March 3, 2017

5 Women Artists + 1

OMCA takes on the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge to name #5WomenArtists for Women’s History Month

By Nani Toda, Center for Audience and Civic Engagement Coordinator

With additional contributions from Claudia Leung, Digital Communications Specialist

For Women’s History Month, the National Museum of Women in the Arts has brought back its annual social media challenge to ask, “Can you name five women artists?” Faced with inequality in the arts world, this challenge is meant to inspire conversation and bring awareness about incredible women to a large audience. This year, OMCA joins over 200 institutions in meeting the challenge by highlighting five incredible living women artists from our collection—and we’re raising you one bonus artist for good measure. These women are diverse as they come in terms of their medium, subject matter, background, and stories. Check out their work in the slideshow above, and read more below on each of these incredible artists.

Libby Black is a Berkeley-based painter working in oil, gouache, and pencil, and a sculptural installation artist. She grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and holds an MFA from the California College of the Arts in Oakland, where she was also an adjunct professor of Painting, Drawing and Fine Arts. She once said, "My current work is based on imagery culled from disparate sources like fashion magazines, snapshots, newspapers, pop culture websites, television, movies and still lifes that I have staged. I am interested in having the work chart a path through personal history and a broader cultural context to explore themes of impermanence and identity." Black’s earlier works are explorations of luxury labels, high-end fashion motifs, and the glitzy emptiness of desire and greed. "I remake high-end luxury goods out of paper, acrylic paint, and hot glue. I also make drawings and paintings. My current work is based on imagery culled from disparate sources like fashion magazines, snapshots, newspapers, pop culture websites, television, movies and still lifes that I have staged.” Her work is currently on view in the Craft section of the Gallery of California Art.

Nancy Hom is a Bay Area-based artist with a focus on cultural and socio-political awareness. Her pieces have been shown in OMCA’s Gallery of California Art and multiple years of the Días de los Muertos exhibitions. Much of her work has been in service to social movements and the broader arts community. Hom was born in Toisan, China and came to the United States when she was five years old. She grew up in New York City and graduated from Pratt Institute in 1971. She moved to San Francisco in 1974. She is an artist, writer, organizer, curator, and arts consultant, who had an important role in developing and leading several Asian American arts organizations in New York City and San Francisco, including serving as the Executive Director of Kearny Street Workshop, the country’s the oldest Asian Pacific American multidisciplinary arts organization.

Grace Carpenter Hudson grew up in Ukiah, and began a series of paintings of Pomo Indians when she realized the Pomos were vanishing. Unlike her predecessors, Hudson's paintings did not portray the Indians as hunters and warriors. She painted domestic scenes—newborns, elders, women gathering seeds or weaving baskets, children at play. Hudson’s paintings sold well, permitting her husband, a doctor, to quit his practice. He now spent his time writing essays on Pomo rituals and beliefs which corresponded to his wife's paintings. in addition, he recorded the Pomo language and developed a valuable collection of Pomo artifacts. Grace and her husband persevered in their work until the turn of the century. Most of their income depended upon her work. Grace Carpenter Hudson died in 1937, having completed 684 paintings, each one meticulously entered in a notebook. Her work is currently on view in the Gallery of California Art.

Helen Nestor was an important documentary photographer who specialized in recording the political and social changes of the 1960s and beyond in California. This included the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, nontraditional California families, Vietnam War protests, California feminists, mid-life women, the early days of busing in the Berkeley Unified School District, street life on Telegraph Avenue and the Haight Ashbury, and the People's Park movement. Nestor produced compelling work in often threatening situations. Born in 1924, Nestor earned a degree in public health at UC Berkeley. She studied photography in the early 1960s with Ansel Adams, Morley Baer, Minor White, and Dorothea Lange. Like Dorothea Lange,  whom she regarded as her spiritual mentor, Nestor survived polio; she used crutches and, eventually, a wheelchair. Nestor also photographed people with disabilities, with a focus on working women and artists. OMCA acquired her archive and celebrated with a solo exhibition of her work, Helen Nestor: Personal and Political, in 2000.

Faith Ringgold is a painter, writer, speaker, mixed media sculptor, and performance artist. Born and raised in Harlem at the end of the Harlem Renaissance, Ringgold originally entered City College of New York to study art, but was directed into art education since art was thought of as strictly a male profession. She went on to teach at the public school and college level. Much of her work dealt with themes of racism and sexism. She also was known for her activism in the New York City art world in the 1970s, bringing attention to the lack of women artists represented in major museums and galleries. Ringgold is professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego where she taught art from 1987 until 2002. She currently lives and works in Englewood, New Jersey. Professor Ringgold is the recipient of more than 75 awards including 22 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degrees. Her work was most recently on view in the special exhibition All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50.

Favianna Rodriguez is an interdisciplinary artist, cultural organizer, and political activist based in Oakland, California. Her work has been shown at OMCA multiple times, in installations and as part of the Gallery of California Art and the Días de los Muertos exhibitions, as well as the All of Us or None exhibition featuring political posters in 2012. Her art and collaborative projects address themes of migration, economic inequality, gender justice, and ecology. She speaks globally on the power of art, cultural organizing, and technology to inspire social change, and leads art workshops in communities around the country. She is the co-founder of CultureStrike, a national arts organization that engages artists, writers and performers in migrant rights, and, a national online organizing network dedicated to the political empowerment of Latinx communities.

Tell us which #5WomenArtists inspire you in the comments below, or on Twitter, at @oaklandmuseumca.