By Emily Edwards

Whether you are an art aficionado or not, think of the first five artists who come to mind. They are probably all men. Women play a prominent role in the art scene and have for hundreds of years, but for some reason, society does not recognize women artists equally. As a young woman who is a lover of art, I find these women inspiring for sharing their bold ideas, beliefs and passions with the world today.

Marina Abramovic

1946-present

Contemporary and performance art

Marina Abramovic is a pioneer in contemporary and performance art. Performance art is live; it is not marked on a canvas, but rather created by the artist’s body and actions. It is temporary, but lasts from the audience’s memories. According to Abramovic, performance art is done for the audience, and without an audience there is no meaning to it.

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/global-culture/conceptual-performance/v/moma-abramovic-what-is-performance-art

Focusing on relationships between audience and performer, limits of the body and possibilities of the mind, Abramovic’s work is controversial and engaging. In 2007, Abramovic did a three-month long performance piece where she statically sat at a table in the atrium of the Modern Museum of Art in New York. People waited in lines spanning around the museum to sit with Abramovic, their reactions ranging from being moved to tears to just staring. Abramovic claims this project, titled The Artist is Present, totally changed her life with every emotion and interaction. Interested in learning more? Check out her documentary, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, available on Amazon and Netflix.

Shirin Neshat

1957-present

Photography and film

Shirin Neshat grew up in Iran with a father who was inspired by Western feminism and sent his sons, as well as his daughters, to college for a higher education. Neshat attended UC Berkeley attaining her BA, MA and MFA. Working primarily with photography and film, Neshat’s work explores the connection of femininity with Islamic fundamentalism and militarism of Iran. She encompases social, political and pyschological aspects of women’s lives in Islamic society. A powerful series, Women of Allah, showcases portraits of women that are overlaid with Persian calligraphy. Holding guns next to their faces and between their feet, Neshat communicates the militarism of her culture in a visually powerful way.

Shirin Neshat, Women of Allah Series

Barbara Kruger

1945-present

Postmodern, contemporary and collage art

Barbara Kruger is best known for her collage work that blatantly critiques society. She does this in seemingly simple ways, such as directly placing captions over photographs. The language chosen by Kruger coupled with the visuals serves to speak her opinion against consumerism and desire. Her work is easily identified by the use of colors such as red, black and white, and is heavily influenced by her time spent as a magazine graphic designer.

Faith Ringgold

1930-present

Painting and textile art

Faith Ringgold stands apart from other artists. She is best known for her painted narrative quilts. The quilts are colorful and are personally charged through the stories they depict. Her art visually tells narratives of African-American history, focusing on the importance of family and roots. Ringgold is also an activist for civil rights and gender equality.

Annie Leibovitz

1949-present

Photography

Annie Leibovitz is an American photographer known for her quirky and iconic portraits of celebrities. Leibovitz has worked for both Rolling Stone Magazine and Vanity Fair. Her portraits are different, dramatic and capture the subject in intense accuracy. She has photographed John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Queen Elizabeth II, Bruce Springsteen, The Obama Family, Caitlyn Jenner and Miley Cyrus, to name a few. Working with some of the biggest names of the past few decades, her sharp artistic eye sets Leibovitz apart. She is well trained in capturing the mood, purpose and emotions of each subject, all combining to cohesively create an outstanding portrait.