10 women artists you should check out during Women’s History Month
Last year, our Digital Initiatives Coordinator Micaela Muldoon wrote an article about 7 Women Artists You Should Check out during Women’s History Month — and this year, we’re adding three prolific artists to that list. Here are 10 women artists you should check out during Women’s History Month — and beyond!
Vera Frenkel’s socially-engaged installations, videos, performances and new media projects address human migration, the learning and unlearning of cultural memory, and the bureaucratization of experience. Since the 1970s, Frenkel has shown extensively in Canada and further afield, including exhibitions at the Freud Museum, London, the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Gallery of Canada. For her major contribution to Canadian culture over a career spanning four decades she has received: the Governor General’s Award for the Visual Arts; the Molson Prize; the Toronto Arts Foundation Visual Arts Award; the Gershon Iskowitz Award; and the Bell Canada Award for Visual art.
Further, this year’s theme for International Women’s Day was #BreakTheBias — the action of challenging negative biases against women to achieve equity for all. When challenged to strike the Break the Bias pose, we thought that Frenkel’s Big X Window matched this pose perfectly!
Born in Barbados and raised in Windsor, Springer’s practice incorporates performance, text and photography to comment on politics and institutional racial violence in today’s society. Springer’s Ana & André, Untitled I & II, critiques Western art’s omission of the black figure.
Here, Springer has photographed her fallen strands of hair on a stark white background, creating a kind of self-portrait. The title of the work references feminist artist Ana Mendieta and minimalist sculptor Carl Andre. This work is open to multiple interpretations; Springer uses her body and photography in a way that is open to consideration by the viewer. The two photographs are possibly a response to the absence of both female and black artists in the art historical canon or perhaps an exploration of the role hair plays in black female identity.
Louise Chance-BAXTER& was born in Trinidad-Tobago and immigrated to Canada in 1969 and has lived in Windsor since 1988. A retired nurse, the artist is inspired by the themes of place and identity. Influenced by the tropical colours of her birthplace, BAXTER& creates bold and colourful semi-abstract landscapes. Her landscapes capture her unique lived experiences and memories.
Prudence Heward (b. July 2, 1896, Montreal; d. March 19, 1947, Los Angeles)
Heward was part of the famous Beaver Hall Group of Canadian Artists, which included both men and women — something that was rare for artist groups at the time. She didn’t paint women in an idealized way — passive, feminine, delicate. Instead, she painted them with realistic body standards and facial expressions true to their emotions. Her women subjects were bold, challenging, and psychologically complex.
Pitseolak Ashoona (b. 1904, Nottingham Island (Tujajuak), NWT; d. May 28, 1983, Cape Dorset, NWT) Napachie Pootoogook (b. June 26, 1938, Qikiqtaaluk, NWT; d. December 18, 2002, Cape Dorset, NU) Annie Pootoogook (b. May 11, 1969, Cape Dorset, NU; d. September 19, 2016, Ottawa)
Pitseolak Ashoona, Napachie Pootoogook, and Annie Pootoogook were three generations of Inuit women from the same family: grandmother, mother, and child, respectively. The three of them portrayed Inuit life as they witnessed it. Pitseolak’s subjects were typically the traditional lifestyles and mythos of her culture. Napachie addressed the darker side of Inuit life, particularly the aspects that were oppressive to Inuit women, not shying away from horrific realities like human trafficking and cannibalism. Annie Pootoogook drew detailed pictures of modern Inuit life, especially as it was influenced by technology, challenging the commonly-held notions of what Inuit art “should” look like. The works of the three were featured together in an exhibition called Akunnittinni: A Kinngait Family Portrait, where the pieces were curated to be in dialogue with each other.
Frances Loring (b. October 14, 1887, Wardner, ID; d. February 5, 1968, Newmarket, ON)
Florence Wyle (b. November 14, 1881, Trenton, IL; d. January 14, 1968, Newmarket, ON)
It has long been speculated that Loring and Wyle, two American-Canadian sculptors, were romantically involved, though it hasn’t been proven. Whether the two were lovers or friends, they were very close and lived most of their lives together, defying society’s expectations that they should marry and have children. These two talented artists were commissioned to document, through sculpture, women’s efforts on the home front during WWI. Sculpture was not a highly-regarded art form when the two of them began their practice, and it required more physical strength than painting or drawing did. Loring and Wyle were true rebels.
Daphne Odjig (b. Septempter 11, 1919, Wikwemikong, ON; d. October 1, 2016, Kelowna, BC)
For a while, Odjig tried to hide her Odawa-Potawatomi heritage, scared of the racism she faced. This didn’t last long, though; after a life-changing powwow, she embraced her heritage with pride and let it show in her art. She established Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., of which she was the only woman member. She eventually established a gallery of her own, the first in Canada to exclusively purchase and curate Indigenous art, solidifying the fact that Indigenous artists don’t need Western “approval” for their art to be legitimate.