register     ► my cart


Topics Project: feminist art

Introduction by Katy Deepwell

These topic pages are presented as guides to studying feminism in relation to contemporary art and are focused on key subjects in representation.

There are 30 topics and 16-35 artworks listed for each topic. Click to discover.
940 different works by women artists are listed. This is not “exhaustive”.
No artist produces just one work and there are many other different artworks that could be added to these lists.

This model is not a canon of works. It is not a list of the "top" hundred or best "10" (both popular genres on the net). These lists are offered as a starting point for anyone to begin researching feminist art, especially students. It is a beginner's guide!
The lists of artworks are deliberately multi-media and transnational like n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal. They are presented chronologically. Sometimes they begin with a "precedent" but they focus primarily on contemporary artworks, post-1960.

The artworks selected have been included in major exhibitions and written about in published articles and books, including n.paradoxa. Click on Read n.paradoxa article link to find articles in n.paradoxa.

There are many works by male artists on each topic that could be added, if one's goal was a comparison between the works of men and women.

The purpose of foregrounding these works by women artists is to counter the general cultural amnesia about their artworks (especially online) - a reminder of the many interesting works produced by women artists - but only those on the selected subjects!

About the Topics

Please take careful note of the comments at the start of each section about each topic. The artworks are listed under a topic because of an obvious visual point of reference in the artwork – a topic in representation. Few works of abstract art are included for this reason. The given topic is not, in itself, the meaning of the artwork. The topics represent some specific genealogies, histories or legacies in feminist debates.

The topics aim to move discussion of feminist art away from 'body', 'identity', 'sexuality' and open up the debate about feminist issues, approaches, use of media, representational strategies. This is not to say that any one of these works could not be discussed under these huge, vague and catch-all categories, many have been!

What to do with this list?

Images of these artworks can be found online using search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex etc. The internet is an image databank! Search also for more information under the artist's name + "artist" + country to find more information. Not all works of art can be found online, and there are gaps, especially around works of the 1980s. Since the internet developed in the late 1990s, there are real limits to what has been scanned and uploaded into online documentation of collections and also how individual artists or their galleries present their works online. Copyright restrictions do limit what is available online (from museum collections) even when many bloggers or pinterest sites pay no regard to this issue and many museums now allow personal photos to circulate online. Respecting other people's copyright is why this project presents a list as information, not the artworks. Those using this list are encouraged to do the same.

Links are provided to museum pages where the artwork is known to be part of a collection.
Links on the artist's surname are to the artists’ own website. Some artists have no website, but searching the internet will often quickly lead you to the commercial art gallery which represents them. TV documentaries or museum and magazine interviews with these artists and extracts from video and film works can often be found online. Some links to these are given, there are many more that can be found.
Click on Read n.paradoxa article link to find articles in n.paradoxa. Individual articles can be purchased as well as the print journal.

Knowledge is not the same as information. Information can quickly be found online about an artist's CV, when and where an exhibition was held, or articles/catalogues/ books published about them. Knowledge in art history remains located in books, monographs, exhibition catalogues and journals. The majority of these important sources are not available to read online. Use a library to search for more.
Make use of n.paradoxa booklist and information pages, searching by artist as author or title, country or exhibitions. n.paradoxa's booklist does not list monographs or catalogue raisonee on individual women artists - there are too many! Look for these online in libraries and bookshops.
Search n.paradoxa's 1000+ MA/PhD theses list to find other research on artists and feminist art in different countries.
Read n.paradoxa's Guide to Feminist Art, Art History and Criticism for background.

On the question of feminism

Just what is it about these works by women artists which makes them “feminist” or even “informed by feminism” as a politics?

There is no simple or straightforward answer to this question.

This list includes women artists who may not immediately identify themselves as feminist artists but whose works have been read in feminist ways. Studying women artists or their work does not make automatically make an analysis into a feminist one. There are plenty of non-feminist readings of women artist’s works in print which mention gender in their analysis: think of the endless allusions to "femininity" as something Other, limited and specific, compared to the Universality of Art. Thinking about gender is not the same as producing a feminist reading nor is it as simple as categorising or labelling an artist as a feminist. The gender order exists with or without feminism. Feminism's distinctive contribution has been to name and highlight the asymmetry of the gender order and its sexism.

Emphasising women's cultural production has been an important part of feminist re-interpretation of art but feminist readings can equally be made about all artworks produced by men. While challenging gender constructions for their “male-centred” or “patriarchal” bias has been an important part of feminist analysis, feminism is not reducible to studying 'gender as a factor' or women as subjects nor only their role as cultural producers. “Queer theory” as a perspective is not a substitute for either gender studies or feminism and does not necessarily foreground studies of artists who are women or lesbian.

Feminism is a question of politics (including cultural politics) and as such it has multiple social, psychological/ psychoanalytic, cultural and economic dimensions. An artwork gains attention through where it is shown, how it is received and what is written about it. It becomes evidence of a tendency, a practice, a way of seeing the world. How an artwork is named or recognised as "feminist" means paying attention to how it borrows, embodies, objectifies, represents, reinforces or challenges the way meanings are constructed or perceived. This is often a question of recognising differences between artists working on the same subject or how the work itself disrupts or questions cultural assumptions or forms of representation in circulation in popular media, TV, culture as a whole. There are many different forms of art historical analysis on the question of representation: including iconographic, modernist, formalist, semiotic, psychoanalytic, philosophical, post-structuralist forms of analysis or those invested in diverse cultural studies or visual culture approaches to consider.

Further questions to consider

Does the category of “feminist art” exist as any recognisable type of art-making, when it is made in so many different media? Is it a label applied to artworks by critics or art historians in their interpretations? Is it a useful/productive label or a limiting one? What would a feminist reading/interpretation of the same artwork by a woman artist be when compared to a non-feminist, or even an anti-feminist/misogynist one? Can an artwork be labelled "feminist" simply because it was included in a feminist or women-only exhibition?

Is feminism a claim made by the artist about their work or their social/political attitudes? Is it a claim made by other people about the artist? Is the political perspective of the artist clear in the artwork? And what kind of feminism is this (Liberal, Socialist, Marxist, separatist, cultural, Conservative)? Is the feminism of the artwork only present because of the gender of the artist? How is the feminism identified within the work related to the gender of the artist? How is gender inter-related to the race, nationality, class, religion, sexuality of either artist or their artwork and not separate to it? Is one of these elements more dominant in how the work is read and how do they intersect ?
Does this work speak about what it means to “be” a woman i.e. a representation of female experience(s): particular or general, individual or collective? What is the difference between an individual experience and one which is recognised as common to many women (ie shared)? Does representing female experience(s), female subjects or a feminine sensibility, make a work feminist? Is the feminism in the artwork there because a particular subject is tackled? Are some particular issues in the content of an artwork, obviously "feminist", while others are not? Is "feminism" recognisable in how the subject is tackled?