Female Artists: Appreciated and Acknowledged

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Women’s History Month just got an artistic twist

Name five modern-day artists off the top of your head. Try Googling “famous artists” and see whose names pop up. How many of those artists are women? Many people, through no fault of their own, have been primarily introduced to male artists as the upper-echelon of the art world. The resolution can lie both in recognizing the talent of current female artists, and visiting museums in order to do so. This is not meant to ignore male artists who have worked the entirety of their lives in order to make a name for themselves. Being thoughtful about those underrepresented, however, is necessary.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on Michigan State University’s campus currently features Ursula Biemann, a videographer and artist among numerous other fantastic titles who presents a video entitled “Subatlantic.” It is one of the participating pieces in the overall project known as “When the Land Speaks.” It was described by MutualArt.com as a piece that confronts “resource extraction, sustainability, land rights, and displacement and dispossession.” Biemann lends the viewer a bird’s-eye view into beautiful landscapes connected by powerful bodies of water. An activist for art and the environment can inspire others to pursue multiple passions that may appear to the public as impossible to combine.

Meredith Stern and Molly Fair are also featured at the Broad Museum as part of the selection of print from the portfolio “Migration Now!” exhibit. Both women use their innovative voices to advocate for immigrants’ rights and condemn the dehumanization of immigrants. Fair specializes in screen prints while Stern creates portraits, and both interweave powerful, politically driven messages throughout their individual portfolios.

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) currently features “Ruben & Isabel Toledo: Labor of Love,” a grand exhibit that honors Detroit’s history with industry and modernization. This couple created installations inspired by permanent pieces of the DIA’s collection. Much of the artists’ work was specifically influenced by Diego Rivera and acknowledges his contribution to Detroit’s art scene. While the exhibit is housed in the Special Exhibitions wing, pieces of it are also displayed throughout the DIA’s other collections, nearby the muses for each piece. The entire exhibit is bilingual, featuring descriptions of the work in both English and Spanish. The DIA’s official website states that Isabel “conceives of shapes and structures for her fashion designs” while Ruben focuses on “sculpture, painting and illustration.”  

Another exhibit in the DIA, “From Camelot to Kent State: Pop Art, 1960-1975,” features Mary Corita, who wore many professional hats such as successful pop artist, teacher and even Catholic nun. The artist facet of herself used art to advocate for those subject to racism and poverty. She yearned for justice and understanding in her community.

These women artists, among countless others, have been buried under notions of sexism and patriarchy in society. That is not to say their work hasn’t been appreciated or noted. They obviously have made a difference in others’ lives, and they have their work featured in renowned museums. However, the fact that one must dig to find these talented female artists begs the question: When will women have their time in the spotlight?

Recent years have paved the way for women to raise their voices unapologetically and to stand up for the acknowledgement that is rightfully theirs. Hopefully this message of empowerment will resonate in the art community.