It’s Women’s History Month and while today is no longer March 8, International Women’s Day, we think women deserve to be celebrated and recognized every day for the impact they’ve had on social change. Here are three female artists who have doubled as activists and made waves for conversation and social movement through their work.
1. Elizabeth Catlett
“Art is only important to the extent that it aids in the liberation of our people.”
Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012) was a graphic designer and sculptor who devoted much of her life to teaching. She was active in antiwar and labor protests and later in life participated in the desegregation efforts in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her progressive views and opposition toward the social injustices affecting women and minorities, particularly Black women, served as a consistent theme in her artwork. Her work visually highlights strength and resilience despite consistent oppression and while not very well known, it is often studied by students looking to interpret race, gender and class issues.
2. Barbara Kruger
“I try to deal with the complexities of power and social life, but as far as the visual presentation goes I purposely avoid a high degree of difficulty.”
Barbara Kruger, often associated with the feminist art movement, is an American conceptual artist and collagist. Her work critiques politics, consumerism and desire. Her pieces create dialogue about female inequalities and injustices. Among her most famous pieces is her Untitled (Your Body is a Battleground), a photographic silkscreen executed on vinyl in 1989. The piece sparks conversation regarding decisions being made about women’s bodies without their input.
3. Judy Chicago
“Even if I am simply one more woman laying one more brick in the foundation of a new and more humane world, it is enough to make me rise eagerly from my bed each morning and face the challenge of breaking the historic silence that has held women captive for so long.”
Judy Chicago is an artist, author, feminist, and intellectual. In the 1970s she pioneered feminist art and art education through a program at California State University, Fresno. Inspired by her work in as an educator, in 1979 she created the well-known multi-media installation titled, The Dinner Party. The work exhibits the history of women in western civilization through symbolism and imagery distinct to the feminist art movement. Chicago has spent five decades creating work and publishing books that are dedicated to the power of art as a vehicle for social change.