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Five Female Artists Influencing My Abstract Photography and Mixed Media Artwork Today

Updated: Sep 14

One of the many things instilled in me during my ten years of studying philosophy in an academic setting was the importance, no, the necessity, of tracing my lineage. Philosophers understand that when we speak, enter an argument, create art, we are always entering into an ongoing conversation. A sure way to irritate a philosophy professor is to make a claim without being able to situate it in its appropriate ongoing conversation. "With whom are you engaging" is a vital question that must be answered if one is to successfully philosophize. What conversation are you invested in, and who are your fellow interlocutors (because even if they're deceased, you're still engaging in the words and works they left behind). Today, I want to apply this same idea to art.

Sometimes artists resist the notion that their art isn't original, that they too, are standing on the shoulders of giants, stepping into a conversation that's already well underway––even if they don't or won't acknowledge it. But just as I reveled in situating my developing theories of consciousness alongside Husserl and Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, I love tracing my origins of artistic influence. In this entry, I want to focus on the five female artists currently influencing my abstract work. Let's get started!

O'Keefe, Shell, 1937

Georgia O'Keefe

I wouldn't be much of an abstract floral artist, especially one focused on evoking feels of pleasure and play, if I didn't acknowledge the colossal body of botanical art created by Georgia O'Keefe. From her vivid use of color to her zoomed-in approach to painting larger-than-life botanicals, O'Keefe's daringness to paint flowers in a way that highlights the eroticism inherent to them is awe-inspiring. I recently purchased the thirtieth anniversary of Georgia O'Keefe: One Hundred Flowers, and I sat in the middle of my living room floor savoring each page, mesmerized by the scale of her work and the sensations it summoned. I also learned that she continued to make floral art despite the pushback she received from an audience that found her expressions to be too erotic. To create art and put it out in the world is one thing, but to do so amidst a flurry of gossip and backlash is another altogether. It's safe to say, Georgia O'Keefe is my hero right now.

Lourdes Sanchez

Lourdes Sanchez

Lourdes Sanchez is a Cuban-born abstract watercolor painter from New York. Her botanical art both highlights and deconstructs the beauty of her subjects. Something I'm challenged by in my own work is creating floral art that highlights and heralds the eroticism in nature as a space of play and pleasure, while also allowing the subject to evade or escape the heteronormative gaze of the onlooker. Sanchez's work accomplishes this in that she creates beautiful florals that are problematized by shape or color or texture. Her flowers aren't "beautiful" in the way O'Keefe's are, and I love that about them. I also appreciate that she's a mixed media artist, using both watercolor and inks in her work.

Eva Polak

Eva Polak is an impressionist photographer who writes books and holds workshops on the art of impressionist photography (also known as intentional camera movement. I'll be writing about the history of impressionist photographer on the blog next week. Sign up here for my newsletter so you don't miss any content). While I am not new to abstract painting, I am new to abstract photography, and Eva Polak's work has inspired me to keep pushing myself, using my camera as a tool for abstract expression. Polak's website is a treasure trove of helpful materials for anyone interested in exploring this area of photography, and I find the way she writes about impressionist work beautiful. It is obvious she is in love with this means of creating art. I love the variety of subjects she shoots and her use of light as a paintbrush. Give her website a visit to peruse her body of work.

Faith Wilding, The Slaughtered Forests of Paraguay

Faith Wilding

Faith Wilding is a mixed media artist who immigrated to the US from her home country of Paraguay in 1961. I admire her resourcefulness, using whatever medium she feels her subjects call for, and the ecofeminist current in all her work. Her use of saturated but more muted colors adds weight to her subject matter, and her use of lines to guide the eye around a piece is something I aspire towards. Themes of decay and beauty transforming over time haunt Wilding's work in the best possible way. As I work to both capture and highlight the impossibility of capture in my own work, Wilding's mixed media art is a prime example of how to inspire and awe and educate all at once.

Molly Greene

Molly Greene, Lifelike

At first glance, Molly Greene's work might seem like a bit of an outsider here, but let me explain. A mixed media artist from Los Angeles, Greene's work speaks to me on three levels. Her use of recognizable objects, twisting and turned and made strange, demand that we see again and anew something we might think we know. The disruption of knowledge––who has it, who owns it, who produces it––is fraught with questions that get right to the heart of the power dynamics ingrained to relating. Her almost pop-like use of color and exaggerated motifs and the sci-fi-esque nature of her work question our identity in a way that feels playful and sometimes a bit ominous. While my work is aesthetically unlike Greene's, the energy of her collections resonates with the kind of energy I hope my own art carries some day.

This is such a short list; there's so many others I could add. Painter, Valentina Verlato; photographer, Karen Waller; and watercolorist, Dory Whynot come to mind. Maybe the greatest take away from this post is that there are so many incredibly talented female artists creating beautiful work. Maybe you learned about someone new today, someone's whose work you hadn't yet encountered. I hope so.

As for me, I'm just learning and creating and growing and enjoying this time of study and practice and making beautiful things for the world. I guess the world will decide what to make of them when it's time. I am grateful to have examples like the artists I've highlighted here. I'm grateful for their art and for their stories. And just like I felt so ill-equipped to develop my theory of consciousness alongside Merleau-Ponty's, I feel equally as small discussing my art amongst these pillars in the art world. But as my graduate adviser, Dr. Robert Ware, once told me, "You're only as good as the company you keep. Aim to be the smallest person in the room."

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