The Female Gaze: The Contemporary Artists Who Took Back Female Identity in Art (2022)

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The Female Gaze: The Contemporary Artists Who Took Back Female Identity in Art (1)

Mari Katayama, 'bystander #014', 2016 | © Mari Katayama. Courtesy of rin art association

The Female Gaze: The Contemporary Artists Who Took Back Female Identity in Art (2)

Freire Barnes

Art & Design Editor6 March 2019

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(Video) Top 23 Greatest Female Artists Who Defined the Contemporary Era

For centuries, the depiction and role of women in art was determined by men. These boundary-breaking female artists seek to redress this imbalance, surpassing the male-dominated barrier to reframe the representation of the female figure in art.

Cindy Sherman (b. 1954)

From a young age, Cindy Sherman loved playing dress-up, and that hasn’t changed in her 40 years as a photographer. In her portraits, she takes on the guises of hundreds of characters including the artist, the clown, the doe-eyed ingénue, the girl next door and the ageing socialite. Although she always uses herself as the model, at no point is her work self-reflective. Since making her Untitled Film Still series in 1977, Sherman has enjoyed a celebrated career. In 2011 she became the highest-selling female photographer when her work sold for $3.9 million, cementing the importance of her beguiling, if at times disturbing, photographs that lay bare the construction of personas, critiquing the artifice of female identity and societal stereotypes as well as our insatiable narcissism.

Where to see Cindy Sherman’s work: Art Gallery New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

The Female Gaze: The Contemporary Artists Who Took Back Female Identity in Art (3)

Cindy Sherman, ‘Untitled #582’, 2016 | © Cindy Sherman. Courtesy the artist, Sprüth Magers and Metro Pictures, New York

Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971)

Mickalene Thomas’s rhinestone-encrusted paintings and collages question how female identity, especially that of black women, has been portrayed throughout art history. With vivid colours and patterns inspired by her vibrant childhood homes, Thomas’s work is electric and arresting. She rose to prominence for her work which appropriates iconic and provocative art-historical works by male artists like Courbet, Manet and Picasso, replacing the white female nude with black, African women. In doing so, Thomas reclaims ownership over the portrayal of feminine sexuality, celebrates female beauty and power and reflects on the importance of the female figure in contemporary art.

Where to see Mickalene Thomas’s work: Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA

(Video) The White Female Gaze: A Black Feminist Perspective on Identity, Affect and Representation

The Female Gaze: The Contemporary Artists Who Took Back Female Identity in Art (4)

Mickalene Thomas, ‘Qusuquzah Lounging with Pink + Black Flower’, 2016 | Courtesy of Mickalene Thomas LLC

Judy Chicago (b. 1939)

The experience of being a woman, particularly that of being a female artist in a male-dominated field, is a major subject of Judy Chicago’s work. Though probably best known for her large-scale banquet installation The Dinner Party (1974-79), which commemorates 39 important women in history, the influential artist has created an important body of work in the past four decades, including designs of female anatomy spray-painted on car bonnets, Bigamy Hood (1965/2011), and Birth Project (1980-85), which involved Chicago working with over 150 needleworkers to realise a positive portrayal of childbirth. Always challenging the status quo, Chicago’s work continues to celebrate women’s freedom of expression and respond to the lack of acknowledgement of women in our cultural history.

The Female Gaze: The Contemporary Artists Who Took Back Female Identity in Art (5)

Judy Chicago, ‘Bigamy Hood’, 1965/2011 | © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY. Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

Francesca Woodman (1958-1981)

Although Francesca Woodman died exceptionally young, at 22, and never got to experience the international acclaim she garners today, the American photographer amassed a powerful body of work in her short career. What started as an exploration of her self-image in her early teens, when her father gave her a Yashica TLR camera at 13, transformed into an 800-image-strong photographic archive that probes the depths of the female psyche. In dilapidated, abandoned interiors, either in Rhode Island or Rome, Woodman positions herself in acts of uncertainty, making the private moment a public spectacle, to ultimately question the act of looking.

Where to see Francesca Woodman’s work: National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland

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Francesca Woodman, ‘Providence, Rhode Island’, 1976 | ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 © Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman

Jenny Saville (b. 1970)

Emerging from the Young British Artists movement (YBAs) in the early ’90s after Charles Saatchi bought her entire Glasgow School of Art degree show, Saville is known for large-scale paintings that offer vivacious explorations of the naked female form, cellulite and all. Like many of the other artists in this article, Saville uses herself as subject, contorting her physical form and using impasto brushstrokes to critique society’s indoctrinated view towards the body. Drawing attention to all aspects of corporal existence, whether plastic-surgery reconstruction or the beauty of imperfections, Saville’s work is refreshingly raw and unapologetic in its complete frankness about the complexities and fragility of human flesh.

