Category Archives: Women Artists


I posted this blog a few years ago in honor of the 4th of July. Today I went back and added some additional American women artists. They are in no particular order. Enjoy – I know I left some out, if I left out your favorite, put it in the comment!

A Kiss for Baby Anne - by Mary Cassatt 1844-1926

A Kiss for Baby Anne – by Mary Cassatt 1844-1926


Dark Star by Betye Saar 1926 -

Dark Star by Betye Saar 1926 –

Sky Cathedral by Louise Nevelson 1899-1988

Sky Cathedral by Louise Nevelson 1899-1988

Maman by Louise Bourgeois 1911-2010

Black Iris, Georgia Okeefe 1887-1986

#180 Working Drawing, Ingrid Calame 1965

Life and Coca-Cola by Margaret Bourke-White 1904-1971

Life and Coca-Cola by Margaret Bourke-White 1904-1971

Mountains and Sea by Helen Fankenthaler 1928-2011

Mountains and Sea by Helen Fankenthaler 1928-2011

Wind and Water, Pat Steirs 1938

Alice Neel Young Woman by Alice Neel 1900-1984

Alice Neel Young Woman by Alice Neel 1900-1984

Garden of Praise by Grandma Moses 1860-1961

Garden of Praise by Grandma Moses 1860-1961

I Need Art and Coffee by Lee Krasner 1908-1984

I Need Art and Coffee by Lee Krasner 1908-1984

Still Life With Peaches by Sarah Peele 1800-1885

Still Life With Peaches by Sarah Peele 1800-1885

Yves by Joan Mitchell 1925-1992

Yves by Joan Mitchell 1925-1992

John F. Kennedy by Elaine De Kooning 19198 - 1989

John F. Kennedy by Elaine De Kooning 19198 – 1989

Max's Crush by Kady Noland - 1956 -

Max’s Crush by Kady Noland – 1956 –

Woman with a Fur Collar on the Street by Diane Arbus 1923-1971

Woman with a Fur Collar on the Street by Diane Arbus 1923-1971

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago 1939-

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago 1939-

Form of a Black Feather by Lee Miller 1907- 1977

Form of a Black Feather by Lee Miller 1907- 1977

Untitled film still by Cindy Sherman 1954 -

Untitled film still by Cindy Sherman 1954 –

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold 1930 -

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold 1930 –

Who would you add?







This is the 17th installment in my on-going series WOMEN IN ART. 

Master and Margarita

Master and Margarita

Nadya Rusheva may be one of the prolific artists I have ever encountered. In her short 17 years, (1952 – 1969) she managed to create more the 10,000 drawings, even though during the last years of her life she couldn’t draw more than half an hour a day.

Never heard of her? Neither had I!

Born in Mongolia, her father, Nikolai Konstantinovich Rusheva (1918-1975) was a theater artist. Her mother, Natalia Azhimaa-Rusheva (born 1926) was a prima ballerina in Tyva.Many of her drawings are at the National Museum of the Republic of Tyva, while most of them are located in the Pushkin Museum  in Moscow.

She began drawing incessantly at the age of five, but her family didn’t realiy pay attention to them until she was seven. She had begun painting and drawing daily, and once drew 36 illustrations (or 40 according to her mother) for The Tsar of Sultan, a poem by Aleksandr Pushkin, in one evening while her father read her the story. (The story was immortalized by Rimsky-Korsakov with an opera).

It is said she did not do preliminary sketches and rarely, if ever, used an eraser.

“I live the life of those I draw. I first see them … they appear on paper as watermarks, and I need to do something to lead around them.”

She also made about thirty drawings based on The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Rusheva, Little Prince

Rusheva, Little Prince

Her drawings were first shown in the offices of the magazine Yunost (meaning Youth), a literary magazine that appealed to the younger generation. They later published her drawings.

