Category Archives: Women in Art

Female Gaze Friday: Dana Schutz

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week we’ll be looking at paintings by Dana Schutz:

Dana Schutz, Reclining Nude, 2002, oil on canvas, 48"x66"

Dana Schutz, Reclining Nude, 2002, oil on canvas, 48″x66″

Dana Schutz, Frank in the Desert, 2002, oil on canvas, 183x137cm

Dana Schutz, Frank in the Desert, 2002, oil on canvas, 183x137cm

Dana Schutz, Men's Retreat, oil on canvas, 96"x120"

Dana Schutz, Men’s Retreat, oil on canvas, 96″x120″

Dana Schutz, Face Eater, oil on canvas, 18"x23"

Dana Schutz, Face Eater, oil on canvas, 18″x23″

Dana Schutz is a highly influential contemporary figurative painter. She creates interesting characters and situations; for example, the first two images here (Reclining Nude and Frank in the Desert) depict an imaginary character named Frank. In this scenario, Schutz is the last painter in the world and Frank the last subject. He is trapped on a desert island and painted again and again. The Frank From Observation paintings are interesting, in that he is repeatedly reinvented as a wild man, a fantasy for women, or one of any number of unusual professions. Schutz and Frank react to one another. Even though he is imaginary he is full of personality and understands the situation. Frank may rebel and be sunburnt or even killed in retaliation. The artist doesn’t mourn him though; Frank always comes back to life.

Like the Frank series, Schutz’s Self-Eaters are cyclical. They die and are reborn and they constantly consume themselves. Schutz considered this series to have a looser narrative and these works spin off in a number of directions. Schutz’s work thrives with themes of destruction and dismemberment, especially through her use of bright colors and whimsical humor.

See more of Shutz’s work here and read a great interview with the artist here. Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Take a look at our previous Female Gaze Friday: Paintings by Holly Coulis.

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Female Gaze Friday: Holly Coulis

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week we’ll take a look at the paintings of Holly Coulis:

Holly Coulis, Holidays, 2008, oil on canvas, 29"x26"

Holly Coulis, Holidays, 2008, oil on linen, 29″x26″

Holly Coulis, Grouse, 2008, oil on linen, 54"x48"

Holly Coulis, Grouse, 2008, oil on linen, 54″x48″

Holly Coulis, Carnation and Bird, 2013, oil on linen, 40"x32"

Holly Coulis, Carnation and Bird, 2013, oil on linen, 40″x32″

Holly Coulis, Blue Skies, 2008, oil on linen, 36"x30"

Holly Coulis, Blue Skies, 2008, oil on linen, 36″x30″

These paintings are part of Coulis’s Men series. Her images depict an invented cast of average albeit strange men living their lives. Men sit still while birds perch on their shoulders, relax, or enjoy the landscape (sometimes in the nude!) This causes us to create mythologies about who they are.

Because Coulis is a woman, we view her work in the context of a history in which men typically painted women. According to the Cherry and Martin gallery, “As a female artist picturing men, Coulis’ paintings are not political per se; rather they present a shift in the focus from what has come to be an expected relationship.  Coulis uses this investigation to imagine her subject’s inner life, exploring the intersection of masculinity and vulnerability.  In doing so, she engages in a dialogue with such painters as David Hockney, Alice Neel and Sylvia Sleigh, all of whom used portraiture as a way of investigating intimacy, subjecthood and self-identity.”

Coulis’s paintings use bright, bold colors and simple geometric forms. Her work is similar to Alex Katz or David Hockney in depicting still figures and using flattened blocks of color.

See more of Coulis’s work here. Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Take a look at our previous Female Gaze Friday: Paintings by Nina Chanel Abney.

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Female Gaze Friday: Nina Chanel Abney

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week we’ll be looking at the work of painter Nina Chanel Abney:

Nina Chanel Abney, King of Sorrow, 2010, acrylic on canvas

Nina Chanel Abney, King of Sorrow, 2010, acrylic on canvas

Nina Chanel Abney, The Boardroom, acrylic on canvas, diptych, 77"x153.5" (overall)

Nina Chanel Abney, The Boardroom, acrylic on canvas, diptych, 77″x153.5″ (overall)

Nina Chanel Abney, Untitled, 2012, acrylic on canvas

Nina Chanel Abney, Untitled, 2012, acrylic on canvas

Figures in Abney’s paintings are often ambiguous in terms of gender and race. While they at first appear to be male with emphasized mustaches and jock straps that leave little to the imagination, you’ll notice that many have highlighted breasts or other feminine features.

Her works often feature colorful, distorted celebrities in surprising situations (or political figures who are treated as celebrities). Of her subject matter Abney says, “I’m fascinated by how celebrity news has become not more interesting, but more important than politics. I like to infuse that with race issues.” There are strong narratives throughout her paintings, but they’re disjointed. It’s usually difficult to understand what exactly is going on.

Abney’s figurative work is personally very inspiring. The way she creates abstracted stories that make the viewer think harder about what they’re seeing appeals to me, and the themes of gender, race, and celebrity are highly relevant to the world today.

