A new generation of feminist artists are favoring a more accessible, democratic method of art sharing, rather than pursuing traditional methods of art-world success like gallery representation and museum shows. What is this method? The internet. In embracing the digital world, they're allowing increased exposure to tough socio-political topics and closer connections to their supporters.
They're finding a particularly hospitable home on Tumblr. These artists are turning their Tumblrs into personal, interactive art galleries. The three-way dialogue between artist, artwork and viewer is rare in its intimacy and distance. Their pages host incredible art, yes, but also community and connection. In these discussions, burgeoning feminists are able to ask their mentors about their perspectives and gain valuable guidance. (For proof, see this exchange about embracing feminism and learning more about it.) It's radically gentle, based on awareness, support and understanding.
From comic illustrators to graphic designers, here are 13 feminist artists on Tumblr to watch.
1. Anna Higgins
Higgins is an artist and illustrator from Wellington, New Zealand. Her work consists primarily of beautiful, simplistic line drawings of women, accompanied with clever phrases. Together, her words and images form an empowering digital journal. Slightly sarcastic and totally wonderful, these drawings are a fascinating perspective on feminism and self-expression.
2. La Fille Bertha
The Italian artist creates wonderfully whimsical drawings of women. Painted on walls, tiny cars, paper, clothing and even as tattoos, these images have an ever-so-slight punk-rock defiance to them. They're beautiful, but not in the stereotypical Western tradition — there are no beautiful blonde women depicted here. As such, their appeal is singular and undeniable.
3. Cheyenne Federiconi (SUGARBONES)
A self-described "little candy-coated skeleton with a fetish for cute," graphic artist Federiconi is not only self-assured and confident, she's inspiring young artists. This 24-year-old art school grad heard a lot of responses to her decision to pursue a career in the arts — many of them negative or questioning. She didn't listen.
Now, she's built a business by selling original stickers, patches, posters, prints and more. Others looking to take her example should, in her own words, "make stuff that will make someone's day, make stuff for yourself! The only thing holding you back from building your empire is not laying down the first brick. Start now!"
4. Jenn Woodall
Woodall is a Toronto-based artist, comic-maker and zine illustrator. She's the editor of FIGHT! zine, which features female fighting game characters. Her aesthetic has powerful '90s and early '00s overtones, with X-Files references and Sailor Moon-inspired illustrations. Many of her images are also imbued with a kind of self-aware creepiness; it's precisely this quality which sets her work apart from many of the other artists on this list and which makes her work so compelling.
5. Carol Rossetti
Of the women on this list, Portuguese artist Rossetti is one of the most positive and directly empowering. She deals with race, body positivity, gender, addiction and so much more in her series, called Women. Each drawing is accompanied by a supportive and inspiring message, urging these women to be nothing more or less than their best and most generous selves. The series was turned into a book earlier this year, in both English and Portuguese. These days, she's working on a series of feminist comic strips called Colors.
6. Lora Mathis
Like Nan Goldin and Cindy Sherman before her, Mathis uses photography and self-portraiture to question the nature of identity and how gender fits into that picture. In addition to her photography, she writes poems and provides advice to her readers via Tumblr. She is one of a handful of artists on this list who have become both a source of inspiration and a trusted friend to her followers through this open communication. Her work — from poetry to photography and everything in between — is raw, emotional and extremely intimate.
7. Ambivalently Yours
As an individual, Ambivalently Yours is an anonymous Canadian illustrator, installation artist and designer. Her work is conscious and considered, re-interpreting a color (pink) and a movement (feminism) that have a lot of connotations. As a movement, Ambivalently Yours is a public art movement that embraces ambivalence, open-mindedness, awareness and even indecision.
"It is rigidity that makes you passive, because it leaves no room for error or growth," she said in an interview with Be Your Own Muse. Similar to Mathis, she has also become a trusted adviser to her fans. In fact, many of her drawings are direct responses to reader submissions, providing love, support and understanding.
8. Kendra Candraw
Candraw is a 24-year-old illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York, who works in a stuffed animal design company. Many of her creations are reimagined or reinterpreted celebrity portraits. Especially lately, those portraits are often of One Direction. However, her online store features more of her feminist illustrations. Her strongest works combine words and images, and often juxtapose the softness of her figures with the force of her ideas.
9. Lisa Czech
She's a comic illustrator from Montreal whose work is subversive, subtle and even slightly violent. Like some other artists on this list, she's involved with zines and feminist comics. Most of her drawings are vaguely unsettling, despite (or perhaps because) something about them feels so familiar, like a dark-side Margaret Kilgallen. Many of her drawings are politically aware, but some are simply interesting, detailed, even loving portraits.
10. Lindsay Bottos
Bottos was one of the first feminist Tumblr artists whose work went viral, in part because it was so brutal. In her Anon series, which was covered by media outlets like BuzzFeed, Bottos offered a shocking sample of the anonymous messages she received every day. The series featured selfies with screencaps of anonymous messages, which she said she received most frequently after posting selfies and which were related to, if not a direct result of, her gender.
Bottos has continued to make other gender-conscious work, but this piece stands as a remarkable window into the way many women are treated online.
11. Rebecca Cohen
The comic artist and illustrator is the mastermind behind works like this women's history poster, as well as the Social Justice League superhero Gyno-Star. In works like this, she takes a serious stand for the importance of feminism. In her Gyno-Star comics, her goal is the same, but her approach is different. Gyno-Star is a female superhero who fights the forces of evil and male chauvinism with sarcasm and self-awareness.
12. Natalya Lobanova
Lobanova, also known as Happy 2 B Sad, is the slightly depressive yet always fun friend who lives on the internet. While she does create some hyper-realistic paintings, her strongest pieces are the tongue-in-cheek line drawings or intentionally crude paintings. These images, in their directness, illustrate insights and even frustration with both contemporary culture and interpersonal tragedicomedies. Her work is funny, spirited and most of all, smart. She's teen-approved, too, as she counts Tavi Gevinson among her fans.
Textile artist Yrurari may be the best thing from Iceland since Bjork. Her beautifully strange artwork is intelligent, irreverent and refreshing. Many of her pieces deal with phallic, vaginal or other genitalia-inspired shapes and themes, questioning how we see each other and ourselves. In using textiles, she's also making a powerful statement on the nature of women's work and the fine line between art and craft. These ideas, when expressed through technicolor yarn, become mesmerizing, approachable and even satirical.