In 1966, the family moved to Moscow and the school she attended is now named The Nadia Rusheva Education Center No. 1466, where memorial dates of the Rusheva family are observed.

During her lifetime, she had approximately 15 exhibitions around Russia, Poland and the Ukraine.

She is most well known for her illustrations of the book Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Master and Margarita meeting for the first time

Master and Margarita




Originally banned in Russia, this  work was begun in 1928, with a 2nd highly edited version published in 1966 and 1967. It tells two parallel stories, featuring a visit of the Devil to the atheistic Soviet Union, with the second part taking place during Christ’s final days in Jerusalem



Sadly, she died from a brain hemorrhage caused by a congenital defect of the cerebral arteries.





The name Nadya means “hope” or “living eternally”. Her art will live on forever, her name will live on as far away as outer pace – as there is Asteroid 3516 Rusheva named for her, as is also a pass in the Caucasus Mountain.




Appollo and Daphne

Appollo and Daphne

Master and Margarita

Master and Margarita

Pushkin and Wife dancing

Pushkin and Wife dancing

A gifted artist, a life too short, but stunning nonetheless! 

If you can read Cyrillic – there is much more information about her on line! If you can read Cyrillic and find out more, let me know!





War and Peace Pierra and Natasha

War and Peace Pierra and Natasha


Self portrait with letter 1907

Self portrait with letter 1907


Gwen John (1876 – 1939) was a Welsh painter who spent most of her life in France. One of four children, her mother was an amateur watercolourist who encouraged her children’s interest in art and literature.

Interestingly, her brother Augustus John was one of the most celebrated painters during this time. Prophetically he said:

“Fifty years after my death, I shall be remembered as Gwen John’s brother.”

She studied at the Slade School of Art, which was the only art school in the United Kingdom that allowed female students. In 1898 she visited Paris for the first time and studied under James McNeill Whistler. She returned to London in 1899 and exhibited her work for the first time, while living in such dour circumstances she actually lived as a squatter.

She returned to France in 1903 with Dorelia McNeill (who would marry her brother) and decided to walk to Rome and create art along the way – what a bohemian! They made it to Toulouse and then went to Paris. There she started modeling – mostly for women artists. But, she modeled for Rodin and began a relationship that would last ten years.


Gwen John as Eve by Rodin

During this time, she met Matisse, Picasso, Brancusi, and the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (who was secretary for Rodin at this time – which is another interesting story!)

Gwen tended to work alone and moved to Meudon, outside of Paris, where she remained the rest of her life. When her affair with Rodin ended, she converted to Catholicism – and referred to herself in journals as “God’s little artist”. She lived alone with her cats and was known to live off fruit and nuts in order to buy art supplies and treats for her cats.

In 1910, John Quinn, an American art collector, became a her patron in 1910 and this continued until his death in 1924. The enabled her to stop modeling and devote to her art.  She painted primarily women, her cats and corners of rooms.



Gwen John as Eve by Rodin


Her small atmospheric paintings seem very quiet to me (unlike her celebrated brother’s more vivid work – see below). She painted using thin layers in the style of the old masters. Her legacy is fairly small, there are only 158 known oil paintings, which are rarely larger than 24 inches in either direction.

“I think a picture ought to be done in one sitting or at most two. For that one must paint a lot of canvases probably and waste them.”

Painting by Augustus John

Painting by Augustus John

However, there are thousands of her drawings left.

She has been the subject of several books, including Gwen John, A Painters Life by Sue Roe (which I am currently reading)  a fictional mystery, The Gwen John Sculpture by John Malcolm, a play Still Lives by Candida Cave (about Gwen, Ida (Augustus’s wife) and Dorelia (Augustus’s mistress). AND, she was the subject of a series of poems by British poet Elizabeth Burns, The Blue Flower: Poems from the Life and Art of Gwen John.

Reading about Gwen John, her relationship to Rodin, her brother Augustus, her friendship of Rilke has opened up a whole new world of people to explore!





