• Khiri Lee

#5 Women Artists Shaking up the Art World

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) is challenging the world to name 5 women artists for Women's Herstory Month. By sharing stories of, and contributions by, women artists on lnstagram, Twitter, and Facebook, they aim to help the public answer—without hesitation—"Can you name five women artists?"

I'm jumping in to raise awareness and honor the women who have inspired me to follow this calling of Artist. Find three posts here on my blog honoring:



Below you can find a list of artist who are still alive today who created works that inspired me during my developmental years in college. I also curated a playlist of videos on Youtube so you can see the works and hear from the artists yourself.

Five Contemporary Women Artists Who Inspired Me


1. Maya Lin

I first learned about Maya Lin while completing my Art History degree in a class on Art and War. We were studying war memorials in the class and I was struck by the simplicity of Lin's memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C.


The memorial was her breakout contribution to the Art world. She aspired to create a piece that honored the dead without making a political statement about war. I saw a traveling version of the Memorial as a child, and remember being moved by the monumental list of names.

To me, the American Dream is being able to follow your own personal calling. To be able to do what you want to do is incredible freedom.

After the memorial Lin went on to create works focused on place and climate, making large land works, sculptures, and installations.


"She draws inspiration for her sculpture and architecture from culturally diverse sources, including Japanese gardens, Hopewell Indian earthen mounds, and works by American earthworks artists of the 1960s and 1970s." (art21)


1. Miranda July

Miranda July is a filmmaker, artist, and writer. Her videos, performances, and web-based projects have been presented at sites such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and in two Whitney Biennials.


July wrote, directed and starred in her first feature-length film, Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), which won a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. (mirandajuly.com)


Like ivy, we grow where there is room for us.

She is constantly engaging her viewers in active participation. Without an audience to move through or help create the work it is unfinished, unlike a painting or sculpture.


One of my favorite pieces by her is “The Hallway”.  It draws strong similarities to Bruce Nauman’s Hallways from the 60’s in terms of creating an experience for the viewer, but at the same time is completely different. July uses strong narrative and quirky humor to create here experience rather than minimalist themes.


3. Néle Azevedo

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for ephemeral art.


The Tate Modern defines ephemeral art as:

a work of art that only occurs once, like a happening, and cannot be embodied in any lasting object to be shown in a museum or gallery.

Brazilian Artist Néle Azevedo is a master of ephemeral art, known for her public installation of hundreds of ice people.


As the ice heats up the sculptural people begin to melt. She has created this installation all over the world to bring attention to various issues such as global warming and the loss of live in war. She works with local volunteers and an atelier to create the sculptures. She then invites the public to place the figures on steps of libraries, colleges, and government facilities.


I first learned about Azevedo's amazing installations during a visiting artist lecture at the University of Colorado at Boulder



4. Sandy Skoglund

Most of the women artists in this list I learned about in College. However, Sandy Skoglund is an artist I fell in love with when I saw her art at my local art institution, the Denver Art Museum. Women artists are woefully under represented in Art Museums across the world.

11% of all acquisitions at 26 prominent U.S museums over the past decade were of work by women artists.

(source: Women's Place in the Art World" artnet News, 2019)


So to find a women artist to be inspired by in a Museum is like striking gold. Skoglund creates surreal installations filled with whimsical imagery and wild colors. The at first playful exhibits, upon deeper investigation, reveal darker themes.

I consider myself fortunate that photography exists, because otherwise I'd be stuck in the tragedy of ephemeralness that can come with installation art.

5. Marina Rosenfeld

Working at the limits of music composition and performance, but also corralling drawing and notation, Rosenfeld's pieces have foregrounded the complex of material and other conditions that define the situation where music is enacted. (e-flux)

I first encountered the avante garde artist Marina Rosenfeld when I found a recording of one of her earliest works The Sheerfrost Orchestra. In the piece Rosenfeld had gathered an ensemble of women to play a collection of electric guitars with Nail Polish. The music was some of the first I had ever heard the pushed the bounds of what music can even be. I was mesmerized.


The absurd quality of the performance art piqued my interest, inspiring me to generate my own wacky performances such as "Paint Me," "Zen Playground," and later influenced pieces like "Taboo."

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