The arts have traditionally been a boys-only club, but a new spate of amazing, emerging contemporary artists is changing all that. Many are bringing a fresh, feminist viewpoint that is both lovely and necessary. As we saw in 2014 with solo shows by the likes of Kara Walker and Swoon, female artists are starting to gain the recognition they deserve.
This year, an emerging group of women will be taking the art world by storm. Here’s a primer on the up-and-comers who are already blowing up.
1. Chloe Wise
Chloe Wise is a bolded, underlined, italicized brilliant satirist whose work is funny, challenging and insightful. In her “Literally Me” video, she challenges the perception of millennial narcissism with beautiful self-portraits which she then shares like selfies. Watch it, love it, share it.
You may be familiar with Brooklyn-based artist Alice Lancaster after her NSFW collaboration on a tee shirt with Petra Collins and American Apparel. Most of her other work isn’t as directly sexual, or as graphic. Many of her paintings do feature the female nude, exploring the form without the male gaze—instead, her work is a study of line, curve and shadow. It’s lovely and feels both old-school and very fresh.
3. Sarah Maple
Sarah Maple is a British artist whose been dubbed the heir to the YBA’s throne. Her paintings, photographs, installations, performances, and drawings deal with her identity as a western Muslim female. Her work fuses a ’90s and early 2000 aesthetic with contemporary concepts.
We wrote about Jessica Harrison a couple of weeks ago, but she still deserves to be mentioned here. Her most recent work, a series of porcelain figurines covered in detailed tattoos, is an amazing exploration of ideas of beauty, femininity and objectification. This Scottish artist clearly has a strong vision and even stronger artistic chops.
Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi loves to challenge stereotypes, and that’s part of what makes her work so compelling. Her work is unlike anything else on this roundup— it’s starkly beautiful and deeply eerie. Her photographs feature women, often Muslim, dressed in white with words and scrawls painted across their clothes and skin, and the backdrop. These portraits feel almost like installations, and they’re arresting.
6. Aleah Chapin
Aleah Chapin is an American painter who does amazing, enormous photorealistic nude portraits of women. Her subjects are often older, strong, sensitive, and even sensual. In art, lots of depictions of nudes are women, and a lot of the artists are men. Aleah Chapin’s stunning paintings deny the male gaze, offering instead a truly lovely, impressive, and sensitive depiction of femininity.
Phebe Schmidt’s photographs mix sexy, high-fashion gloss with a goofy, contemporary, subversive comedy, and a sprinkle of ’90s pop culture. This super-appealing combination makes her a millennial darling — though she probably wouldn’t want to hear that. She’s already making huge waves in Australia, and we totally expect her to hit the US in a major way in 2015. This is one artist you’re definitely going to want to follow on Instagram.
Spanish artist Andrea Castro paints beautiful portraits with a twist. Sometimes, she blurs the faces of her subjects with swirls of colors, sometimes she embroiders them with pearls. She’s playing with the idea of identity and the personalities of the characters she creates on the page. “I consider art as another language, another way to express yourself,” she writes on her site. “I’m fascinated by the idea of reaching everybody around the world, whichever the language they may speak, and connect with them through my character’s emotions or stories.”
Chilean artist Maria Aparicio Puentes embroiders photographs with metallic threads, highlighting the spacing and even making the people in these photos look like constellations. Her artwork has a lovely, retro vibe and a fresh sensibility. She’s been exhibiting consistently since 2011, but it seems like her work is really taking off as it reaches a wider audience online.
10. Elana Adler
Elena Adler is redefining the idea of women’s work with needlepoint in her “You Are My Duchess” series. Each sampler is emblazoned with words she’s heard men say to her, mostly as catcalls. This Brooklyn-based artist received a lot of coverage for this series back in October, after a great interview with Buzzfeed. As Adler says, these samplers are “a beautification of an assault.”
Speaking of catcalling, another artist addressing the issue is Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Her series, Stop Telling Women to Smile, responds to catcallers with street posters of women’s empowered reactions to being harassed.
12. Melanie Bonajo
Melanie Bonajo is an artist living and working in Amsterdam, and her hyper-conceptual work raises important questions about the way people relate to each other through gender, sexuality, and technology. With most of her recent work, including her Anti-Selfie and Herstories of the Social Naked Body, Bonajo forces her viewers to confront their emotional health and historical awareness (Check out this awesome Q&A with HuffPo).
13. Lady Aiko
Lady Aiko is an incredible street artist working mostly in New York, through she’s originally from Tokyo. In the best way possible, her paintings look almost like edgy coloring books with their bold outlines and pastel colors. As she said in an with The Telegraph, “I think I represent female energy with my work.” It’s no secret that street art is a traditionally masculine medium, so artists like Lady Aiko have a unique perspective on the practice.