Eva Ibbotson (born Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner) published her first English language novel at age 50.  Known for her children’s books, she was an Austrian-born British novelist. This is my 9th installment in the Women in Art Series.

Born in Vienna in 1925, her father was a doctor who is credited with pioneering human fertility treatment (and probably used his own sperm). Her mother was a novelist and playwright who worked with Bertolt Brecht. When her parents separated in 1928, her father became a professor in Edinburgh while her mother hightailed it to Berlin. For Eva, it was a

“very cosmopolitan, sophisticated and quite interesting, but also very unhappy childhood, always on some train and wishing to have a home.”

Her mother’s writing career stopped when Hitler banned her work – and relocated her and Eva to London in 1934, avoiding the worst of the Nazi’s.

Eva initially thought she’d like to be a physiologist like her father, but she couldn’t commit to spending a life doing experiments on animals. While studying at Cambridge, she met her future husband, Alan Ibbotson, a university professor and entomologist.  They had three sons and a daughter and that was the end of her scientific career. She was briefly a teacher and began her writing career in the 1960’s.

Her first English language book was The Great Ghost Rescue published in 1975. Her books are known to be imaginative and often humorous. She wrote about magical places,  even though she disliked the supernatural –  she wanted to dispel that fear in her readers.  She said she disliked “financial greed and a lust for power”, which is another theme in her books. 

Interestingly, one of her books, The Secret of Platform 13 has been compared to the Harry Potter books – both platforms are located at King’s Cross Station!  But, as far as plagarism or copying goes, Ibbotson stated of J.K. Rowling

“I would like to shake her by the hand. I think we all borrow from each others as writers.”

To properly research this article, I chose to read the book One Dog and his Boy.  Interestingly, it was her last completed book, finally a good dog book where all the animals live (but not the author, sadly). Unknown

This is the story of a boy and a dog that were meant to be together.  His materialistic wealthy parents feel they give him everything he could possibly want or need.  But, what he really wants is a dog. So, they “rent” a dog for the weekend and fool the boy. When the dog is returned to the rental agency, the boy, of course, rescues him.  This turns into an odyssey involving another girl and four additional dogs and a trip to the circus.

“Ibbotson’s final book is a story with the heart of Lassie and the satirical bite of Roald Dahl…as funny as it is satifying”  Booklist

Would I read more of her books? You betcha!  Here are some quotes from her books:

“slowly, Anna put up a hand to his muzzle and began to scratch that spot behind the ear where large dogs keep their souls.” A Countess Below the Stairs

“Loneliness has taught Harris that there was always someone who understood – it was just so often that they were dead, or in a book” A Company of Swans

“I want to live like music sounds.” The Morning Gift

“You cannot stop the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can stop them nesting in your hair.” A Countess Below the Stairs

“…adventures are good for people even when they are very young. Adventures can get into a person’s blood even if he doesn’t remember having them.” The Secret of Platform 13

I think the quotes say is all! I am thankful my research on Women in Art introduced me to Eva Ibbotson!






Let’s take a trip through Atlanta with composer Jennifer Higdon. This is my eighth installment in my Women in Art Series.

This post is somewhat serendipitous. One of my readers suggested I include women in other genres of art, i.e. composers, authors, etc. I took it as a challenge. Coming from a musical family (my grandfather had a music store and was a piano tuner, my father rebuilt pianos), I realized I wasn’t familiar with any female composers to speak of. Wouldn’t you know – within 24 hours I tuned to NPR and heard a story about Jennifer Higdon, who has Atlanta roots.slide1-n-1

Born in Brooklyn, she spent her first 10 years in Atlanta, Georgia. Teaching herself to play flute at age 15, she didn’t start formal training until age 18 and began studying composition at the ripe old age 21. She studied at Bowling Green State University and majored in flute performance. While there she met Robert Spano, the music director for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, who was teaching conducting there at the time and has since become a champion of her compositions.

