5 Important Women in Modern Feminist Art – Activism Beyond Words

Taylor Yocom art

Art has always been a medium for the spirit. Artists channel their emotions, dark and light, into their creations. It has also been a medium for political discussions. Art is a type of peaceful political activism that transcends language, and modern feminist art is no different.

The feminist art movement has created some of the most influential and emotional pieces in recent years. Here are five of the women involved in this movement that I recommend paying attention to — they are truly inspirational.

Taylor Yocom

Taylor Yocom art

Breona Carroll from Des Moines holds up a can of mace for her portrait in Taylor Yocom’s ‘Guarded’ series.

Taylor Yocom is a now 25-year-old graduate of the University of Iowa who studied photography. Her ongoing photography project, called “Guarded” hit a few nerves when it premiered in 2015. The photos focused on the items women carry to protect themselves when they’re walking at night. Each subject holds up their defensive weapon of choice and stares straight into the camera in stark black-and-white photos. The weapons range from mace and tasers to whistles and keys held between the fingers.

Yocom took a dark truth — the fact that women don’t feel safe walking alone at night — and turned it into a compelling art piece. She was moved to take on this project after a spate of sexual assaults took place in local taxis. Taxis are a resource that is supposed to be safe for women traveling home alone, but they turned out to be dangerous, too.

Karen Lederer

Karen Lederer art

‘Hands Off’, part of the ‘Hands On’ project by Karen Lederer

There is something both intimate and anonymous about art that only features hands and feet. That’s precisely what feminist artist Karen Lederer was trying to capture with her “Hands On” project. These seemingly abstract concepts are loaded with meaning, often inspired by the current political climate and women in politics.

The fishbowl motif that frequents her pieces has, for Lederer, come to symbolize isolation — seeing both the inside and outside worlds, but never the two interacting with one another. Art has always been an outlet for emotion and a tool for healing. Lederer has channelled so many of our collective feelings into her brightly coloured pieces.

Although Karen Lederer might not consider herself a feminist artist, she has been included in many lists as one of the greatest modern-day feminist artists of our time.

Faith Wilding

faith wilding art

Artwork from Faith Wilding’s ‘Fearful Symmetries’ retrospective exhibit, exploring themes of waiting and becoming

Faith Wilding isn’t a new artist. She studied art in the 70s, when the feminist movement was in its infancy, but her recent work has earned her a place on this list.

When she first studied art, topics like rape and feminism were considered taboo, but that has changed. Her most recent exhibition, “Fearful Symmetries”, is a retrospective exhibit that curates many of her older pieces. Many have compared it to the current #MeToo and “Time’s Up” movements sweeping the globe, as well.

Zoe Buckman

zoe buckman artwork

This neon uterus with boxing gloves is part of ‘Mostly It’s Just Uncomfortable’, Zoe Buckman’s artistic response to the attack on Planned Parenthood in the United States.

Zoe Buckman is one of the many talented artists featured in the “The Future is Female” exhibit in Louisville, Kentucky. She works with every medium, from photography and sculpture to leather and neon. The role of women in society is one of the leading themes of the artwork she creates.

Her artwork might seem uncomfortable to some — silver cast tampons, a uterus made of neon lights and boxing gloves are among her motifs that were created as a response to the federal attack on Planned Parenthood — but her intent comes through clearly.

Zanele Muholi

zanele muholi art

Zanele Muholi, Ntozakhe II, Parktown, 2016. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York

Zanele Muholi is a South African photographer and artist. In an interview with Huck, she says:

“I call myself a visual activist. That means taking action: you see something, you don’t complain, but you do something to make a difference. You want to make sure that the voices of people like you are present, that you are contributing towards a history that speaks to you and many other individuals whose voices are unheard.”

For decades, she has taken pictures of the LGBTQIA community in South Africa and been featured across her home country for her breathtaking photography skills. She challenges homophobia in South Africa through art, and many of her works challenge the objectification and exoticization of Black bodies, as well as referencing key events in South African history. Her photos at the “The Future is Female” exhibit featured her nude as a way of taking back the female form from men who have used women’s bodies for art for centuries.

Feminist art claps back.

The work of these artists inspires conversation, sparks emotion and conveys the collective feeling that women artists are done being pushed down.

Feminist art isn’t a new thing — Faith Wilding can attest to that — but it is becoming more mainstreams. And it’s important to acknowledge and nurture, in order to create space for the conversations these modern-day trailblazers spark next.