Contemporary Women Painters

In this Viewing Room, we share recent works by young women artists whose subject matter emphasizes the human figure. The selections focus on images of women and range in style from naturalistic to abstract and from objective to expressionistic to surreal. This diversity of styles was the main impetus for these choices and these artists represent only a glimpse of what has been termed Ultra-Contemporary Art.

For centuries, women had limited access to opportunities in the visual arts. Even those who achieved success as painters and sculptors in their own time were forgotten due to neglect and even outright suppression by male-dominated cultures. Even today, museum collections and auction results reflect this historical emphasis on male artists and the absence of their female counterparts. Fortunately, museums have begun to redress the chauvinism of the past through increased purchase and exhibition of women’s works. At the same time, women artists who had been forgotten are being rediscovered through scholarly research.

In recent decades, this long-standing imbalance is beginning to break down. Contemporary women artists are receiving considerable attention from collectors, galleries, and museums. An study of 2022 auction market shares showed that for artists born after 1975 women accounted for 43.6% of sales. This contrasted with the percentage for all artists, of any period, where women accounted for only 9.39%. There are many reasons for these differences and these statistics reflect only a small portion of the art market, but this study suggests the growing interest in and popularity of Contemporary women artists.

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Pond Bather
Rachel Gregor (American, b. 1990)
Gouache on paper, 22 × 18 in. © Rachel Gregor
Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Gregor works in traditional media and focuses on young women in ordinary situations. Girls like the one in "Pond Bather" seem caught in personal melodramas. The artist also creates landscape and still life paintings in the same painterly style.
I Choose Me
Shannon Bono (British, b. 1995)
Oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 31 1/2 × 31 1/2 in. © Shannon Bono
London-based Bono describes her art as expressing afrofemcentrist consciousness, projecting Black women's lived experiences. Her works incorporate patterns from African textiles which are visible around but also through the semi-transparent human forms. The artist's interest in interior and exterior realities is symbolized by the combination of detailed anatomy with silhouetted forms.
Tiffany Alfonseca (Dominican-American, b. 1994)
Acrylic paint, colored pencils, and glitter on stretched canvas, 40 × 30 in. © Tiffany Alfonseca
Alfonseca, based in the Bronx, New York, emphasizes the experiences of Black and Afro-Latinx women, surrounding her figures with bright colors and patterns and adorning them with glitter and mixed media. Her goal is to demonstrate the grace and beauty of her subjects who appear in a safe space which contrasts with the dangerous world they inhabit in their daily lives.
Erin Armstrong (Canadian, b. 1990)
Acrylic on canvas, 48 × 36 in. © Erin Armstrong
Armstrong creates candy-colored fantasy worlds by combining portraiture with an atmosphere or sensation she perceives from her subject. This atmosphere or emotion interests the artist more than literal reality. Toronto-based Armstrong was discovered by a New York art dealer through her presentation at a small art fair in her home city.
Time Moves Both Ways
Genevieve Cohn (American)
Acrylic on canvas, 30 × 30 in. © Genevieve Cohn
Cohn creates colorful works focused on women's lives in imagined worlds. The artist's goal is to produce a sense of a familiar space that also feels strange or mysterious. Influenced by the literary tradition of Magical Realism, she often imagines a world governed by a set of rules and then paints women's lives as they respond to that world.
I Am A Serpent Who'll Return To The Sea
Danielle Orchard (American, b. 1985)
Oil on linen, 42 x 55 in. © Danielle Orchard
Strongly influenced by masters of Modern art Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, Orchard has consciously chosen the female nude as her subject. Her figures engage in familiar activities and poses to encourage viewers to explore the physical and stylistic qualities of the painting first. At the same time, front-facing figures encourage the viewer to consider the internal lives of Orchard's subjects.
Bahati Simoens (Belgian, b. 1992)
Acrylic on canvas, 40 9/10 × 31 1/10 in. © Bahati Simoens
Born in Burundi and raised in Belgium, Simoens uses her art to celebrate Black lives and experiences. Largely self-taught, she has created a distinctive artistic persona through her depiction of large-bodied figures with out-of-scale heads. The artist describes this approach as her "love letter to the black body."
The Garden
Arghavan Khosravi (Iranian, b. 1984)
Acrylic on canvas mounted on shaped wood panels, 59 × 71 × 6 in. © Arghavan Khosravi
Born in Iran and now based in Stamford, Connecticut, Khosravi blends Persian decorative motifs with Surrealist qualities to create works which explore gender, censorship, and cultural change. Her works emphasize multiple levels of space and reality through the use of different wooden panels connected by cords. As in "The Garden," Khosravi often symbolizes the censorship of women's voices by sewing shut the lips of her figures.
Stacked Heads
Emma Kohlmann (American, b. 1989)
Acrylic on canvas in floating ash frame, 39 4/5 × 29 9/10 in. © Emma Kohlmann
Based in Florence, Massachusetts, Emma Kohlmann has created imagery for clothing, zines, artist books, musical album art and magazine illustration as well as traditional paintings and prints. Her work is characterized by abstraction and bright color and enigmatic figures.
IyunOla Sanyaolu (Nigerian, b. 1998)
Oil on canvas, 54 × 54 in. © IyunOla Sanyaolu
Sanyaolu creates extremely painterly images of highly abstract female figures in extremely painterly spaces. Her goal is to express the energy of everyday life and to improve her own mental state and uplift the mindset of those who encounter her works.