Jennifer is  a force in contemporary classical music and makes her living primarily from commissions. The Washington Post called her

“a savvy, sensitive composer with a keen ear, an innate sense of form and a generous dash of pure esprit.”

She has received commissions from The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Atlanta Symphony (see above), The Chicago Symphony, The Baltimore Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Melbourne Symphony – – – the list goes on and on! Wow – this is so impressive!

She received the Pulitizer Price in Music for her Violin Concerto, as well as awards from The Guggenheim Foundation, The American Academy of Arts and Letters (two awards), The Pew Fellowship in the Arts, the National Endowment of the Arts and ASCAP. She has been a featured composer as many festivals, including Tanglewood.

Her work is performed several hundred times a year, and her orchestral work blue cathedral has been performed over 500 times since it premiered in 2000 – making it probably  the most popular orchestral piece performed today.

Her work City Scape is based on her memories of Atlanta melded with her perceptions of Atlanta today (and it is dedicated to Robert Spano). Here are her words from the album notes:

“The first movement, “SkyLine” is the profile of Downtown, Midtown, and the Lenox Area. Over the past four decades I’ve watched the skyline change and grow, rising up distinctly into its own identifiable shape, projecting an image of boldness, strength and growth. Every city’s skyline is a fingerprint that the rest of the world recognizes at a distance; Atlanta has developed a powerful, distintively metropolitan image, recognizable around the world.”

Today, Jennifer teaches composition at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where she currently resides. She is also working on her first opera based on Charles Frazier’s book Cold Mountain

Take a listen, the first is Blue Cathedral, the 2nd is an excerpt of City Scape








Artemesia Gentileschi  (1593 – 1652/53)

This is my 7th installment in my weekly Women in Art series.

Why do we need to set the record straight? Artemesia fell into obscurity after her death, even though she was one of the first female artists to paint more than the traditional portraits – she actually painted major historical and religious scenarios. The Medici family collected her work.  Michelangelo Buonnarti the Younger (the more famous Michelangelo’s nephew) helped her start her career in Florence. She was friends with Galileo. But, after her death, many of her paintings were thought to have been done by her father, Orazio Gentleschi,  from whom she received early training.

Her technical abilities were beyond reproach. The following painting was done when she was but 16 or 17 years of age.

Madonna and Child 1609

Madonna and Child 1609


When she was not allowed to study in the art academies of the time her father arranged for a friend of his, Agostino Tassi, to teach her. In 1612 her father brought charges of rape against Tassi that resulted in a seven month trial. During the trial it was found that Tazzi planned on murdering his wife, planned to steal some of Orazio’s painting and was having sex with his sister-in-law. Can you believe that? He was sentenced to either a year in prison or banishment – neither of which was carried out. 

After the trial, Artemisia’s father married her off and she moved to Florence. In Florence, she was the first woman accepted into the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno.

Susanna and the Elders 1610

Susanna and the Elders 1610


This is a painting that was attributed to her father for awhile – but it is the first known signed painting by Artemisia. The story is of a virtuous Susanna being sexually harrassed by the elders in the community. Most male painters approached this with a flirtatious and coy Susanna. But, you can see Artemisia shows her scared, upset and vulnerable. Was she our first feminist painter?

Judith Slaying Holofernes 1612-1613

Judith Slaying Holofernes 1612-1613

This painting was possibly inspired by an earlier painting by Caravaggio. But Artemisia’s depiction is must more bloodier and graphic. (see Caravaggio’s below – not nearly as bloody)


Caravaggio's Judith Slaying Holofernes  1598

Caravaggio’s Judith Slaying Holofernes 1598

To read the story of Judith Slaying Holofernes – click here

Judith and her Maidservant 1613-14

Judith and her Maidservant 1613-14

This is a scene after Holofernes is beheaded and they are attempting escape. One interesting thing that is very hard to see online – Judith has an ornament in her hair that is a picture of a man with a lance – was it possibly David, who decapitated Goliath? Scholars believe it is a homage to Michelangelo’s statue of David.


