Women to Love and Collect: International Women’s Day

I recently saw a question posted to X (Twitter) from the National Gallery of Canada asking the question, can you name five women artists? I thought to myself, absolutely! Who couldn’t, but then I remember I am an Artist, so it should be easier for me than a non-artist. I have written about my favourite historical women painters, and I could write about many more, in Canada and beyond. On this International Women’s Day I am looking at five of my favourite contemporary women artists, from Canada. These women make art I would gladly exhibit mine alongside.

Canadian Women Artists

When I take a deep dive and think about which female Canadian painters we will be talking about twenty years from now, my list is short, and I am not sure if this is because there is a lack of representation in commercial galleries in Canada, or if it is because there are so few very strong voices amongst the contemporary women painters in Canada today. In any case the following five female painters are significant, offering strong contributions to contemporary Canadian Art, that will be heard for generations to come. Here are five female Canadian painters to love on International Women’s Day and beyond.

Canadian pop art painting showing toque and plaid shirt

LAURIE PAPOU, British Columbia – I first became aware of Laurie Papou’s figurative paintings during an exhibition of a body of work titled, ‘A Group of Seven’ which presented the artist fully nude alongside her partner in various poses and locations in nature. It was quite the statement the artist was making about our forests, clearcutting and herself as a female artist in a male dominated profession. The ultimate self-portrait series. She is an artist, a warrior and a nature lover.

International Women's Day Artists

JANICE INISKIM-AKI TANTON, Alberta – I remember standing in the Glenbow museum, I think it was 2013, I turned a corner and walked into a room that held this immense painting, a comment on being Canadian, from an Indigenous perspective. The painting titled ‘Undercurrents’, featured a canoe hovering above a lake, on this red canoe were 9 people. Children with a Hudson’s Bay blanket, a lumberjack or fisherman in plaid jacket, a construction worker, a hockey player, a young woman in a Christian wedding dress and another seated below. At the helm, a Blackfoot chief. A beautiful figurative painting filled with symbolism and narrative.

International Women's Day Artists

CAROL WAINIO, Ontario – It may have been 2007 and I was standing inside Trepanier Baer gallery in Calgary. On view was an immense Carol Wainio painting. A somewhat dreamy and dirty landscape, with limited contrast and mostly muted pastels, garbage and pop culture strewn around a landscape that made me think of landfills. Repetitious short strokes and earthy tones. I was captivated by the underlying narrative that you had to search for to find. Weaving a story using abstraction and flatness, I kept trying to find the light in this murky ferrytale. It was unlike any painting I had ever seen before. I was captivated.

International Women's Day Artists

JENN MANN, Ontario – figurative, pop culture, self-portaits and candy colors – I was at the 2016 Toronto Art Fair when I first laid eyes on Mann’s paintings in person. They were candy coated goodness, with warrior heart. Pop culture masterpieces that glowed of pink and veils of light. I wanted to lick these paintings and find out how they tasted. A young artist with much to say, and I was listening. Mann captures youthful passion and enthusiasm and screams, ‘I’m Here to Steal Your Soul’.

DEE BARSY, Manitoba – I see so many things in this Indigenous Winnipeg artists work. I see Janvier, Bush and automobile decals. Her paintings are graphically pleasing and her designs executed precisely. Her signature teal backgrounds are distinctive and brand her work immediately. I sometimes see patterns for future beadwork in her compositions. She is a young Canadian Artist on the rise, and the stars aren’t the limit. Can’t wait to see where her work takes her next.

International Women's Day Artists

So head out in the world to your local art galleries and museums and find some women artists to love, and share what you love with your friends. Word of mouth is still the best way to discover new artists to love, collect and share with the next generation. Here are few more women painters to know right now.

Celebrating the Contributions of Women Painters

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8th to recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is a day to celebrate women’s achievements and reflect on the progress that still needs to be made towards gender equality. One area where women have historically faced barriers is in the world of art, where male artists have often been more celebrated and recognized. However, there have been many talented women painters throughout history who have made significant contributions to the world of art. In this post, we will highlight some of the women painters we should know about.

Women Painters to know

Let Your Backbone Rise, Acrylic painting, 2016 Brandy Saturley

  1. Frida Kahlo – Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist known for her self-portraits and surrealism. Her work explored themes of identity, gender, and class, and she is regarded as one of Mexico’s greatest painters.
  2. Mary Cassatt – Mary Cassatt was an American painter known for her depictions of the lives of women and children. She was one of the few female Impressionists and her work often depicted intimate moments of everyday life.
  3. Artemisia Gentileschi – Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian Baroque painter who is best known for her depictions of strong and powerful women from mythology and the Bible. Her work challenged the male-dominated art world of the time.
  4. Georgia O’Keeffe – Georgia O’Keeffe was an American painter known for her vibrant depictions of flowers, landscapes, and bones. Her work was often considered feminist for its focus on women’s bodies and sexuality.
  5. Yayoi Kusama – Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist known for her polka-dot and infinity room installations. Her work explores themes of identity, femininity, and the relationship between the individual and the universe.
  6. Leonora Carrington – Leonora Carrington was a British-born Mexican artist known for her surrealist paintings and sculptures. Her work often featured hybrid creatures and explored themes of transformation and the unconscious.
  7. Berthe Morisot – Berthe Morisot was a French Impressionist painter and one of the few female members of the Impressionist movement. Her work often depicted scenes of domestic life and women’s daily routines.
  8. Alice Neel – Alice Neel was an American painter known for her portraits, particularly of people living in poverty and those from marginalized communities. Her work challenged the norms of portraiture and the portrayal of the human form.
  9. Tamara de Lempicka – Tamara de Lempicka was a Polish Art Deco painter known for her portraits of wealthy and glamorous women. Her work was often sexually suggestive and challenged traditional notions of femininity.
  10. Prudence Heward was a Canadian figure painter, known for using acidic colour, a sculptural treatment, and giving an intense brooding quality to her subjects. One of the Beaver Hall Group of painters, she was also a charter member of the Canadian Group of Painters, the Contemporary Arts Society and the Federation of Canadian Artists.

Personally, the portraiture and landscape paintings of O’Keeffe, Lempicka and Heward have made significant impressions on my work as an artist, including this homage to the famous painting, ‘Saint Moritz’ by Lempicka.

Women Painters to know

Saint Kanata, Acrylic painting, 48 x 36 x 1.5 in, 2011, Brandy Saturley

These are just a few of the many talented women painters who have made significant contributions to the world of art. On International Women’s Day, let us celebrate the achievements of women artists throughout history and continue to support and uplift the voices of women in the arts.