If you don't know what intersectional feminism is, here's a great article about it that everyone should read. But, in case you didn't click on that link, here's the basic definition:
Intersectional Feminism: "The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.” (Thank you for coining the term in 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw.)
March is Women's History Month, so we thought we'd focus on some of the most influential — and some of the most obscure women painters history has not given much credence to. The reason I, your feminist buddy at YOUHANGIT, chose to write about these painters from an intersectional viewpoint is because feminism on its own does not include all of these painters because they are of different cultural, racial, and other backgrounds. For example, the writer of this article is intersectional because she is Latina, in an interracial marriage, and has psoriatic arthritis. But enough about me, am I right?! Here are the women painters we want you to know about, and we hope you'll be inspired to buy a print of one of their paintings online (and when you do, we hope you'll tag us on Instagram or post your sweet print on our Facebook page).
Mira Schendel (June 7, 1919 – July 24, 1988): Best known for her rice paper paintings and drawings, Schendel was a Jewish refugee of Swiss descent who settled in Brazil after being thrust out of Rome in 1949 by fascist Italian dictatorship. Despite her birthplace and upbringing in Italy, Schendel is known as a Latin American artist. Her works are not confined to paintings and drawings — Schendel was also a sculptor and poet. Despite the breadth of her art being composed through the 1940s–1960s, her works were all but unknown until a retrospective showing at The Drawing Center of New York in 2001. The Mira Schendel painting featured here, Graphic Objects, is currently at the Tate Modern in London.
Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907-July 13, 1954): Born and raised in Mexico City, Kahlo began painting in earnest after a horrific accident bus accident, which left her with injuries that would haunt her for the rest of her life. Though she is quite famous, she is most often mentioned for having married Mexico's most famous painter, Diego Rivera. Perhaps the most iconic woman painter of all time, Kahlo is best known for her self-portraits. The tragedy of Kahlo’s fame as a self-portraitist is that people aren’t familiar with her other works, like the one featured here, What the Water Gave Me (1938): a surrealist view of her feet during a bathtub daydream she had after noticing something odd with her right foot — diagnosed 12 years later as gangrene — four years before her death. Kahlo was absolutely revolutionary and is in good company amid a tiny handful of women painters who were celebrated while still alive, and whose work actually sold during her lifetime after being shown at some of the world’s most famous galleries and museums. A courageous, gender bending, LGBTQ, communist, survivor, visionary, feminist, political activist who painted through an intense and radically unique lens — this is Frida Kahlo.
Janet Sobel (1894–1968): Jackson Pollock is known as the father of American Abstract Expressionism and is usually credited for the invention of "drip painting" — but in fact, Janet Sobel invented drip painting years before Pollock set cigarette-laden hand to canvas. Born in the Ukraine in the late 1800s, Sobel arrived to the US as a teenager the way most immigrants of her day did, through Ellis Island. Her drip paintings and other works were featured in a book published in 1945. And, though it is hardly a known fact, Pollock mentioned in passing — practically under breath — that he had seen Sobel's drip paintings in this book and noted they had "made an impression" on him. Keeping in mind Pollock's hyper-famous works sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars... after he rebranded this technique as "action painting." Nonetheless, Sobel's work is a breathtaking look at the work of a foreign-born, Americanized painter, and is a quintessential part of American art history.
Solange Knopf (1957- ): Born in Brussels, Knopf is a self-taught artist and globetrotting survivor of what remains rather unclear. Her brilliant acrylic, graphite, and other mediums show us the view into the mind of a wounded soul with beautiful precision, detail, and acuity. Her notable struggle with depression and tragedy are magnified in her enormous catalog, most notably the Behind the Darkness series and the Spirit Codex series. Even though she is a contemporary artist of clearly crucial relevance, very little is known about her — while it's possible to find tomes of her work online, you won't hear anyone talking about Knopf at your local coffee shop. Knopf is an enigmatic figure, but an important one: the under-representation of her work and that of so many others is sadly a testament to women artists falling into the shadows of their male counterparts — even in the "liberated" 21st century.
From all across the world, there are women artists from every era in history, these are just a few. Here is a more comprehensive list for those who would like to read up on intersectional women artists from every corner of the world:
- Rose Piper: African American abstract painter
- Harriet Powers: 1800s African American slave artist
- Jane Alexander: contemporary South African painter and sculptor
- Helena of Egypt: Fourth Century B.C. painter of The Battle of Issus
- Hildegard of Bingen: Medieval German artist and musician
- Levina Teerlinc: Flemish Renaissance painter and miniaturist
- Josefa de Óbidos: Portuguese Baroque painter
- Maria Cosway: Italian-born artist and musician, first person to paint Napoleon
- Olga Boznańska: Polish Symbolist artist and writer
- Sonia Delaunay: Ukranian/French Cofounder of Orphism Movement
Countless others can be found on the Wikipedia page of Women Artists, which dates back to the Neolithic era. Long live the woman artist: celebrate Women’s History Month by purchasing a print from one of these amazing contributors to art history and human culture.