When someone talks about the most well-known women in art, many people imagine not an artist but a subject of art, where woman acts as a character on the picture or a spring of inspiration. To put it more precisely, they are seen through the eyes of men artists in a sexual way. While sexual energy is usually considered as the strongest power, lots of women don’t agree with this role.

According to 2012 campaign by art activists the Guerrilla Girls less than 6% of the artists in the Modern and Contemporary Art section of The Met are women. Furthermore, 85% of the nudes are female. Even if the pictures are beautiful some people find the statistics reductive. When we consider art as a reflection of society’s morals and relations’ standards, then we have some important questions to ask.

Women in art – is it about appearance or an intellect? Why don’t female artists run for more success in the field of art? Does the half of world’s population limit its creative potential: if so then what the cause? And the last, but not the least: what does it mean to be a women of art today? Lucky for us, next 10 women discuss these and many other relevant questions through their photograph artworks, so now they are here to help you find the answers:

  1. Sarah Maple

    Snow White the Scientist

    She is brave and self-issued, her art is bold and satiric. Sarah Maple makes an art that challenges notions of identity, religion and taboos. Today she is one of most important and influential feminist artists of England. The UK, just like many other progressive countries of our times, suffers ethnical integration, which leads to many conflicts for a human at all. For such tough times to be a women artist is a challenge in itself.

    Sarah has many radical photographs, installations, paintings and her works has been the subject of documentaries for ARTE and VPRO. She writes, draws and actively takes part in local and global activities. Thus, being a person of mixed religious and cultural backgrounds, she has established a refreshing and powerful visual voice that women of all the world need these times. Most of Sarah’s work explores what it means to be a young woman, a young Muslim woman, in the 21st century.

  2. Holly Andres

    Portrait of Grimes (Claire Boucher)

    Holly Andres is an American contemporary photographer. She finds inspiration in the images and appearance of adult women, and in a broad sense she explores transition gates from girlhood to womanhood. Thus, Holly highlights one of the topics, the one that was important and mysterious for young girls all along the human history. One of Andres’s story tells of young girls “in search of forbidden knowledge … [and] represents the potential loss of innocence'”.

    Her work is cinematic, finely detailed and always catch an attention for their characters and stories. Besides series lines, she captures portraits of female actresses, musicians and other different artist women. One of her portraits shows famous musician Grimes who can be a great example for other young women to be brave, creative and open to accept own feminine nature. With these works Andres provides a metaphorical map to the world of puberty and it can play a significant role for many young girls all over the globe.

  3. Tomoko Sawada

    School Days / E

    Another established feminist artist, Tomoko Sawada is a unique contemporary photographer from Japan. While her country protects its culture and centuries-old customs, it strives hard for progress over last century, and Japanese society can’t avoid the influence caused by this progress. Curiosity for issues, which the society faced these times, set off Tomoko’s works. Her photographs aimed at studying of identity, individuality, sexuality and stereotypes towards people in modern Japan.

    What’s unique about Tomoko: working on her own, she creates many other different female personalities. Using multiple facial expressions, she creates and becomes different characters, each with a special story and each represented in the shape of a photograph. Through different personal identities Tomoko’s series explore complex ideas of place and status of human in contemporary Japanese society.

  4. Lalla Essaydi

    Harem #2

    There are a few worthy artists that fuses conceptualism and traditionalism, and one of these artists is Lalla Essaydi. Moroccan artist Essaydi is most well-known for her unique portraits of Arab women covered in script. While Eastern world limits women’s voice, Lalla invites the viewer to consider both the ways women communicate and the ways they don’t. Does they talk by necessity or by choice? Lalla tries to find the answer along with Arab women society.

    Her photographs explore the contemporary Arab femininity, which has tough times in the world of open dialogue and mutual cultural integration. She brings into her pictures ideas of Orientalism, Islam and isolation (whether from culture of other countries or from the world at all). Lalla writes on women’s bodies, what is a conceptual way to speak up in itself: the way which body taboo meets a forbidden voice opens a dialogue between Eastern women and modern society.

