Consider such living painters as Cecily Brown, Jenny Saville, Tracey Emin, Kara Walker and Amy Sillman. Recognized for the quality of their work rather than what lies beneath their bloomers, these talented women are increasing female visibility in the art world at-large. As always, however, art trends are changing: in recent years painting has come to be viewed as an antiquated, if not completely dead, medium.
But you can always count on the rebels, the next generation expanding a classic medium. A few exceptional, modern female artists are bringing painting back to life in innovative, exciting, and often hilarious ways. From Internet-inspired portraiture to designer bagel bags, these five women are expand painting beyond the canvas and gender binary. In short, they’re making history.
Meme queen Jeanette Hayes brings the best of the Internet to the Renaissance age with paintings that are at once nostalgic and fresh. She’s an era-clasher — think classical portraits reimagined with Pokémon characters or iPhones in oil on canvas. Through both her insightful work and humorous social media presence (Hayes recently tweeted: “I play keyboard in a band called the Internet”), she approaches art with wide Manga eyes, redrawing the demarcation line between digital and classical as though it never even existed.
Chloe Wise’s paintings (as well as her sculptures — see: bagel bag that the Internet thought was a real Chanel) are a satyrical look at both the art and fashion industry. After said carb tricked the Internet, she told Stylite: “Referencing fashion brands in my work, as well as making fake logos for myself or packaging for my ‘products,’ is my way of being transparent vis-a-vis the use of personal branding in millennial culture.” Her painted meta “selfies” are yet another ironic observation of Gen-Y, and it’s through her own self-reflection that viewers inevitably do the same.
Irish painter Genieve Figgis knows how to capture the beautiful melange of horror and humor that exists somewhere between life and death. Her portraits depict a ghostly, alternate reality. Faces become blurred memories, bodies toggle between modern and historical portraiture, and each image hints at a story that transcends time and space. But there is a slight, wry smile behind those eerie characters, suggesting at a plot twist lingering in the second act.
Who said painting needed to be on a canvas, or even look like a painting? Sam Moyer is breaking new grounds with sculptural paintings that re-conceptualize the hard textures of stone and play with the presence (and lack) of hardness. Whether it’s recreating the look of marble with fabrics and bleach, or laying down a giant slab of the real stuff at Rachel Uffner Gallery, Moyer isn’t afraid to expand the art form of painting and get heavy.
Alice Lancaster paints with a brazen sexuality and true femininity that exists outside the constructs of social conventions, never backing down for fear of offending the masses. You might remember her controversial pro-menstruation American Apparel T-shirt collaboration with friend Petra Collins (the two are involved in the all-female art website The Ardorous), but Lancaster’s work is about more than just shock value. Her slightly augmented portraits are both surreal and recognizable, complicated layers of humanity revealed in every face she paints.