Not only is this guest blog about exploring who has made a contribution to feminist art, which movements embrace women and which galleries support it, but also how we all encountered (and continue to encounter) it. When did you first see an artwork that portrayed women in a positive light? What are your must-see images? How would you introduce the topic to someone who only thinks of the "great artists" as men? Let's talk.
"There is no separation between me and what I photograph," said the artist Nan Goldin. This has never been truer than with the self-portrait that captures her injuries caused by an abusive boyfriend. Domestic violence is never an easy subject to talk about, but this image speaks volumes.
Her artistic career may have been short—she was taking photos for only nine years of her life—but Francesca Woodman left behind over 800 images when she died in 1981. She commands enough attention, 30 years after her death, to merit a retrospective at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, which will move on to the Guggenheim in 2012. What is the lingering hold that she has over art lovers?
The campaign for gender equality in art is essentially spearheaded by the Guerrilla Girls, a network of anonymous activists who go by the names of great artists like Frida Kahlo. Their mantra is: "We could be anyone; we are everywhere." If you've ever wanted to challenge your local gallery on its lack of women behind the canvas, this is the organization to teach you how to get your point across. Start taking notes on the herstory and plotting your part in the revolution...
As one of the most controversial artists of modern times, Tracey Emin has generated serious column inches for her overtly personal work, including the installation My Bed (complete with condoms) and her series of autobiographical appliquéd blankets, littered with swear words. David Bowie called her "William Blake as a woman." But is she standing up for women everywhere with our shared life experiences, or is she only interested in using herself as subject matter?
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.
I fall more in love with the work of Catherine Eyde every time I look at her art. Her colorful renditions of women, creatures and landscapes both ordinary and fantastical walk the line between twee and haunting, like a gorgeous, uneasy mixture of Grimm's fairy tales, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and feminist sci-fi.
One of the more interesting women making electronic music lately is Laurel Halo. Halo has the distinct whiff of virtuoso about her, having spent time as a classical pianist, in orchestras, in improv noise collectives, on college radio. Her King Felix EP released last year was a strange concoction of mutant pop, classic '80s sounding synthpop production worked through a shoegaze haze of ethereal heavily reverbed vocals.
With her music swiping a big chunk of the 1980s, Pip Brown fittingly named herself Ladyhawke after the 1980s Michelle Pfieffer movie. Her music is evocative retrofuturistic electropop, nostalgia without a loss. Read on for more.