You can take a look at more of Abney’s work here.

Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Take a look at our previous Female Gaze Friday: Paintings by Meghan Howland.

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Female Gaze Friday: Meghan Howland

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week we’ll take a look at the beautiful oil paintings of Meghan Howland:

Meghan Howland, Title Unknown, 2011, oil on canvas

Meghan Howland, Title Unknown, 2011, oil on canvas

Meghan Howland, Title Unknown, 2011, oil on canvas

Meghan Howland, Title Unknown, 2011, oil on canvas

Meghan Howland, Vapors, 2011, oil on canvas

Meghan Howland, Vapors, 2011, oil on canvas

Meghan Howland’s works are full of delicate figures covered in flowers, birds, and pearls. Her work embraces the decorative and the feminine yet casts an almost somber mood over beautiful people and objects. Both women and men are depicted, although so far only those who are young, thin, and white. These paintings are very dreamlike, and leave a lot to the viewer’s imagination.

I would highly recommend looking at the rest of her work here. They are very captivating paintings.

Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Take a look at our previous Female Gaze Friday: Collage by Anya Lsk.

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Female Gaze Friday: Anya Lsk

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week we’ll take a look at collage by Anya Lsk:

Anya Lsk, Untitled, 2013, collage

Anya Lsk, Untitled, 2013, collage

Anya Lsk, Untitled, 2012, collage

Anya Lsk, Untitled, 2012, collage

Russian artist Anya Lsk’s collages beautifully connect the nude male form with other images. Her first piece references Laocoön and His Sons, an ancient Roman marble sculpture that depicts the plight of Trojan priest Laocoön. Poseidon sent sea serpents to strangle the priest and his sons in order to prevent Laocoön from exposing the Trojan horse ruse. This sculpture is a very influential piece. Following its discovery in the Renaissance Italian sculptors artists as renowned as Michelangelo and Titian created works referencing the piece. You can read more about the history of Laocoön and His Sons here.

Laocoön and His Sons, c. 25 BC, marble

Laocoön and His Sons, c. 25 BC, marble

The sculpture was considered a beautiful piece that masterfully portrayed the male figure. Lsk continues this tradition by incorporating Laocoön into a photograph of two partially nude men wrestling. The photograph and the sculpture both display the male form in tense, sensual poses.

You can see more of Anya Lsk’s collages (and photographs) here.

Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Take a look at our previous Female Gaze Friday: Jen Mann’s Cotton Candy and Sway.

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Female Gaze Friday: Jen Mann

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week’s works are Cotton Candy and Sway by Jen Mann:

Jen Mann, Cotton Candy, 2013, oil on canvas, 48"x46"

Jen Mann, Cotton Candy, 2013, oil on canvas, 48″x46″

Jen Mann, Sway, 2013, oil on canvas, 50"x50"

Jen Mann, Sway, 2013, oil on canvas, 50″x50″

I first saw Mann’s work on tumblr, where her brightly colored, bubblegum-like portraits are incredibly popular. Her paintings are beautiful, with an intriguing use of monotone figures against contrasting backgrounds. She limits herself to simply composed portraits with very clean, crisp lines and naturalistically rendered features. These portraits are from her Strange Beauties series and are inspired by the circus, the innocence of childhood, and dreams.

You can see more of Jen Mann’s work here or take a look at her somewhat different Fera series here.

Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Take a look at our previous Female Gaze Friday: Amy Sherald’s The Rabbit in the HatPony Boy, and High Yella Masterpiece: We Ain’t No Cotton Pickin’ Negroes.

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“She Who Tells a Story”: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston is currently exhibiting She Who Tells a Story, a show featuring twelve women photographers from Iran and the Arab world. The exhibit runs from August 27, 2013 – January 12, 2014 and includes work by Jananne Al-Ani, Boushra Almutawakel, Gohar Dashti, Rana El Nemr, Lalla Essaydi, Shadi Ghadirian, Tanya Habjouqa, Rula Halawani, Nermine Hammam, Rania Matar, Shirin Neshat, and Newsha Tavakolian.

Newsha Tavakolian, Dont Forget This Is Not You (for Sahar Lotfi), 2010. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminum.

Newsha Tavakolian, Dont Forget This Is Not You (for Sahar Lotfi), 2010. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminum.

The curator of She Who Tells a Story, Kristen Gresh, notes the work is all incredibly diverse, however, the theme of “complexities of identity” runs throughout. Looking at the included photos it’s clear that each photographer is shooting from a different perspective. One might focus on the horrors of war, another on girls coming of age, and another on landscape.

Rania Matar, Alia, Beirut, Lebanon, 2010. Pigment Print.

Rania Matar, Alia, Beirut, Lebanon, 2010. Pigment Print.

Gohar Dashti, Untitled #5, 2008. Chromogenic print.

Gohar Dashti, Untitled #5, 2008. Chromogenic print.