(Video) global identity and political art, 2022

Where to see Jenny Saville’s work: Economou Foundation, Athens, Greece

The Female Gaze: The Contemporary Artists Who Took Back Female Identity in Art (7)

Jenny Saville, Installation view of ‘Ancestors’, 2018 | © Jenny Saville. Photography by Rob McKeever. Courtesy Gagosian

Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972)

Born in Nairobi, Wangechi Mutu has lived in New York since graduating from Yale’s sculpture MFA program in 2000. Working across a variety of media, Mutu addresses the objectification of black women, our communal idea of beauty and the postcolonial depiction of her Kenyan homeland. Her collages in particular depict otherworldly female characters existing in organic, ethereal landscapes. By using the very material – pornographic imagery – that dehumanises women, Mutu creates empowered cyborgs that confront Western misrepresentation of the female body.

Where to see Wangechi Mutu’s work: Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, USA

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Wangechi Mutu, ‘Hide ’n’ Seek, Kill or Speak’, 2004 | The Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum Purchase made possible by a gift from Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn 2004.13.3 © Wangechi Mutu Courtesy of the artist and American Federation of Arts

Juno Calypso (b. 1989)

The young British artist started taking photographs of herself in her grandmother’s house, unbeknownst to her relative. Taking the opportunity to explore the female self through a fictional character called Joyce when her grandmother was out, Calypso set a strong foundation to a practice which has candidly put the female figure in the fore of uncanny scenarios. Having won a number of art awards, the Londoner has also explored other creative fields and in 2018 produced Burberry’s Christmas campaign. Often she’ll create immersive installations in which her photographs can be viewed, placing the viewer directly within the environments where her defiant women exist.

The Female Gaze: The Contemporary Artists Who Took Back Female Identity in Art (9)

Juno Calypso, ‘How Much Life Is Enough?’, 2018 | Courtesy of the artist and TJ Boulting

(Video) Girl on Girl Photo Art and Photography in the Age of the Female Gaze Juno Calypso HD 1080p

Birgit Jürgenssen (1949-2003)

The Viennese artist was a key figure of the Austrian feminist avant-garde movement in the 1970s and instrumental in the formation of the female artists’ group Die Damen (The Ladies) in 1988. Reacting to the repression of women and their prescribed roles, Jürgenssen was not afraid to subvert social stereotypes. Her work explored bodily existence and tackled social clichés of women existing solely within the limits of domesticity as well as being portrayed as objects in art. In one of her famous performative works, Housewives’ Kitchen Apron (1975), Jürgenssen wore a sculpture of an apron that doubled as an oven, morphing the artist into a domestic appliance.

Where to see Birgit Jürgenssen’s work: GAMeC, Bergamo, Italy

The Female Gaze: The Contemporary Artists Who Took Back Female Identity in Art (10)

Birgit Jürgenssen, ‘Hausfrauen – Küchenschürze’ (Housewives’ Kitchen Apron), 1975 | Courtesy Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna © Estate Birgit Jürgenssen by SIAE 2019

Linder (b. 1954)

Rising to prominence in the post-punk scene of Manchester, UK, Linder’s work merges the worlds of men’s DIY and porn magazines with that of women’s fashion bibles. She’s known as the mastermind behind the Buzzcocks’ famous cover sleeve for their single ‘Orgasm Addict’, which features a naked woman with toothy smiling mouths for nipples and an iron for a head. Her feminist photomontages draw on Dadaist and Surrealist influences as well as the punk aesthetic. But her dynamic work isn’t always so overtly provocative. She recently unveiled a public commission for London Underground that celebrates the many roles women play in and around Southwark’s history.

Where to see Linder’s work: Tate Britain, London, England

The Female Gaze: The Contemporary Artists Who Took Back Female Identity in Art (11)

Linder, ‘Infant’s Door’, 2015 | © Linder. Courtesy the artist & Modern Art, London

Mari Katayama (b. 1987)

Born with tibial hemimelia – a deformity of the bones – the young Japanese artist uses her photography and sculptural installations to confront our notions of traditional beauty. Her disability, for which she was bullied and which led to both her legs being amputated below the knee at nine, is now the source of inspiration for her celebrated work which has brought her international acclaim. Just like Saville’s, Katayama’s work celebrates physical imperfections, which she feels are more representative of beauty than society’s version of the perfect body.

Where to see Mari Katayama’s work: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan

The Female Gaze: The Contemporary Artists Who Took Back Female Identity in Art (12)

Mari Katayama, Installation view of ‘Broken Heart’ at White Rainbow, London, 2019 | © Mari Katayama. Courtesy White Rainbow, London and rin art association Photography: Damian Griffiths

(Video) Mary Cassatt and the Male Gaze

FAQs

What is the female gaze in art? ›

The female gaze is a feminist theory term referring to the gaze of the female spectator, character or director of an artistic work, but more than the gender it is an issue of representing women as subjects having agency.

What is the gaze in art? ›

The gaze – or the male gaze, more specifically – is a discourse that disects how we look at visual representations in film, advertising and art.

Who is the most famous female artist in art history? ›

As an artist at the forefront of American Modernism, Georgia O'Keeffe is one of the most celebrated female artists in history.
...
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986)
Full NameGeorgia Totto O'Keeffe
MovementAmerican Modernism
4 more rows
1 Mar 2021

Who was the first female artist to be world famous? ›

Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614) was an Italian painter of the Mannerist school and one of the most important portraitists in Bologna during the late 16th century.

Who defined the female gaze? ›

Analyzing the female gaze. Whenever we see people analyzing the female gaze, we almost always see them refer to three points that Laura Mulvey makes in her 1975 essay.

What is the difference between male and female gaze? ›

The male gaze refers to how women are depicted in the world—specifically media—from a heterosexual male's point-of-view. This depiction is generally hypersexualized and treats female characters as objects for the male protagonists to use.

Why is gaze important in art? ›

The subject's eyes are what makes the viewer feel something. The gaze in portraiture has been studied and discussed extensively. The way that the artist chooses to capture the gaze can dramatically change how a viewer perceives the work and the person depicted in the portrait.

Why is the gaze important? ›

The data show that gaze can act as an arousal cue and can modulate actions, and can activate brain regions linked to theory of mind and self-related processing.

What are the types of gaze? ›

There are three basic types of gazing: Social Gazing, Intimate Gazing and Power Gazing.
...
The Geography of the Face
  • The Social Gaze. ...
  • The Intimate Gaze. ...
  • The Power Gaze.

Why were female artists overlooked in the past? ›

Because those who were keeping a record of artistic developments, works of art and the artists who created them often seemingly 'forgot' certain groups or individual people due to their gender, ethnicity, or social standing, among many other things.

How do you call a female artist? ›

Synonyms for female artist
  1. female artist.
  2. woman-artist.
  3. performer.
  4. artist.

Who is the most famous female painter alive? ›

Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) is arguably the most famous female artist alive today. Yayoi Kusama is a contemporary artist known for her profuse use of polka dots and her extensive body of work which includes paintings, sculpture, clothing, art objects, performances, and installations.

Who is the most important woman in history? ›

Virgin Mary, 1st-century BC–1st-century AD. The mother of Jesus, Mary is venerated by both Christians and Muslims, and is probably the most famous woman in history.

Who are some famous female singers? ›

19 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Female Singers
  • Madonna.
  • Beyoncé
  • Cher.
  • Whitney Houston.
  • Aretha Franklin.
  • Dolly Parton.
  • Tina Turner.
  • Taylor Swift.
10 Aug 2022

Who is the first artist? ›

More than 65,000 years ago, a Neanderthal reached out and made strokes in red ochre on the wall of a cave, and in doing so, became the first known artist on Earth, scientists claim.

What is the female gaze in literature? ›

Abstract. The female gaze can be used by writers and readers to look at narratives from a perspective that sees women as subjects instead of objects. Applying a female gaze to discourses that have traditionally been male-dominated opens new avenues of interpretation that are empowering from a feminist perspective.

What is the female gaze photography? ›

The female gaze lets the subject enjoy how she looks outside of what the opposite sex thinks. Offset Image by Alexandra C. Ribeiro. The purpose of the female gaze, as a result, becomes to connect with the female viewer via the female creator, and come together in a way that serves them.

What is meant by the male gaze? ›

Essentially, the male gaze sees the female body as something for the heterosexual male (or patriarchal society as a whole) to watch, conquer, and possess and use to further their goals.

Is the female gaze the inverse of the male gaze? ›

The phrase is the inverse of the concept of male gaze, popularized by film theorist Laura Mulvey, which represents how straight men view a woman's body in film: the camera and the viewer's eyes consuming her as an object.

What movies have the female gaze? ›

The Female Gaze
  • Lore (2012) Not Rated | 109 min | Drama, Romance, War. ...
  • Chocolat (1988) PG-13 | 105 min | Drama. ...
  • Beau travail (1999) Unrated | 92 min | Drama, War. ...
  • It Felt Like Love (2013) Unrated | 82 min | Drama. ...
  • Beach Rats (2017) R | 98 min | Drama. ...
  • Certain Women (2016) R | 107 min | Drama. ...
  • Broad City (2014–2019) ...
  • Raw (2016)

How does the male gaze affect society? ›

Through this male gaze, Hollywood cinema reproduces and upholds a patriarchal society and renders women passive and men active. Cinema is dependent on this binary of active men and passive women as they are the devices around which a story is structured. Cinema is a voyeuristic experience for men.

How many types of gazes are there? ›

Gaze-shift movements fall into four distinct types with respect to eye-head latency, each one involving particular gaze-shift errors and head acceleration trajectories.

What is the meaning of gaze in visual elements? ›

GAZE. Refers to where the figure in the image is looking. ​ DEMAND- a term used when a figure in the image 'gazes' directly out of the page at the responder. This establishes a connection between subject and viewer.

Why is gaze an important concept to consider in the study of film and other visual images? ›

Gaze as a mode of visual analysis implies a two-way relationship – that is someone to gaze and someone to gaze back. The viewer draws information and conclusions about the image based on how her/his gaze into the visual image or object is returned.

How do you use gaze in a sentence? ›

Examples from Collins dictionaries

She stood gazing at herself in the mirror. Sitting in his wicker chair, he gazed reflectively at the fire. The Monsignor turned his gaze from the flames to meet the Colonel's. She felt increasingly uncomfortable under the woman's steady gaze.

What is gaze behavior? ›

Gaze behavior (i.e., deciding where to look) can be considered a form of active sensing in that we choose to move our eyes to specific locations to sample useful information from a visual scene.

What are the two type of gaze? ›

The two types of gaze behaviors designed as experimental stimuli: referential (left) and affiliative (right) (Andrist et al., 2012).

What does gaze mean in communication? ›

Gazing is simply the act of looking intently. It is a powerful nonverbal signal which concerns the act, the duration, and the manner of lookingOpens in new window. Gazing involves the visual connection made between two people, by which one viewer gazes into the eyes of the other.

What is the meaning of direct gaze? ›

For clarity, I use the term 'direct gaze' when a participant views a stimulus (live, photo, video or computer generated) in which eyes appear to gaze directly at the participant. Mutual gaze or eye contact refers to the situation where two people look directly at each other.

Why were there so few female artists? ›

First, women were not allowed in art-guilds and academies. The exclusion from such institutions for multiple centuries had led to women being "deprived of the possibility of creating major art works'" (Harris, 2001). Second, in the 16th, 17th and 18th century, history painting was most recognized.

What percent of artists are female? ›

1. Women make up just under half of all artists nationwide (46 percent), comparable to their percentage of the U.S. workforce. But they are underrepresented in many artist professions.

Why were females painted in profile during the Renaissance? ›

Commemorative portraiture was arguably the most common form of Renaissance portraiture women were featured in. This can be attributed to the fact that commemorative portraits depicted women as they were to be married; the only time they were to be seen, as publicity was necessary to legitimize a marriage.

How does art represent gender? ›

In classical art, gender qualities associated with women are beauty, domesticity, and passivity and for males the contrary principles such as power, dominance, and social status.

How would you describe an artistic person? ›

An artistic personality type uses their hands and mind to create new things. They appreciate beauty, unstructured activities and variety. They enjoy interesting and unusual people, sights, textures and sounds. These individuals prefer to work in unstructured situations and use their creativity and imagination.

What do you say to an artist? ›

try these compliments:
  • I've never seen anything like it.
  • Your work reminds me a little bit of _________________ (name a famous artist – but NOT Thomas Kincaid.)
  • You are really hitting your stride.
  • My friend/co-worker should really see this.
  • I recognized it as your work immediately.
30 Mar 2015

Who is a famous visual artist? ›

Michelangelo is best known for his “David” and the famed Sistine Chapel frescos. His works has influenced many, most notable his Renaissance contemporaries and Artists such as Raphael. 1. Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) The most influential artist of all time is Pablo Picasso.

Which artist painted the world famous Girl with a Pearl Earring? ›

Johannes Vermeer is one of the most famous Dutch painters of the 17th century. He is famous for his intimate household scenes with amazing light. In other paintings by Vermeer, such as the famous Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft, he managed to create a calm, almost timeless atmosphere.

Who is the most famous girl in the world 2021? ›

World's 20 'Most Admired' Women of 2021 Named—Lisa, Kamala Harris Join List
  • Malala Yousafzai. ...
  • Angela Merkel. ...
  • Taylor Swift. ...
  • Emma Watson. ...
  • Oprah Winfrey. ...
  • Queen Elizabeth II. ...
  • Angelina Jolie. ...
  • Michelle Obama.
26 Dec 2021

Who is the most powerful female in the world? ›

MacKenzie Scott has topped the list of Forbes' “The World's 100 Most Powerful Women” for 2021, after donating a whopping $8.6 billion to charity, including $2.7 billion just this year.

Who is the No 1 female singer in world? ›

Multiple nominations
RankArtistYears
1.Taylor Swift2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021
2.Rihanna2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017
3.Ariana Grande2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021
4.Adele2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017
2 more rows

Who are the top selling female artists of all time? ›

Female artists by reputed sales
  • 300 million or more records sold. Madonna. Artist. Country of origin. ...
  • 200 million to 299 million records. Rihanna. Celine Dion. Mariah Carey. ...
  • 100 million to 199 million records. Barbra Streisand. Katy Perry. Pink. ...
  • 75 million to 99 million records. Alicia Keys. Avril Lavigne. Reba McEntire.

Who was the first female singer ever? ›

Ella Jane Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) was an American jazz singer, sometimes referred to as the "First Lady of Song", "Queen of Jazz", and "Lady Ella".
...
Ella Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald, c. 1962
BornElla Jane FitzgeraldApril 25, 1917 Newport News, Virginia, U.S.
11 more rows

Who started art? ›

The first painting was made by primitive men, believed to have been made by Homo Neanderthalis in the prehistoric era. Archaeological excavations carried out in Europe, Africa and Asia reveal that primitive men were the first painters and sculptors and demonstrated through these arts their daily lives.

Who first discovered art? ›

The earliest undisputed art originated with the Homo sapiens Aurignacian archaeological culture in the Upper Paleolithic. However, there is some evidence that the preference for the aesthetic emerged in the Middle Paleolithic, from 100,000 to 50,000 years ago.

What is the female gaze in literature? ›

Abstract. The female gaze can be used by writers and readers to look at narratives from a perspective that sees women as subjects instead of objects. Applying a female gaze to discourses that have traditionally been male-dominated opens new avenues of interpretation that are empowering from a feminist perspective.

How do we define the female gaze in 2018? ›

What is the female gaze, then? It's emotional and intimate. It sees people as people. It seeks to empathize rather than to objectify.

What is the female gaze photography? ›

The female gaze lets the subject enjoy how she looks outside of what the opposite sex thinks. Offset Image by Alexandra C. Ribeiro. The purpose of the female gaze, as a result, becomes to connect with the female viewer via the female creator, and come together in a way that serves them.

How are females represented in films? ›

Depictions of women on screen are often dependent on roles behind the scenes. Female directors tend to hire more women in key roles and depict women in a more positive light than men. All five movies directed by women could also be classified as female stories, with plots directly subverting traditional male stories.

What is meant by the male gaze? ›

Essentially, the male gaze sees the female body as something for the heterosexual male (or patriarchal society as a whole) to watch, conquer, and possess and use to further their goals.

Can a man write from a woman point of view? ›

If - IF - we accept that premise then can a man write successfully from a female point of view, and vice versa? The answer, of course, is yes. But only if that author can immerse himself in the character and speak convincingly on their behalf.

What is the male gaze examples? ›

Some examples of the male gaze in media include: Extraneous nudity by female characters. Slow camera pans of women's bodies. Women wearing tight or occasion-inappropriate clothing when male characters are appropriately dressed.

What is the message of Portrait of a Lady on fire? ›

Sciamma has referred to Portrait of a Lady on Fire as a “manifesto about the female gaze.” Few directors have embraced the idea of women's autonomy as radically as she has; in this film, the consequences of men's authority are omnipresent, but women take the reins, and their isolation becomes a measure of their freedom ...

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