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Can You Name #5WomenArtists?

Julia Jackson, albumen silver print, by Julia Margaret Cameron. 1867. (More info)

It’s Women’s History Month, and today is International Women’s Day. To mark the occasion, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is once again asking a simple question: Can you name five women artists?

The challenge calls attention to the uphill battle women face, both in art history books and in the art world. According to statistics compiled by the NMWA,

  • 9 percent of artists in the 9th edition of Janson’s History of Western Art are women, and
  • 5 percent of artworks on major U.S. museum walls are by women artists

Meanwhile, 51 percent of visual artists working today are women, who on average earn 81 cents for every dollar a male artist makes.

In response to the #5WomenArtists call, art institutions, organizations, and publications all over the world are responding to answer the challenge and spread the word!

Guerrilla Girls, 2015. (More info)

What’s going on

In the post that started it all, the NMWA started the hashtag #5WomenArtists. (These are last year’s impressive results.) This month, the hashtag and the campaign return for a second year.

The Huffington Post got things started by re-upping their post from last year with 201 women artists you should know. It’s an excellent starting point to build up your own list. But don’t stop there!

  • To find an even longer list than the Huffington Post’s, you could look to the collection of Valeria Napoleone, currently on exhibit in the UK.
  • PBS NewsHour reported on female Aboriginal artists, whose artwork — part of a 40,000-year tradition — is being recognized by exhibits in the United States.
  • At this month’s ADAA art fair in New York, one reviewer was thrilled to find women artists well-represented.
  • Washington City Paper posted a feature on Girl Power Meetups, where DC-area women share their artwork and ideas.
Untitled, digital print on paper, by Hung Liu. 2015. (More info)
  • With the Metropolitan Museum of Art suddenly in search of a new leader, an op-ed in the New York Times makes the case that — in the face of gender bias in leadership at art institutions the world over — the Met should hire its first female director.
  • A new book by Donna Seaman profiles unknown women artists in seven well-reviewed biographies.
  • And don’t forget to follow the hashtag #5WomenArtists on Instagram and Twitter to discover many more.
Calhoun, oil on pressed wood, by Grandma Moses. 1955. (More info)

Films to watch

Documentaries are one of our favorite ways to learn about artists we like. Here are five to watch this month, or any time:

  • Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (2014) (view on PBS)
  • Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (2012) ($3.99 on Amazon Video, also on other services)
  • What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann (2005) ($2.99 on Amazon Video, free with Prime)
  • Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress, & the Tangerine (2008) ($2.99 on Amazon Video, free with Prime)
  • Guest of Cindy Sherman (2008) ($3.99 on Amazon Video)
Indian, Indio, Indigenous, oil and collage on canvas, by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. 1992. (More info)

Art League artists

It’s not just art history, of course. The Art League is proud to provide a space for emerging artists to learn, grow, and exhibit their work. In the past year, we’ve interviewed 17 female artists for this blog:

Three portraits by Arlington-based artist Danni Dawson, instructor at The Art League.

For some more outlets to read about contemporary women artists, see our list of favorite art blogs — and, of course, the NMWA’s blog, Broad Strokes.

Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses, acrylic on canvas, by Alma Thomas. 1969. (More info)

Exhibits to see

Reading and watching films about artists is great, but how about some artwork to see in person?

Still from Vertical Roll, video, by Joan Jonas. 1972. (More info)

Change the conversation

OK, now you’re getting up to speed and you can rattle off more than five of your favorite women artists. What can you do to support women artists of today?

There will be several Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons this month, to improve Wikipedia’s articles about women artists. Here are the ones in DC:

The best way to support any artist remains simple: it’s to buy their work when you like it. When that’s not in your budget, there are other ways to show your support: attend exhibits and openings and spread the word about them, for example. You can also advocate for institutions and organizations that support women artists with grants and other funding.

The more we support women artists of our time, the more art historians of the future have to look forward to.

Le Manteau (The Cape); bronze, hemp rope, copper; by Barbara Chase-Riboud. 1973. (More info)

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