  5. Paola Paredes

    Until You Change / Dining Room

    Ecuadorian artist Paola Paredes has a series of powerful, emotional and ultimately affirming photos. What’s the matter? Once she knew that she was a lesbian, she didn’t know how to tell her family. The conversation was inevitable, and being a photographer, she had a more strong and brave idea besides the brining in the moment of truth. Paola decided to capture the entire conversation on camera. Now she shares with the world this tough and sincere moment. The issue of homosexual love stands apart in Ecuador where it is still considered as “sickness”. The series of photos, titled Unveiled, offers the viewer an unbelievably intimate atmosphere with grace and without pretense.

  6. Birthe Piontek

    Mimesis

    Birthe Piontek is an artist women of German origin. Her work is insanely strange but gorgeously attractive. She’s the one of the only photographers on this list that explores femininity not only with portraiture, but also through nature morte. Her focus is photography but she never avoids other art forms like installation, assemblage and collage. All these types of versatile creativity are important to show the way our complex identities can be visualised in material world. Birthe explores a human and his subconscious as well as the topic of female identity and its representation in our society.

  7. Hannah Price

    Untitled (Pull Over), Brewerytown

    Almost each woman at least once in a life got an experience of street harassment. Hannah Price, photographer from Colorado, explores objectification in City Of Brotherly Love – a photo series that captures the faces of men who have cat called her during her daily travels. Price’s project breaks down the tendencies that allow cat callers to find their behaviour socially acceptable. She exposes them as individuals instead of leaving them under the shelter of anonymity. However, it’s just one of many provocative projects of Hannah. As a photographic artist and filmmaker, she primarily interested in documenting relationships, race politics, social perception and misperception.

  8. Zanele Muholi

    Somnyama III

    One of LGBTQ activists, South African photographer Zanele Muholi is most well-known for her amazing works that capture the experiences of black lesbians in Africa. Zanele visually explains her queer experience through documentary photography while balancing with fine art. Her photographs are kind of visual answers, which help others understand the beauty and the struggle of being a black lesbian these times.

    Her works are fully emotional and translate tough moments of rough struggle that shows Zanele as one of brave and creative representatives of black women society. There is no way to measure the contribution of her activist work, that has immeasurably strengthened the LGBTQ. Through her photos and activist work this women photographer challenges and changes the world not for a better tomorrow, but for a better now.

  9. Maia Iva

    CHRISTINA+DALI

    Maya Iva is a young women photographer and social activist from Kiev, Ukraine. Girl with pink hair and ironic sense of humour, Maya works closely with the fashion industry, though her most compelling works are nu and self-portraits. While Iva’s photographs are body-positive aimed, her work is the ultimate test of self-acceptance and exploration of body taboos. Through colourful and attractive photographs people can catch a clear message coming from Iva, what utilises nudity as a means of self-acceptance.

    Iva issues nature of body, its flaws and how socially constructed ideals of beauty imposed on women. One of her series of self-portraits called I’m Not Man, I’m Not A Woman explores a matter of love towards gender. Besides her photographic practice, she is one of volunteers in animal shelters. Iva is also a vegetarian and doesn’t work with fashion brands which use fur or leather.

  10. Margo Ovcharenko
    Margo Ovcharenko

    Country of Women

    Margo Ovcharenko is a contemporary photographer from Russia. Margo’s work explores adolescence, sexuality and exposes definitions of contemporary masculinity and femininity through Russian reality. Most of her work is a visual representation of childhood, womanhood and taboos in her country. One of her project called Country of Women is a monochromic series with portraits of women, where Margo tells a story of daily routine with scars on bodies and endless struggle of queer love in Post-Soviet society. The photos are powerful and tender, and raise substantial topics for women from every country.

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