One of the artists, Newsha Tavakolian, says that although She Who Tells a Story can’t directly affect the political climate in Egypt or other parts of the region, this exhibit could help “provide people with the opportunity to see some different perspectives from the region”. By displaying the work of people whose perspective we are not entirely familiar with or who typically don’t have a large platform in the US, we can learn more about others and expand our own perspective. Exhibits dedicated to artists displaying their individual identities and perspectives can help combat misinformation and stereotypes.

If you’re in the Boston area, go to the show! For those of us who aren’t, we can check out more images from the exhibit here or read an article about the artists included here.

What do you think about the work in the show? Share your thoughts in the comments!

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, She Who Tells a Story, August 27, 2013 – January 12, 2014

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Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Women Are Not Seeking Your Validation”

Women Are Not Seeking Your Validation

Check out this Hyperallergic post on artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s project, Stop Telling Women to Smile. Fazlalizadeh’s posters mimic public PSAs and attempt to educate the public on how it feels to be a woman in a public space. Her project addresses the idea that women’s bodies and behaviors are a public commodity, and the idea that it’s ok for men to tell a woman to smile.

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile” project

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile” project

This is Fazlalizadeh’s project after a few days:

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile” project after a few days

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile” project after a few days

Part of Fazlalizadeh’s work is exhibiting the reaction she receives to her pieces. It’s interesting but, unfortunately, unsurprising that they range from telling her to “Relax!”, to sharing unsolicited advice “A cocky woman who blows a guy off isn’t that attractive, no matter how good you look”, to just plain old aggression “ARGUE BOUT THIS DICK– STFU! BE4 I RIP IT DOWN”.

Read the Hyperallergic post here and see more responses to Fazlalizadeh’s posters here.

What do you think about Fazlalizadeh’s work? How is the commentary part of the art?

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Women in Art: Shahzia Sikander

Shahzia Sikander is a Pakistani-American artist most well-known for her work with Indo-Persian miniature painting . Sikander creates miniatures in a variety of formats, experimenting with contemporary painting techniques, video, animation, and more.

Shahzia Sikander, SpiNN, 2003, video animation, still shot. Women's hair transform into birds and invade a Mughal court.Shahzia Sikander, SpiNN, 2003, video animation, still shot. Women's hair transform into birds and invade a Mughal court.

Shahzia Sikander, SpiNN, 2003, video animation, still shot. Women’s hair transform into birds and invade a Mughal court.

Sikander’s work brought a resurgence of miniature painting (at the time it was considered old fashioned and too craft-oriented) and lead to its new global status. Sikander breathed new life into miniatures, blending techniques and manipulating cultural imagery to create something new. However, while Sikander is thought of as reinventing miniature painting by many critics, she hesitates to say that. In Sikander’s words, “I think it wasn’t as black and white as that I started adding a kind of a modernist take on it or “reinventing” it, perhaps—which I think is, again, a very strong word.There were people who had been making miniature paintings and there’s a tradition of people making miniatures which are closer to the older themes, but by and large even the work that I have seen of artists before me was thematic. It was not from a personal space. And my interest really was to bring the personal into this space.”

Sikander draws upon multiple miniature styles and is influenced by Mughal, Rajput, Safavid paintings and more. From one tradition she might draw upon Hindu myth, and from another a naturalistic style. Her work cannot be defined by one time period or culture, rather it is composed from many. And to these cultures she adds her own identity. The narratives are related to her life and to living in today’s world.

Shahzia Sikander

Shahzia Sikander

Shahzia Sikander

Shahzia Sikander

Sikander’s work was stylistically similar to the traditional miniature during her time studying at Pakistan’s National College of Arts in Lahore. When she moved to America to obtain her MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design her work moved away from being quite so tight and technical, and her work became looser. She’d frequently create a meticulous piece and then cover it with loose, graffiti-like lines. Continue reading

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In This Case: Highlighting Women Sculptors

In This Case: Highlighting Women Sculptors

My fellow summer intern, Emilie Reed, wrote a great blog post on women sculptors in the American Art Museum’s Luce Center. The Luce Center is an on-site, visible storage facility that contains more than 3000 works from the museum’s permanent collection, quadrupling the number of objects on view! There are a number of incredible women artists in the collection including Louise Nevelson, Bessie Stough Callender, Yuriko Yamaguchi, and more. Click over to learn more about these American women sculptors.

Bessie Stough Callender, Antelope, 1929, black belgian marble, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Bessie Stough Callender, Antelope, 1929, black belgian marble, 16″x12″x24″, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Yuriko Yamaguchi, Reach Out #3, 1989, natural, stained and painted wood, 34"x72.5"x 3", Smithsonian American Art Museum

Yuriko Yamaguchi, Reach Out #3, 1989, natural, stained and painted wood, 34″x72.5″x 3″, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Louise Nevelson, Night Leaf, 1969, plexiglas, 12.75"x12.75"x2.25", Smithsonian American Art Museum

Louise Nevelson, Night Leaf, 1969, plexiglas, 12.75″x12.75″x2.25″, Smithsonian American Art Museum

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