This is considered a self-portrait. In fact, alot of her paintings were self-portraits.

There is must more to know about her life – she even joined her father in London in 1638 into the court of Charles I.

For more information about her life – here are some more references:

The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland

Artemisia – movie from 1997





3. helen frankenthaler 1957 images 17. helen frankenthaler

“The only rule is that there are no rules. Anything is possible…It’s all about risks, deliberate risks.”

This is how Helen Frankenthaler refers to the art she practiced for over 60 years, making history before she was 30 years old. This is my sixth installment of my Weekly Women in Art series.

How did she make history so young? By taking the technique accredited to Jackson Pollock  of pouring paint directly onto the canvas,  she adapted it to her own needs. Pollack used enamel paint that sat on top of the canvas. Frankenthaler used oil that was thinned with turpentine which soaked into the canvas, seemingly staining the canvas.

“It was all there. I wanted to live in this land. I had to live there, and master the language.”

That is what she said after seeing the Pollock show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1950 or 1951.


Mountains and Sea


She painted this before her 24th birthday. Measuring 9 feet wide by 7 feet high Mountains and Sea directly affected both Kenneth Nolan and Morris Louis. Louis later said it was a

“Bridge betwen Pollack and what was possible.”

Helen was grew up on the New York’s Upper East Side. Her father was a New York State Supreme Judge, her mother a German emigre’.  It is safe to say she had a privileged background!

After graduating from Bennington College, she inherited money from her father (who had died in 1940) and was able to get a New York apartment AND have a separate studio! And, she began painting full-time.

When she organized an exhibition in 1950 at Bennington College she met Clement Greenberg, considered one of the foremost art critics of the day, and began a five year relationship with him. Through him she met Pollock, David Smith, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner and other members of the New York artworld at the time.

When she separated from Greenberg, she met Robert Motherwell and married him in 1958. He  was also from a well-to-do family, and they were suddenly the “golden couple” of the artworld. They spent months honeymooning in Spain and France.

images-2 tumblr_lwvmgxbsTL1qbv4q2o1_1280

When they returned, they left the downtown art scene and moved uptown and began entertaining. British sculptor Anthony Caro recalled a dinner party on his first trip to New York which was attended by over 100 people. He sat between David Smith and Hedy Lamarr.

Helen loved entertaining, and she loved to dance. She attended a function at the White House in 1985 honoring the Prince and Princess of Wales. After dancing with a partner that twirled her around, she said:

“I’ve waited a lifetime for a dance like this. He was Great!!!”

When she returned to New York, she showed her assistant his card – “John Travolta”.

The awards she received are numerous. among them:

  • First Prize for Painting, Premiere Biennale de Paris, 1959
  • National Medal of Arts 2001
  • served on the National Council for the Arts of the National Endowment for the Arts
  • New York City Mayor’s Award of Honor for Arts and Culture 1986
  • Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement, College Art Association 1994

Honorary degrees received include:

  • Smith College 1973
  • Radcliffe College 1978
  • Amherst College 1979
  • New York Univerisity 1979
  • Harvard University 1980
  • Philadelphia College of Art 1980
  • Yale University 1981
  • Brandeis University 1982

Her exhibitions are just as impressive

  • two New York retrospectives before the end of the 1960s, at the Jewish Museum and at the Whitney Museum
  • Guggenheim Museum 1985 – works on paper retrospective
  • Museum of Modern Art, 1989

“Being the person I was and am, exposed to the things I have been exposed to, I could only make my painting with the methods – and with the wrist i have.”

“I have always been concerned with painting that simultaneously insists on a flat surface and then denies it.”

“My pictures are full of climates, abstract climates. They’re not nature per se, but a feeling.”

