Drawn to Art: Ten Tales of Inspiring Women Artists
Drawn to Art illuminates the stories of ten women artists, some of whom may not have received the attention they deserved in their lifetimes. Each has artwork represented in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Inspired by graphic novels, these short takes on artists’ lives were drawn by ten women student-illustrators from the Ringling College of Art and Design. In creating this project, we wanted to give young people the opportunity to identify with the struggles and triumphs of ten visionaries and rule breakers, to see themselves reflected, and to draw strength from that visibility.
Can art make a difference in your life? We think so! And after reading the comics, we hope you’re inspired to learn more about each artist, while also holding them up as a mirror to see yourself, perhaps in a whole new light.
Alma Thomas became the first woman to graduate from the art department at Howard University, as well as one of the first Black women to receive a degree in art. Her exuberant, colorful paintings explore the natural world around us, from garden to galaxy.
Carmen Herrera was born in Havana, Cuba, then lived in Paris before moving to New York City in 1952. She faced discrimination in the art world for being an immigrant and a woman and only found success late in life for her minimal, beautiful works.
Corita Kent joined a religious order after high school and became fascinated with screen printing. She would go on to be described as “the pop art nun who combined the sensibility of Andy Warhol with social justice,” and helped to bring a little more color to the world.
The daughter of a Haitian father and an Ojibwe mother Lewis overcame many obstacles before finding success as a sculptor in Rome, where her fame brought countless visitors to her studio.
Kay Sekimachi and her family were forced into a Japanese incarceration camp during WWII. There, she spent her time making art. After the war, she discovered weaving and her innovative practices and mastery of techniques earned her the sobriquet “the Weaver’s Weaver.”
Born in 1845, the American painter known for her depiction of flowers described herself as a “Garden-Thirsty Soul.” Her promising career was overshadowed by her marriage to a more famous artist. Her artworks remain unsurpassed in celebrating the beauty of the natural world.
When contemporary artist Mickalene Thomas was in art school, she couldn’t afford traditional materials and gravitated towards craft stores and the glitter and rhinestones within. Her paintings speak to female empowerment and of women of color owning and defining their own spaces.
Romaine Brooks suffered an abusive childhood but triumphed as an adult, embracing gender fluidity and her queer identity. Her fierce independence is inspiring to people today.
Generous support has been provided by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. Special thanks to the Ringling College of Art and Design.