It’s Women’s History Month, so in spirit of the occasion, I complied a short list of artists who used their unique talents and skills to create work that expressed their experiences and influenced social shifts.
During the second-wave feminist movement of the ‘70s, Reddy’s song “I Am Woman” gained popularity when feminist groups unofficially claimed it as their anthem. The song included the lyrics, “I am woman. Hear me roar. In numbers, I am too big to ignore,” and “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.” Reddy was the first Australian artist to hit the charts in America, and she won a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. She moved to L.A. and continually donated to and made speeches on behalf of political candidates and causes. Although her name and song are not as generally recognizable now, it is important to look at back at the impact on uniting the feminists of the early ‘70s.
Having more recently taken the Indie music community by storm, Mitski’s music is an expression of her struggles as a half-American half-Japanese immigrant, and that feeling of being both within and without. This feeling bleeds into her songs about her social life as well, as she often discusses the idea of belonging in terms of relationships and living in America. Mitski’s music flawlessly captures the feelings of young women, minorities, and immigrants of the present moment, which is why she earns her spot on this list. For a review of Mitski’s most recent tour, visit TheQuakerCampus.org.
You have probably seen the quote, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own,” on Women’s March posters or International Women’s Day Instagram posts, but the rest of Lorde’s works are not as well known. “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” is how Lorde chose to describe herself. Her poetry addressed the issues she personally faced when dealing with the injustices of homophobia, racism, and classism. Her popularity was not only based out of her emotional vulnerability, but also out of the technical skills she used to express them.
The lesser-known friend and hospital mate of poet Sylvia Plath, Sexton, wrote poetry that was introspective on the effect that society’s sexist standards had on women of her era. While she is most known for her pieces on mental illness, Sexton also wrote about the experiences of women that were considered taboo, such as mastrubation, abortion, and adultery. Her unapologetic writing about sexuality was nearly unheard of at the time. She won a Pulitzer Prize, and pursued a career in education before she died at age 45.
Most people in L.A. know about Kusama’s iconic Infinity Mirrors installation, but few know much about the artist and her more profound works. Kusama is a Japanese contemporary artist who has been active since 1961, and is most well-known for her abstract expressionist pieces that immerse viewers. Kusama is prone to hallucinations due to a mental illness, so she simply paints what she sees. When walking by one of her pieces, you experience a sense of vastness as you move through a still, psychological moment.
After immigrating from the U.S. to Israel, Arnovitz has claimed a name in the feminist art community that spans over country lines. As someone who considers herself to be “observantly Jewish,” Arnovitz uses her art to contribute to the discussion on what it means to be a Jewish woman. To do so, she uses mediums that have been traditionally limited to women, specifically using needle-and-thread art and decoration to call awareness to the traditional prejuidice against women. Some of her works make viewers uncomfortable. In one of her etching pieces, she used nitric acid to deface the etches of portraits of women because nitric acid is commonly used as a way to harm women in different countries. Although her pieces and statements are controversial in her country, she hopes to “create awareness, protest, dialogue, and disapproval.”
Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor