She is her Muse

Women have been creating art alongside prominent male artists of their time for centuries. However, most female artists have been overlooked and neglected, pushed to one side in a strictly male-dominated art world. This exhibition is a celebration of ten talented female artists who have used themselves as the main focus of their work in a variety of media, from different points in history, and from different places around the world. We can finally see that women are more than just muses, lovers, and supporters for male artists - they are their own inspiration and identity, and always have been. Look beyond the autobiographical facts of each of the artists' lives, and see the complex social ideas and expressions hidden within each of their works. The artists' self-portraits in this exhibition are powerful, moving, and ground-breaking works focused on identity. Each artist sees herself in a unique way, capturing her own creative self-expression as both the artist and the muse.There is no question that, moving forward into the future, female self-portraiture can rise to new heights and receive equal public recognition  to male artists. But we must always remember the women who did it first.

Judith Leyster created her art between 1629 to 1635 and was influenced by Dutch Golden Age painters, such as Frans Hals. Her style and use of colour were so similar in nature, that her paintings were largely mistaken for his - she would even use his signature, and have her personal monogram embedded in the painting. She was largely forgotten, until the discovery of her monogram sparked a new understanding and appreciation of the artist and her personal identity.
Even though Mary Cassatt is known as one of the leaders of the Impressionistic style, it wasn't always like that. She enrolled in art school at a time when it was strictly dominated by men, and soon left the patriarchal environment to pursue an art career on her own. Cassatt began to paint with bright colours and non-realistic images that were unheard of at the time, and then later went on to create incredible portraits that were a force to be reckoned with. The artist was able to capture a special, yet truthful essence that could not be beaten by anyone of her time, reflecting true self identity.
Suzanne Valadon went from working as a model for important artists of her time, to becoming a self-taught artist herself. As her style developed, she moved away from the avant-garde trends and created powerful works with bold and rich colours, and used a thick brushstroke technique. Valadon was the first woman to have a show at the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts, which was a major accomplishment. As talented and important as she was, Valadon the painter is often forgotten and only discussed as a model in art histories.
Agda Holst was a Swedish artist who painted during a time when women artists were overlooked and often ridiculed. After years of practice and teaching art, she became established as an artist following her first solo show in 1927. Her technical skills were incredible and was based on cubism - yet powerful and very personal aspects are added in her paintings. Holst's challenging and confident look in her Self-Portrait is almost an expression of defiance against the negative attitudes of her male colleagues, letting them know that she is a force to be reckoned with.
Frida Khalo's first self-portrait was Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress. Inspired by both Renaissance painters and 19th Century Mexican Portraits, Khalo soon went on to develop her own unique style of painting, especially after demonstrating her ability in this particular work. Her dark colours are in stark contrast to the light and airy symbolic colours used in her later works, but her extraordinary talents are unmistakable. Her paintings are much more than just self-portraits - they are the deepest reflection into her soul.
Margaret Preston was an Australian artist best known for her wood-cut prints. She was always one to experiment with various media, which can be seen in her Self Portrait (it was her first and only self-portrait done with oil on canvas). Preston's self-portrait demonstrates her her place in the Modern art movement. Male Modernists were able to capture intense emotion and pain, yet Preston created a painting that is guarded in nature - perhaps a statement that reflects the life of women artists of that time.
Amria Sher-Gil was one of India's most acclaimed artists who paved the way for generations of other Indian artists to come. She was able to capture elements of both the East and the West in her art, but her personal struggle with identity was clear. Sher-Gil's Self Portrait is a message of hope for women. She often presented the difficulties faced by women of India and around the world, in this case the complexities of identity. Even though she died at a young age, her work is extremely powerful, and will undoubtedly live on and continue to inspire.
Cindy Sherman is an American photographer best known for her non-traditional self-portraits dressed up in costumes depicting various persona. Her photographs are often provocative and explore contemporary identity. In past examples of self-portraits, most women painted themselves wearing a metaphorical mask, but in Madonna (Self-Portrait) we see a shift to a "mask" that reflects and responds to ideas of feminism and traditions of European art. Sherman continues to challenge the art world through her numerous self-portraits.
Sarah Lucas is a British artist best known for her digital prints of her photographic self-portraits. Eating a Banana was the first in the series, and it brings in perceptions of identity (masculinity vs. femininity). Lucas challenges gender roles and sexuality through her self-portraits, while also showcasing her confidence and directness to the viewer. Women are now more than ever able to demonstrate the power of identity through self-portraiture.
Lenora de Barros is a Brazilian installation artist, photographer, poet, and video artist who, in this case, uses photography to capture her many "self-identities". Seen in her vimeo video (vimeo.com/80552254) the artist dressed in black goes around the city placing her photographs along walls, floors, buildings, and even distributes them to her "audience" to place themselves (adding a relational aspect to her art). The human identity in the digital age is everywhere, always changing, and can be easily manipulated. Perhaps the artist is trying to find her own sense of identity, which is difficult in a time where we are constantly bombarded by images telling us how to think and how to "be".
Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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