By Jenny Horn
American Artist Appreciation Month is celebrated across the U.S. throughout August. From Andy Warhol to Georgia O’Keeffe, America has been home to many extraordinary artists throughout history. American Artist Appreciation Month was started with the simple aim to celebrate artists and the incredible work that they do, as art is not just something beautiful to look at – it also reflects the human condition, emotions, and ambitions. Art portrays what we are trying to convey when words fail, but often female artists have to work twice as hard to showcase their work and pave their own way in a still largely male-dominant field. Celebrate American Artist Appreciation month today by discovering new female American artists by browsing this week’s female artist highlight, and stay tuned for a new feature each week this month, showcasing just a small portion of America’s phenomenal female artists today and throughout history. This weeks’ post features Faith Ringgold, Lorna Simpson, and Keri Ataumbi!
Faith Ringgold, born 1930 in Harlem, New York, is a painter, mixed media sculptor, performance artist, writer, teacher and lecturer. She received her B.S. and M.A. degrees in visual art from the City College of New York in 1955 and 1959. Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of California in San Diego, Ringgold has received 23 Honorary Doctorates. She made her first quilt, Echoes of Harlem, in 1980, in collaboration with her mother, Madame Willi Posey. The quilts were an extension of her tankas from the 1970’s. However, these paintings were not only bordered with fabric but quilted, creating for her a unique way of painting using the quilt medium. Crown Publishers published Faith Ringgold’s first book, the award winning Tar Beach in 1991. It has won over 20 awards including the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King award for the best-illustrated children’s book of 1991. An animated version with Natalie Cole as the voice over was created by HBO in 2010. The book is based on the story quilt of the same title from The Woman on a Bridge Series, 1988. The original painted story quilt, Tar Beach, is in the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
Lorna Simpson received her BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts, New York, and her MFA from the University of California, San Diego. When Lorna Simpson emerged from the graduate program at San Diego in 1985, she was already considered a pioneer of conceptual photography. Feeling a strong need to re-examine and re-define photographic practice for contemporary relevance, Simpson was producing work that engaged the conceptual vocabulary of the time by creating exquisitely crafted documents that are as clean and spare as the closed, cyclic systems of meaning they produce. Her initial body of work alone helped to incite a significant shift in the view of the photographic art’s transience and malleability.
Lorna Simpson first became well-known in the mid-1980s for her large- scale photograph-and-text works that confront and challenge narrow, conventional views of gender, identity, culture, history and memory. With unidentified figures as a visual point of departure, Simpson uses the figure to examine the ways in which gender and culture shape the interactions, relationships and experiences of our lives in contemporary America. In the mid-1990s, she began creating large multi-panel photographs printed on felt that depict the sites of public – yet unseen – sexual encounters. Over time she turned to film and video works in which individuals engage in enigmatic conversations that seem to address the mysteries of both identity and desire.
Throughout her body of work, Simpson questions memory and representation, whether in her moving juxtaposition of text and image, in her haunting video projection Cloudscape and its echo in the felt work Cloud, or in her large-scale video installation Momentum which recreates a childhood dance performance. Using the camera as a catalyst, Simpson constructs work comprising text and image, parts to wholes, which comment on the documentary nature of found or staged images.
In Simpson’s latest works, characteristic ambivalence is presented with hazy ink washes to present isolated figures amidst nebulous spaces -– a return to and departure from her earlier unidentified figures in a deepened exploration of contemporary culture. Her works have been exhibited at and are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Haus der Kunst; Munich amongst others. Important international exhibitions have included the Hugo Boss Prize at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, Documenta XI in Kassel, Germany, and the 56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy. She was awarded the J. Paul Getty Medal in 2019. Lorna Simpson is represented by Hauser & Wirth.
Raised on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Keri Ataumbi was exposed to both traditional Native American aesthetics and contemporary art theory and practice from an early age. Her Kiowa mother ran a trading post and her Italian-American father is famous for his bronze sculptures. Ataumbi and her sister were encouraged to pursue their individual interests in art. Ataumbi attended Rhode Island School of Design before moving to Santa Fe in 1990.
After moving to Santa Fe she worked as a landscape designer while attending the Institute of American Indian Arts and eventually received a BFA in painting with a minor in art history from the College of Santa Fe. She currently lives and works in the Cerrillos Hills outside Santa Fe. Regarding her work, Ataumbi explains that “my jewelry falls into the category of wearable art as it has a conceptual narrative exploration at its core. I am Native American, I use traditional Kiowa imagery and materials in contemporary form. This inquiry happens through an exploration of imagery and materials to create a small sculpture complete upon its own, as well as worn on the body. Informed by current visual culture, the history and theory of modern art and my personal aesthetic, my goal is to create work that strives to embrace contemporary jewelry making strategies by applying artistic methodologies that are different from traditional design processes. Different in that their dynamic comes from a content-based enquiry rather than tried and true design, marketability or a traditional form.”