Did your response include any women artists of color?
These are the questions leading the charge for the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ international Women’s History Month social media campaign, #5womenartists. Mia is one of more than 300 organizations around the world participating in this effort to increase gender parity in the arts by sharing the stories of women artists—especially those of women artists of color—and taking action.
Like many art museums in the United States, Mia was founded more than a hundred years ago by wealthy white men. It was built on Native lands, specifically Dakhóta Makhóčhe, the Dakhóta homeland. And our art collection still reflects that history—the collecting habits of a dominant few.
For some time now, our curators have been collecting and exhibiting artwork that begins to counterbalance this historical trend, including works by women and artists of color. They have expanded the once-narrow lens of art history, focused on art by the privileged for the privileged, to acknowledge the overlapping effects of discrimination by gender, race, class, etc.—what scholars have come to call intersectionality. We’ve got our work cut out for us, work that can sometimes feel like shoehorning “diverse” artworks into a biased framework. But we’re going to keep pushing the dial, even if only incrementally, through projects like this.
Here are five artworks by women from the museum’s collection, all of them currently on view at Mia. Come in, experience the art, learn their names, and share!
Currently on view in Gallery 373 as a part of our current rotation of contemporary art thematically aligned around the idea of identity, Counting by Lorna Simpson combines images and text to create narratives open to multiple interpretations. The images here—a cropped portrait of an anonymous black woman, a brick smokehouse that once sheltered enslaved Africans, and braided hair arranged in concentric rings—are accompanied by numerical notations and times of day, representing methods of counting. Simpson invites the viewer to contemplate the experiences of African Americans in various locations across time.
Currently on view in Gallery 375, Andrea Carlson thinks of the way dominant cultures (usually white U.S. or western European) identify others as “exotic” as a kind of “cultural cannibalism”—sensationalizing in order to objectify and consume them, even as they erase them through assimilation. Watch a video about this piece, “Sunshine on a Cannibal” here.
Currently on view in Gallery 275 as a part of “Hard Bodies: Contemporary Japanese Lacquer Sculpture,” an exhibition open through June 24. Sasai Fumie, Associate Professor at Kyoto City University of Arts, says about herself: “I create pieces that are based on forms that I believe have endearing universal appeal, such as flowers, fruit or children. I use matte surfaces and soft forms to express tenderness in order to elicit these feelings from other people.” Learn more about this piece, the artist, and see more of her work here.
Currently on view in Gallery 236 as a part of the museum’s Arts of Africa galleries, contemporary ceramic artist Odundo achieves perfect symmetry in her work without mechanical aids: all of her pieces are formed by handbuilding and coiling techniques. Born in Kenya but trained in Nigeria and New Mexico, Odundo draws on her knowledge of African utilitarian vessels to create her pots while expressing an international, multicultural identity.
Ka Zoua Lee
Currently on view in Gallery 213, “Village Story Blanket” is a pictorial embroidered hanging. In this piece Ka Zoua Lee tells of life in a Hmong village before the Vietnam war. Not only are typical Hmong activities such as field work and food preparation shown, but also the activities of their neighbors, the native Lao people.
And—bonus—here are two more exhibitions featuring artwork by women of color that are also currently on view at Mia:
Ifrah Mansour’s work is featured in “I Am Somali,” on view in Gallery 255 through May 27. Learn more about the artist, including her view on Minnesotans’ micro-aggressions, adding humor to refugee stories, and Mia’s “I am Somali” show here.
Syrian-born Essma Imady’s Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program show “Thicker Than Water” explores the effect of war on children, and is currently on view FREE in the U.S. Bank Gallery (Gallery 257) through June 24, 2018. Learn more about the artist and her work in this review and interview.
Want even more? Follow Mia on Instagram to explore all of our posts from the month of March, and check out the hashtag #5womenartists to learn even more about women artists from museums, activists, artists, individuals, and organizations from across the globe!