Kahlo & Kusama: International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Visual Arts looks at some favourite female artists. 


In honour of International Women’s Day, many people have taken to writing, be it in publications or via social media, about the women who have inspired them. One such woman who I hold in high regard is Frida Kahlo. From her vivacious personal style (including layers upon layers of jewellery, fresh flowers donned like a crown and THOSE statement eyebrows), to her eclectic artwork, it’s incredibly difficult not to admire this unique Mexican artist. She was unafraid of tackling difficult subject matter, such as her passionate, and at times rocky, marriage with her muse Diego Rivera. Kahlo’s ability to display women’s frustrations and suffering, particularly her personal experiences of miscarriages, made the viewer question: what exactly is woman?

And it isn’t simply her varied artistic styles, nor her chosen subject matter, that makes her my favourite female artist. From a young age, Kahlo had very poor health, battling polio as a child and later suffering a horrific bus accident that devastated her body, leaving her in permanent pain until her early death at forty-seven. In spite of this, Kahlo harnessed her suffering to create mesmerising artworks that are still greatly admired across the world today. Too many women artists have been marginalised throughout history, so Kahlo’s success is all the more impressive when you consider the chronic pain that plagued her entire professional career. And yet, it did not restrict her aspirations or achievements.


Yayoi Kusama is a female artist  I would like to pay tribute to for International Women’s Day. She is an artist unafraid of owning and displaying her sexuality, using footage of orgies and phalluses in her work. Kusama has remained ahead of her time throughout her (still ongoing) 50 year-long career, with her work ‘Narcissus Garden’ narrating the changing perceptions of the self in the modern age of technology and social media. The arrangement of over a thousand mirrored balls twists the surrounding natural landscape and allows the viewer to confront their own distorted reflection.

The “Polka Dot Princess” was a pioneer in the glamour and playfulness of the Pop Art movement, often overshadowed by her white, male counterparts such as , who was even accused of plagiarising her ideas. It is so refreshing and empowering to see a Japanese female artist in the limelight who is proud of her heritage – Kusama was even known to wear a kimono to private viewings of her shows. She is a woman whose career has spanned generational and cultural divides, and her work is vibrant, disturbing, immersive, and completely unapologetic; making her a more than worthy choice for my favourite female artist.

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