Pioneering Women Artists

“We need connection and community now more than ever,” says Susan Fisher Sterling, Director of National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C. NMWA @ Home is part of a quickly developing digital art revolution, launching an online portal that explores the work of pioneering women artists and advocates for more inclusive representation.

The virtual resources include an extended online exhibition of Graciela Iturbide (b. 1942), who is widely considered as one of the greatest contemporary photographers in Latin America. Her black and white images capture elements of daily life in Mexico – crafting a rich tapestry of culture, tradition and modernity. “Photography for me is a ritual,” she notes. “To go out with the camera, to observe, to photograph the most mythological aspects of people, then to go into the darkness, to develop, to select the most symbolic images.” The collection highlights pictures of indigenous peoples, including the matriarchal society of the Zapotec people of Juchitán and The Seri in the Sonoran Desert. Human relationships are key to the presentation, with fiestas and ceremonies taking centre stage. Birds and plants are recurring motifs as “symbols of solitude, freedom and independence.”

In 2005, Iturbide was commissioned to photograph Frida Kahlo’s belongings – the results of which can also be seen online. Visitors can further explore the painter’s life in Mamacita Linda: Letters between Frida Kahlo and her Mother – a poignant display that reveals the human being behind the icon. From the archive, Organic Matters: Women to Watch (originally launched in 2015) foregrounds contemporary practitioners that engage with the natural world. Similarly, No Man’s Land is a collection of irreverent and provocative works focusing on the female body. Delita Martin: Calling Down the Spirits is the latest show to go live. Featuring audio commentary, it delves into Martin’s (b. 1972) engagement with time and family – linking past and present generations.

NMWA’s website is full of other sources of inspiration. Fresh Talk is a series of conversations with thinkers and innovators, expanding on topics such as Art, Power and the Vote – 100 Years After Suffrage; and Women in the Creative Economy. There are interviews with the likes of Carrie Mae Weems and Judy Chicago, answering questions such as: “Can an artist inspire social change?” Works by Weems and Chicago are also part of an expansive online collection, which is searchable and free-to-access. Images are available through Google Arts & Culture, with additional profiles offering key information about photographer Berenice Abbott, sculptor Louise Nevelson and artist filmmaker Shirin Neshat.

Each of NMWA’s shows, talks and resources highlights the importance of connections between people, places and the environment. The institution makes a powerful and timely statement about standing together; there’s plenty on offer.

Find out more here.

Lead image: Graciela Iturbide, Mujer Ángel (Angel Woman), Sonoran Desert, 1979; Gelatin silver print, 13 x 18 ⅜ in. Collection of Elizabeth and Michael Marcus; © Graciela Iturbide; Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Posted on 13 July 2020

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