20 Contemporary (Women) Artists You Oughta Know

BY Cristen Conger / POSTED September 15, 2010
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If I had to pick a favorite model for the 2010 Fall Fashion Week happening right now, it would be Cindy Sherman. Granted, the contemporary artist/photographer isn’t strutting down any catwalks at Lincoln Center but she teamed up with designer Balenciaga for an exclusive set of self-portraits that debuted at Fashion’s Night Out last Friday. In signature Sherman style, the self-portraits show her with slathered-on, grotesque makeup — only this time, she was draped in lovely Balenciaga duds.

While Sherman is one of the best-known female contemporary artists out there, she’s just one of many women who have been turning the art world on its ear in recent decades. When Molly and I discussed Guerrilla Girls on Stuff Mom Never Told You and asked listeners to send us suggestions for the best women artists out there today, we got a crash course in contemporary art education in return. Thanks to our art savvy audience, I can now name drop my way through any gallery opening like an A-plus art school grad.

To pass along my newfound knowledge, I’ve compiled a list of 20 contemporary women artists (in no particular order) to get to know and love. Due to copyright issues, I couldn’t include an example of every artist’s work here, but I hope you’ll interpret this luddite-ish list as a reflection of the heteronormative restraints that dominate the Internet landscape of the 21st century.

I kid.

  1. Cindy Sherman — Photographer, model and filmmaker.

    Cindy Sherman portrait Cindy Sherman portraits on display in Rome. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

  2. Sandy Skolund — Sculptor, installation artist and photographer.
  3. Ellen Lupton — Graphic designer and curator.
  4. Kara Walker – Cut paper silhouette installations.

    Walker at the MoMA in front of her work. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

  5. Sally Mann — Photographer, particularly noted for her work on black and white film.
  6. June Leaf – Painter and sculptor
  7. Liz Larner – Conceptual artist. Get inside her head here.
  8. Marina Abramović — Performance artist.

    Abromovic (in red) at “The Artist Is Present” the MoMA’s exhibit. (Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

  9. Paula Scher – Graphic designer who will blow your mind. See her on TED.
  10. Barbara Kruger — Eye-popping collage artist and photographer.
  11. Judy Chicago — Feminist artist, author and  educator.
  12. Andrea Bowers – Feminist artist, specializing in drawings.
  13. Jessica Jackson Hutchins — Ceramics, sculpture and collage artist.  (Full disclosure: Hutchins garnered extra cool points when I learned that she’s married to Pavement front man and personal dreamboat Stephen Malkmus. Judge me freely.)
  14. Louise Bourgeois – Sculptor and founder of “confessional art”.

    Bourgeois’ famous “Maman” sculpture in Paris. (Manuel Cohen/Getty Images)

  15. Zoe Strauss – Photographer. Fun fact: Strauss didn’t start snapping pictures until the age of 30, and in 2006, she landed a spot in the Whitney Biennial.
  16. Louise Lawler – Documentary photographer who takes special aim at the commercialism of the art world.
  17. Adrian Piper – Conceptual artist philosophizing on the side.
  18. Jenny Saville — Brilliant painter who focuses on the female body.

    Artgoers chat in front of Saville’s “Knead”. (Mike Goldwater/Getty Images)

  19. Mariko Mori — Futuristic pop artist and photographer; one of today’s best-known Japanese artists.
  20. Maya Lin — Installation and environmental artist.

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