“Art has a will of its own. It has nothing to do with the taste of the moment or what’s expected of you. That’s a formula for dead art, or fashionable art.”

“There are three subjects I don’t like discussing. My former marriage, women artists, and what I think of my contemporaries.”

Helen Frankenthaler – December 12, 1928 – December 27, 2011


Adirondacks 1992


Painted on 21st Street 1951



9. helen frankenthalerimages-1



Tracey Emin is never boring,  considered shocking by some, This is the fifth installment in the Women in Art Wednesday series.


she’s smiling, not the usual sneer

Born in 1963, she was part of the hip group called  YBA’s (Young British Artists).

She studied fashion at what is now called the University for the Creative Arts. Later shemoved to London and received an MA in painting from the Royal College of Art. Working in  shop with artist Sarah Lucas, she made extra money writing letters asking for $20 pounds to invest in her life as an artist (don’t you love that?).

 In November 1993 she had her first solo show at the White Cube Gallery in London – calling it My Major Restrospective.

“I thought it would be my one and only exhibition, so I decided to call it My Major Retrospective.”

The show consisted of personal photographs and photos of early paintings she had destroyed, as well as other personal momentos. (including a pack of cigarettes a favorite uncle was holding when he was decapitated in a car wreck – lovely huh?).

In 1997, her work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With created quite a sensation consisting of  a tent with 102 names appliqued on the inside (this was destroyed in the famous Momart fire).  Of course, the public thought it was 102 people she’d had sex with, but it was more inclusive than that.

“Some I’d had a shag with in bed or against a wall some I had just slept with, like my grandma. I used to lay in her bed and hold her hand. We used to listen to the radio together and nod off to sleep. You don’t do that with someone you don’t love and don’t care about.”


She gained more exposure later the same year when she swore a few times and stormed off a live television program, apparently drunk.  Are you starting to get the picture?

In 1999, she was nominated for the Turner Prize and showed My Bed, which  was ownher unmade bed  complete with yellow stains, condoms, empty cigarette packs, and blood stained underwear. She had stayed in the bed for several days feeling low possibly after a breakup. Here is an article from the Guairdian about this piece returning to The Tate (it is featured on their landing page).


my bed tracey emin


This isn’t even considered the most famous bed in art history. According to The Guardian, Titian’s  Venus of Urbino is.

Other achievements are:

2007 – chosen to join the Royal Academy of Arts in London as a Royal Academician (I had to look it up – I wish we had something like that here in the US)

2007 – represented Britain in the Venice Biennale


from the Venice Bienalle


from the Venice Bienalle

She has lectured at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the European Graduate School in Switzerland and the Tate Britain – usually about the link between creativity and autobiography.

2011 – appointed Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy – one of the first two female professors since it was founded in 1768!

2013 – became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire -that makes her a Dame!

Elton John, George Michael, Jerry Hall and Orlando Bloom are collectors

David Bowie (who is a friend) once described her as: (I am a BIG Bowie fan!)

“William Blake as a woman, written by Mike Leigh”

When she was in a relationship with artist/poet Billy Childish, he started the Stuckism Movement, he said to her?

“Your paints are stuck, you are stuck – Stuck! Stuck!”

To which she has replied:

“I don’t like it at all….I don’t find it funny, I find it a bit sick and I find it very cruel and I just wish people would get on with their lives and let me get on with mine.”

Again, she has worked in many different forms of art, monoprints, painting, photography, neon, fabric, found objects, installations, films, books and sculpture.

“Being an artist isn’t just about making nice things, or people patting you on the back; it’s a kind of communication, a message.”

I googled alot while researching this..  I found you can buy t-shirts and dishes on her website. I also learned there is much more to Tracey Emin than an unmade bed!


Map she did for London’s transit system


from the London Olympics







This is part of an on-going series Women in Art Wednesdays

When I first saw Ingrid Calame’s work, I was blown away. Learning about the process she uses changed the way I forever view the world!


