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 in this week’s female artist highlight, and stay tuned for a new feature each week through August, showcasing just a small portion of America’s phenomenal female artists today and throughout history. 

This week’s feature includes Mickalene Thomas, Carmen Lomas Garza, and Barbara Kruger!

Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas, A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y, 2009; Plastic rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel on panel, 24 x 20 x 1 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Deborah Carstens; © Mickalene Thomas, Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin: Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Mickalene Thomas lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, and makes paintings, collages, photography, video, and installations that draw on art history and popular culture to create a contemporary vision of female sexuality, beauty, and power. Blurring the distinction between object and subject, concrete and abstract, real and imaginary, Thomas constructs complex portraits, landscapes, and interiors in order to examine how identity, gender, and sense-of-self are informed by the ways women (and “feminine” spaces) are represented in art and popular culture. Thomas has been awarded multiple prizes and grants, including the USA Francie Bishop Good & David Horvitz Fellow (2015), Anonymous Was A Woman Award (2013), Brooklyn Museum Asher B. Durand Award (2012), and the Timerhi Award for Leadership in the Arts (2010).

Learn more about Mickalene Thomas on her website!

Carmen Lomas Garza

Carmen Lomas Garza, Quincenera 2006, Lithograph. 

Carmen Lomas Garza was born in Kingsville, Texas, in 1948. Inspired by her parent’s activism with the American G.I. Forum, Garza joined the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. She is a recipient of numerous awards and has exhibited her work in galleries and museums across the United States, and has had several major one-person exhibitions in the United States including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden/Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris in New York City in 1995, the Smith College Museum in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1992, and The Mexican Museum in San Francisco in 1987.

Garza’s artwork was the subject of an interactive exhibition for children organized by the Austin Children’s Museum in 2003 in Austin, Texas. The exhibition traveled for 5 years to children’s museums in the United States. In 2019 the John E. Conner Museum at Texas A&M University in Kingsville, Texas acquired this exhibition “In My Family” and installed it permanently in the museum.

Learn more about Carmen Lomas Garza on her website!

Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger, 1989
Untitled (Your body is a battleground)

Barbara Kruger was born in 1945 in Newark, New Jersey. Kruger briefly attended Syracuse University, then Parsons School of Design in New York City, where she studied with artists and photographers Marvin Israel and Diane Arbus. Kruger worked in graphic design for Condé Nast Publications at Mademoiselle magazine, and was promoted to head designer within a year, at the age of twenty-two. Kruger has described her time in graphic design as “the biggest influence on my work…[it] became, with a few adjustments, my ‘work’ as an artist.” In the early 1970s, Kruger started showing artwork in galleries in New York. At the time, she was mainly working in weaving and painting. However, she felt that her artwork lacked meaning, and in 1976, she quit creating art entirely for a year.

She took a series of teaching positions, including at University of California, Berkeley. When she began making art again in 1977, she had moved away from her earlier style into photo and text collages. In 1979, Kruger developed her signature style using large-scale black-and-white images overlaid with text. She repurposed found images, juxtaposing them with short, pithy phrases printed in Futura Bold or Helvetica Extra Bold typeface in black, white, or red text bars. In addition to creating text and photographic works, Kruger has produced video and audio works, written criticism, taught classes, curated exhibitions, designed products, such as T-shirts and mugs, and developed public projects, such as billboards, bus wraps, and architectural interventions.

Learn more about Barbara Kruger's life and art on the David Zwirner exhibit website!

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