteps of fellow Italian, Caravaggio. She stood out not only because of her incredible talent, but also the obstacles she overcame in her personal life to make a career out of painting.
In 1972 the artist Valie Export wrote a manifesto, simply called "Women's Art." She went on to become a key figure in the feminist art movement and her words inspired many people, but I wanted to see how far we've come since then and what we can do to progress even further in liberating ourselves through art, and getting it recognized by the mainstream.
Femicide is perhaps not the most attractive topic for an art exhibition, but then neither is it an acceptable crime. However, due to the continued ineptitude of the authorities in Juárez, Mexico, the count of local women who have been abducted, raped and murdered before being dumped like trash is continuing to rise above 400. The sense of public panic seems low as Juárez is already a violent city and both the police and media are suggesting—wrongly—that the victims were involved in drugs or prostitution, as if that would mean they asked for it. Yet if this sort of thing occurred in an American or European city, we'd be begging for justice to be served and there would be an inquiry into the handling of each case. Determined to commemorate these lost women, Tamsyn Challenger enlisted almost 200 of her fellow artists to create a visual tribute to each victim which is being toured around the world. Will creativity be the tool to bring justice for Juárez?
Feminism and art aren't as closely linked as they should be, but I want to change that. Too many women are excluded from being called "the great artists," as if we require a separate category. Well, I want to give Bitch readers and art lovers everywhere a reason to celebrate strong females in the art world.
Office chairs upholstered in mourning fabric, Arabic calligraphy covering white walls like black foliage, and graphic patterns with horrific details—these are just a sampling of Parastou Forouhar's multimedia artwork.
Brooklyn-based artist Lorna Simpson produces visual works that both isolate and confront conventional views on identity, ethnicity, and history. A majority of her recent work portrays black American women casually posed in standalone scenes or everyday interactions, inviting viewers—herself included—to question what divisions exist between society's past and present.
Traditional print markets are dwindling, but even as publications struggle, there is a growing appreciation for beautifully printed materials...stores are brimming with letterpress cards, silkscreened wares, and archival prints of artist works. Illustrators have to create a lot of this work themselves. They have to be entrepreneurs, designers, communicators, gallery artists, and product designers. It's always exciting to be able to use more of your brain in your work, and one of the benefits of this changing market is that some of the best artists are creating an inventive, fluid, and savvy business of illustration.
I want Bitch to remain a vital part of the market for artists...