I sat in the front of the class, scribbling down notable features about slide after slide of flower paintings. But I eventually learned that these were no ordinary flowers.
It’s undoubtedly easier today to bring social issues to light through poetry, art and music than it was a hundred years ago—but that doesn’t mean artists shied away form the opportunity.
These artists are just a few talented, intelligent women who were ahead of their time.
1. Georgia O’Keeffe
This “Foremother of the feminist art movement” who perfected her craft at a time when men dominated the scene became known for a unique style that wouldn’t be truly appreciated until after the 1920s.
Though she dabbled in various mediums and subjects (her husband promoted several nude portraits of her), her paintings take the spotlight. Not only was her work beautiful, but it often resembled close-ups of the female anatomy—especially the vulva. These flowers, which I later encountered as a freshmen in college, were so intriguing beyond their visual composition. There are so many metaphors you can tie to her work, which has given viewers an “in” to bring up the female form in conversation.
2. Anne Goldthwaite
This artist joined a group of like-minded artists who championed women’s rights. Anne fought for equality in the South and featured African-American life before the push for equality. Her drawings also depicted nude females doing everyday things, such as undressing or reading.
3. Judy Chicago
Chicago still attracts rave reviews for her work titled “Dinner Party” wherein she featured 39 place settings around a table for iconic feminists and female artists. This feat garnered the title as the “first epic feminist artwork” and features place settings that resemble vagina-esque forms. Luckily, this leading lady is actually still around to share her vision with the world—but she makes the cut for pioneering such iconic work before the 50s.
These sheroes helped pave the way for other artists who now celebrate and respect women by finding creative ways to elevate the female body and sexuality.
As I researched this piece, I realized how extensive the list of feminist artists was. If you’re interested in perusing the archives, the National Museum of Women in the Arts breaks down artists by name and time period.
Which feminist trio do you think would get people talking?
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK.