Meet 5 female artists shaping the postmodern creative movement.
Within recent decades, the societal shift toward gender equality has gained momentum in various cultural pursuits — including the global art scene. In fact, an unprecedented number of women are currently establishing a foothold among the most recognized and influential shapers of today’s postmodern creative movement. From graphic design to multimedia assemblage to experimental film and theatre — from the abstract and surreal to the stripped-down and visceral — these five game-changing frontrunners redefine female empowerment through artistic expression.
(L) Marina Abramović, courtesy of Manfred WernerTsui. (R) The House with the Ocean View via National Academy Museum.
Born in Serbia during the aftermath of World War II, this groundbreaking performance artist now resides in New York City where she dominates the countercultural stage. With an international career across three decades, Marina Abramović has become known for probing the human body’s threshold for physical and mental torment. Through this focus, she determined that performance can alter one’s consciousness to move beyond physical limits and confront pain voluntarily. Despite such boundary-pushing subject matter, Abramović’s creative influence transcends both the avant-garde and mainstream — even garnering a Peabody Award in 2012 for The Artist Is Present, a juxtaposed spectacle of silent-interaction. Her eclectic repertoire has also sparked collaborations with superstars Lady Gaga and Jay Z.
Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present.
(L) Shahzia Sikander, by Paul Morigi via Getty. (R) Image courtesy of Mithu Sen via University of Michigan.
Inspired by her Pakistani heritage, this multitalented visual artist combines diverse forms of media — such as painting, drawing, digital animation, installation and video footage — to merge progressive social commentary with traditional Middle Eastern values. The subtext throughout Shahzia Sikander’s work depicts her cultural experience as a Muslim woman driven to resist Western stereotypes. Moreover, she challenges these barriers through the portrayal of religious symbolism, like the hijab, which urges audience members to confront their own prejudice, skepticism or even hysteria. Globally acknowledged for this renegade approach, Sikander earned a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006, and during the past 20 years her exhibitions have traveled across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Shahzia Sikander: Veil and Trail, via Scroll.in.
(L) Julie Mehretu, courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. (R) Photo by James Leynse via Getty.
Another recipient of the highly coveted MacArthur “Genius Grant,” this abstract painter has established a creative niche in layering acrylic shapes, ink splatters or pencil marks on architectural designs, urban maps and other geographic renderings. This innovative digital print–brushstroke fusion generates movement through which Julie Mehretu demonstrates the constant flux of industrialization. For example, among her most notable works, the 2012 series Mogamma: A Painting in Four Parts touches upon the Arab Spring as well as postcolonial development of this artist’s native Africa. Currently on display inside the Museum of Modern Art, her mixed-media canvasses have also toured the European circuit, from London’s White Cube Gallery to Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin where Mehretu was a fellow at the American Academy in 2007.
Julie Mehretu: Mogamma, A Painting in Four Parts – Part 1, courtesy of the artist.
Michele Oka Doner
(L) Michele Oka Doner, courtesy of Jordan Doner. (R) Strider, 2008; Salacia, 2008; Angry Neptune, 2008. Image courtesy of Nick Merrick, copyright Hedrich Blessing.
Drawing insight from her childhood explorations in the wilds around Miami Beach, this visionary artist has developed a spiritual bond with the natural world. This connection — the base element of Michele Oka Doner’s creative lens — manifests itself through sculptures, mural installations or functional objects to create a synthesis between artwork, design and architecture. Together, these disciplines evoke cosmic awareness in nature, which Oka Doner calls “spiritual sculpture.” During her illustrious career, spanning almost 50 years, Oka Doner has received public commissions from the Miami International Airport, New York City Transit System, American Museum of Natural History and other municipal spaces. In addition, her unique bohemian–utilitarian aesthetic is displayed in various permanent collections worldwide.
Michele Oka Doner: How I Caught a Swallow in Midair, Pérez Art Museum Miami, 2016.
(L) Yael Bartana, courtesy of Raimond Spekking. (R) Visitors look at Hell at Ibirapuera park in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo by Nelson Almeida via Getty.
With a bicontinental career that straddles Amsterdam, Berlin and Tel Aviv, this prolific filmmaker and photographer analyzes diaspora nationalism through audiovisual media. Influenced by her Israeli homeland, Yael Bartana debuted the critically acclaimed — and, arguably, her most well-known — film And Europe Will Be Stunned in 2011. This narrative follows the Jewish nation’s “right of return” and the European Union’s role in providing a safe harbor throughout the 20th century. In fact, themes of “birthright,” “belonging” and “national identity” permeate her works, giving a vocal platform to this historically displaced population. Bartana’s multiple solo exhibitions have traveled around Venice, Warsaw, Eindhoven, Hesse and Stockholm, among other preeminent artistic centers across Western Europe.
Yael Bartana: production image from Inferno, 2013, courtesy of the artist.