What does she do? Along with assistants, she goes out into the world armed with mylar and spends days tracing the world. What do they trace? Sidewalks, graffiti on a river bed, tire marks on the street, an abandoned pool, the floor of the NYSE, or the Indianapolis raceway (yes, you read that right!) to name a few.

When the seemingly random marks are done,  they are combined by overlaying all the drawings. This is what Calame uses for her paintings.



I think it is best in her own words:

Since the early 90s, I have been working with tracing. I go to specific locations to trace marks, stains and cracks on the ground on to architectural Mylar (polyester-based tracing film). From these tracings I make drawings and paintings. I clean the original tracings and layer them on top of each other. Once I’ve piled up the tracings, I place several rectangles of drafting Mylar on top of them. This determines the size of the drawings I will eventually make. I then start to trace the layers of rubbings that are beneath the rectangles, with a different colour pencil for each layer, peeling back the layers one by one until I reach the bottom of the pile. The final drawings are always a surprise.

Tracings from Buffalo

Tracings from Buffalo

I was recently invited to do a resency at the Albright-Knox art gallery in Buffalo, NY. I traced for three weeks with nine assistants for five days a week. We took tracings from a storage hall at the Arcelor Mittal steel plant, from a wading pool, a parking lot. This working process is important – going out into the world.

My journey through tracing different sites, working with and meeting people and seeing their reactions to the work – all this has changed my understanding of representation and abstraction.


It has been said the Ingrid Calame finds beauty in the grime, starting with markings from places in the world that are in plain sight, but of things very few people stop and look at.

Here is a link to an article about the tracing of the Indianapolis Speedway.

Who wants to go exploring Atlanta with me with a couple of rolls of mylar?






Last week I begin blog series “Women in Art Wednesdays”.This isn’t Wednesday, but this is about the documentary Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present which I viewed this past weekend.


I am not particularly well versed in performance art.  I was aware of Marina Abramovic and I read about the retrospective of her work at MOMA in 2010, By the time it was over, 750,000 people had come for the performance , sometimes even camping out on 53rd Street.  Why? for  the opportunity to see Ms Abramovic face to face. She sat in a plain wooden chair, gazed straight ahead into the eyes of the patron seated across from her.  Click HERE for a video of an example of this.

The documentary was recorded by Matthew Akers, who was given access to her home, her studio, even her bathtub! Showing her preparing in advance for the show at MOMA, the film is interspersed with videos of previous performance pieces going back 30+ years. You learn a little historical information about Ms. Arbramovic and her performances. You witness her reunion with Ulay, her lover and collaborator for 12 years (in quite a touching and sweet scene).

I discovered this woman who is known for mutilating and whipping herself in performance art is also quite funny!   She laments to an interviewer that no one asks her anymore “why is this art?”  She even discusses a performance piece with the magician David Blaine. But, alas, her gallerist talks her out of it by pointing out what Blaine does is illusion and what she does is real.

However, the strength of the documentary begins with seeing the daily challenges of what might at first glance seem simple. Ms. Abramovic is in her chair when MOMA opens each day (6 days a week), and sits unmoving until the museum closes. One by one people come and sit opposite her  – their faces full of emotion, often in tears.  As I viewed the documentary, I started feeling an emotional pull, witnessing something wonderful, something strange, something exciting and something rare.

As someone said, you had to be there. This documentary is the next best thing to that!

Witness Ulay’s surprise appearance at opening night here (it is not included in the documentary, but very touching.)

And, how did she sit for so long without going to the bathroom?  According to a piece in the NY Magazine – she held it!

Also – note there is nudity throughout this film.

For upcoming blogs on women artists:

B – think spiders

C – a working artist, she made me change the way I view the patterns on the street and sidewalks forever!

If you have an idea for a female artist, send me an email. I have a working list, but I’m willing to change it up!  Feel free to post a link to a female artist you like and admire too!