We were thrilled and honored to welcome Naomi Beckwith as our guest speaker at our second Salon Series, held last week at the M2057 Style Studio. Naomi, who serves as the Marilyn + Larry Fields Curator at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, spoke with me about 25 female artists, architects, and designers who have made decisive impacts in the art world. It was a joy to tap into Naomi's encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of contemporary and historical artists, and hear her take on what these women have created and how they have influenced their fields. This was quite personal to me, as well, since many of these artists have served as inspiration for my own work over the years.
Some of these women are household names, but many are not. When we decided to do this topic for the Salon Series, I have to admit that I was not familiar with the work of several of these artists, and that was a sentiment repeated by many of our Salon attendees. I think it goes to show that we as a society—sometimes unconsciously so—continue to overlook the work of women, despite their talent, innovation, and vision being equal to that of their male peers.
Women like the abstract painter and sculptor Carmen Herrera, who sold her first painting in 2004 at the age of 84, even though she had been producing work for decades that was just as good, if not better, than male artists of the time (she is now 103). Early in her career a gallery owner told Herrera to her face that her work was better than the male artists she sold, but she would not give her a show because she was a woman. Discovered late in life, her paintings now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a retrospective of her work was finally shown at the Whitney in 2016.
Other stories are more heartening. Yayoi Kusama's 2016 show at the Hirshhorn Museum smashed attendance records, and the High Line in New York commissioned the textile artist Sheila Hicks to create an outdoor public exhibition that opens this month. Titled Hop, Skip, Jump, and Fly: Escape from Gravity, the piece features bright and colorful fibers wrapped around flexible tubing that twists and turns along the ground and into the sky.
Below, see a sampling of the work of the different artists Naomi and I discussed at the Salon. If you are interested in art, I hope that this encourages you to seek out more information about any of these women whose work appeals to you. This is a dialog I would love to continue—as Naomi said, we could easily have spoken about 125 artists or more, and time was the only limiting factor. If you have thoughts about these names or other favorite female artists, please leave a comment on our Facebook page thread, where we will continue this conversation!