International Women’s Day Artists

multiverse of Canadian art

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.