Presenting Ten More Visionaries and Rule Breakers in SAAM’s Collection

The Drawn to Art comic series continues to share the lives of women artists you should know 

A photograph of Howard Kaplan on a plane.
Howard Kaplan
Gabrielle Ching
March 18, 2022
Artist Augusta Savage with her sculpture

Andrew Herman. Augusta Savage with her sculpture Realization, circa 1938. Federal Art Project, Photographic Division collection, circa 1920-1965. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Last summer, we launched the first round of our digital comic series, Drawn to Art: Ten Tales of Inspiring Women Artists, a collaboration with the Ringling College of Art and Design. It was such a wonderful project that we decided to do it again. The second series is underway, again highlighting the lives of women artists whose art is in SAAM's collection but may not have received the attention they deserved during their lifetimes. Their stories span the centuries and reflect artists from different backgrounds creating works of art in their own unique styles. The ten artists we’re including for publication later this year are:

Judith F. Baca

Media - 2019.26A-F - SAAM-2019.26A-F_1 - 141217
Judith F. Baca, Uprising of the Mujeres, 1979, acrylic on six wooden panels, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center, and the Luisita L. and Franz H Denghausen Endowment, 2019.26A-F

(B. 1946, CA) Best known for her mural The Great Wall of Los Angeles, Baca is a Chicana artist, scholar, and community leader. She creates public art projects, often in impoverished neighborhoods, designed to give voice to disenfranchised communities including women, the working poor, youth, elderly, LGBTQ+, and immigrant communities.

Tiffany Chung

A map of the world with lines in red connecting different locations.

Tiffany Chung, Reconstructing an Exodus History: flight routes from camps and of ODP cases, 2017, embroidery on fabric, edition 2/2, Commissioned by Tai Kwun, Courtesy the artist and Tyler Rollins Fine Art, New York. © Tiffany Chung

(B. 1969, Vietnam) Internationally acclaimed artist Tiffany Chung is known for her multimedia work that explores migration, conflict, and shifting geographies in the wake of political and natural upheavals.

Sonya Clark

Large scale installation of fabric made of woven linen with madder dye, on a wodden board.

Sonya Clark, Monumental, 2019, woven linen with madder dye, 180 x 360 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase. Photo courtesy of the artist.

(B. 1967, Washington DC) Known for using a variety of materials—including human hair, combs, and textiles—to address race, culture, class, and history, Clark is one of the most celebrated contemporary craft artists in the United States.

Sarah Goodridge

Media - 1999.27.16 - SAAM-1999.27.16_1 - 13412
Sarah Goodridge, Gilbert Stuart, 1825-1827, watercolor on ivory, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Mary Elizabeth Spencer, 1999.27.16

(1788, MA–1853, MA) Largely self-taught, Goodridge had a long and prolific career as a miniature painter. Her portraits of politicians and other notable figures earned her the distinction of being one of the first American women to be acknowledged as a successful artist.

Ester Hernandez

Media - 1995.50.32 - SAAM-1995.50.32_2-000001 - 138845
Ester Hernandez, Sun Mad, 1982, screenprint on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, 1995.50.32, © 1982, Ester Hernández

(B. 1944, CA) An artist and an activist, Hernandez advocates for worker’s rights, environmental causes, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. She was an early voice of the Chicano Movement and centered the experiences of women in her screenprints.

Loïs Mailou Jones 

Media - 1990.56 - SAAM-1990.56_1 - 67567

Loïs Mailou Jones, Les Fétiches, 1938, oil on linen, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by Mrs. Norvin H. Green, Dr. R. Harlan, and Francis Musgrave, 1990.56

(1905–1998) Artist, teacher, and former cultural ambassador, Jones’s varied body of art includes watercolors, paintings, costumes, textile designs, and collages. Her wide-ranging style, seen in vivid landscapes and Impressionist-style portraits, was influenced by her frequent travels to Africa, Haiti, and Paris. Her legacy extends beyond her own artwork, training several generations of notable African American artists.

Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith

Media - 2004.28 - SAAM-2004.28_2 - 137738

Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, State Names2000, oil, collage and mixed media on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Elizabeth Ann Dugan and museum purchase, 2004.28

(B. 1940, MT) A Native American artist of French Cree, Shoshone, and Salish heritage, Quick-to-See-Smith's artwork blends painting, collage, and surface texture to create scenes that redefine the relationship of land, contemporary life, America's complicated past.

Nellie Mae Rowe

Media - 2019.53.2 - SAAM-2019.53.2_1 - 142444
Nellie Mae Rowe, Shopping in Vinings, Georgia, 1981, watercolor, crayon, and graphite on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Josh Feldstein, 2019.53.2

(1900, GA–1982, GA) A self-taught artist, Rowe used crayon, cardboard, and felt-tip markers to create lively artworks in vibrant colors. She transformed her property into a found-object installation, using materials including dolls, stuffed animals, beads, and bottles to make her surroundings feel alive and joyful.

Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage's sculpture "Gamin"
Augusta Savage, Gamin, ca. 1929, painted plaster, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Benjamin and Olya Margolin, 1988.57

(1892, FL–1962, NY) Despite disapproval and abuse from her father, Harlem Renaissance artist Augusta Savage became a highly recognized sculptor and teacher, achieving her dreams of creating and sharing art.

Kay WalkingStick

Media - 2021.30.3 - SAAM-2021.30.3_1 - 142601

Kay WalkingStick, Orilla Verde at the Rio Grande, 2012, oil on wood panel, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2021.30.3, © Kay Walkingstick, 2016

(B. 1935, NY) An Indigenous artist with a long and complex career working in abstraction and landscapes, WalkingStick infuses her paintings with symbols of spiritual significance and cultural memory from within the Native community.

There is more to come! We are excited to bring you blog posts that take a deeper look into each individual comic as well as behind-the-scenes videos that capture key moments of the illustrators at work. In the meantime, please enjoy our initial series of Drawn to Art and the inspiring stories of women artists in SAAM’s collection.


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