Favourite Womxn Artists - A Guest Series

Hi all! I thought it would be nice to open up this platform to some new perspectives so I spoke to some inspirational people working in the arts at the moment and asked them who their favourite womxn artist is and why. I had some amazing answers back that are all here for you to enjoy.

1. Lu Williams

Lu Williams (@grrrlzinefair) is a queer, working class artist living and working in Essex. They create cross disciplinary artworks, events and printed matter with a focus on DIY culture, workshops, intersectional feminism and working class culture.

Their favourite artist is Mierle Laderman Ukeles (1939-), a New York City-based sculptor, photographer and conceptual artist, known for her feminist and service-oriented artwork.

"It’s really hard to pick my favourite artist but if I’m thinking about what works have affected me the most it’s got to be Mierle Laderman Ukeles. My favourite works are Manifesto for Maintenance Art and Washing/Tracks/Maintenance where she exposed the invisible labour practiced by maintenance workers and cleaners which keep institutions running. It lifted that labour into a realm predominately accessible to only the well off- the New York art scene. A later work, Touch Sanitation, took place over a year, meeting sanitation workers of New York City. She also looks at gender roles within labour and I find it fascinating how she picked apart our concept of graft and making and the multitude of roles we have, in her case Artist and Mother- and how we divide our time. I’d say these pieces have most affected the way I think about art, who gets to make it and when. I still think about her work a lot, especially when looking at the value of artists in society right now and the labour we are asked to do, what’s expected of artists now- what our roles stretch too, social work, administration, service industry, brand endorsers, council scapegoats, organisations engagement arms. It also reminds me of the enforced hierarchies within the arts and how we can continue to break that down."

2. Ferren Gipson

Ferren Gipson (@ferrengipson) is an Art historian, writer, speaker, and educator. She is the host of the Art Matters podcast and doctoral researcher at SOAS, University of London. Her research areas are modern Chinese art history and the crossover between pop culture and art. She has worked with Tate, BBC, Pinterest, Lomography, and Esquire Magazine, as well as contributing as a writer to Phaidon's book Great Women Artists.

Their favourite womxn artist is Evelyn Dunbar (1906-1960), a British artist, illustrator and teacher.She is notable for recording women's contributions to World War II on the United Kingdom home front, particularly the work of the Women's Land Army.

"I love Evelyn Dunbar’s work. She was a war artist and painted women's contributions to the Second World War, so her work is double bad-ass. I would love to own a work by her one day."

3. Chloe Ellen Esslemont

Chloe Ellen Esslemont (@chloellene) is a freelance art writer and artist. She co-founded Tabloid Art History and now writes for publications such as Vogue, Paper Magazine, Dazed, Hyperallergic and Art UK, among others.

Chloe's favourite womxn artist is Julia López, a self-taught painter from Ometepec, México, whose works depict her childhood home in the Costa Chica region of Guerrero state.

"The 20th century saw many remarkable female artists, but one who I think deserves particular attention is Julia López. López is a self taught painter who originally hails from Ometepec, México. One of her first entrees into the art world came when she met Frida Kahlo, who found her to be so beautiful that she helped secure her work as a model to some of the most prominent Mexican artists of the day, including Antonio Ruíz, Diego Rivera. López showed a keen artistic eye, and so began creating her own artworks, which eventually led to her giving up modelling and devoting herself to painting.  As in all her works, Julia López's brushstrokes in this piece have such a precise delicacy, and her use of colour is so vibrant, that makes her work both arresting and unforgettable. Her work has been exhibited around the world -- from Lisbon, Venice, Dallas, Cuernavaca, and beyond. This piece, which depicts El Toro de Petate (Dance of the Straw Bull), a celebration in her home state of Ometepec, shows  its figures right in the midst of movement and celebration, leading to the atmosphere of this piece to be almost cinematic. López, now 84, lives in México City and still paints daily."

4. Eliza Hatch

Eliza Hatch (@cheerupluv) is a photographer and activist that founded Cheer Up Luv. This is an internationally recognised photo and interview series, retelling women's accounts of street harassment. The project combines photography with journalism, activism and social media, and has gained interest from all over the world. Women are photographed in public places related to their experience of harassment, then the stories are featured on @cheerupluv and cheerupluv.com

Eliza's favourite womxn artist is Rineke Dijkstra (1959-), a contemporary Dutch artist that uses photography and film to explore at the representation of youth and the transition to adulthood, often through portraiture.

"The artwork I have chosen if from the Beach Portrait series by the Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra. I love the entire series, but a particular photo that stuck out to me was De Panne, Belgium, August 7, 1992. I was lucky enough to catch Rineke Dijkstra's exhibition by chance at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen a few years ago. 

I had never come across Dijkstra's work before, and was absolutely spellbound by her photographs, in particular her Beach Portrait series. She has a way of making all of her subjects like like goddesses, or characters from myths and legends who have all crawled out of the sea."

5. Katy Jalili

Katy Jalili (@katayounjalili) is a genderqueer, Iranian-born, multidisciplinary artist, performer and writer based in London. Katayoun writes freelance on topics such as social justice, racial identity and intersectional feminism, whilst their performance work looks at race, diaspora, trans identity, sexuality and erotica.

Katy's favourite womxn artist is Forough Farrokhzad (1934-1967), an Iranian poet and filmmaker.

"I have a lot of love and admiration for her because she was a rebel and a rule breaker, 

She wrote a lot of poems about love and wasn’t scared of expressing her womanhood and sexuality. The piece of poetry from hers that I’d like to share is her poem Sin

It was one of her first published pieces, and it talks about raw passion and sex, which was quite frowned upon for a woman to publicly speak about (and still is in Iran) so it was very controversial when it came out back in the day, and apparently she had to leave her parents house because of it. I think she’s so amazing, and wish more people knew about her."

6. Charlotte Edey

Charlotte Edey (@edey_) is an artist and illustrator working across print, tapestry, textile and embroidery. Edey's work has a focus on the experience of womxn of colour, as well as exploring themes such as myth, mysticism, spirituality and femininity. Edey's work has featured in Vanity Fair, Elle and Dazed, and she has worked with Mui Mui, New York Times and The Guardian.

Charlotte's favourite womxn artist is Agnes Pelton (1881-1961), a German-born American Modernist painter who predominantly painted portraits of Pueblo Native Americans, desert landscapes and still lifes. Her isolation from the mainstream art world meant that her paintings were relatively unknown during her lifetime and in the decades thereafter.

"I really struggle with favourites so I'm presenting this as maybe my favourite chance encounter. I was in New York before Halloween of 2018. It was a week of cultural highs, with Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, Toyin Ojih Odutola's When Legends Die, Hilma af Klint's astonishing Paintings for the Future and countless others, culminating in my first and long overdue visit to the Whitney. I came across a text titled 'Eros and Dust' in their permanent collection. The works that followed were a selection of American artists who sought recourse in spirituality and mysticism in response to what they saw as a culture of war and materialism. Rather than theistic declarations of faith, the works represented these ideals through the symbolic, the sublime and the natural. The text moved me before I even entered the room, where I saw Agnes Pelton's Untitled 1931. I'd never seen her work before and I felt frozen to the spot with the total joy of discovering something that felt made for you. Her luminous use of light and the electric ambiguity of her landscape completely transported me. It felt both universal and yet entirely intimate and bizarrely contemporary. To me, it perfectly captures the spiritual relationship between the internal and external. I revisit her work often and remember how that first encounter made me feel."

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