12 Contemporary Spanish Female Artists Who Will Empower You
Whoever said the future is female hit the mark! Spanish female artists are redefining Spain’s contemporary art scene, the masterpieces and influence of women are in reputable museums and galleries around the world. The older and new generations of Spanish female artists are taking over, acquiring more visibility, and fighting for recognition of their contributions to modern and contemporary art.
A Brief Look at Spanish Contemporary Art
The term “contemporary art” defines pieces of art and architecture from the 20th century onward. Modern Spanish art dates back to the 19th century, to a time when the country experienced social instability, economic rivalry, and political turmoil. People wanted a change, and Spanish artists were looking to stir things up and use their voices.
A revolution in the arts started and new manifestations that broke the conventional art model once appreciated started appearing. Spanish artists introduced new techniques, materials and styles. These avant-garde currents known as ismos (isms), with the most emblematic being impresionismo (impressionism), cubismo (cubism), expresionismo (expressionism) and surrealismo (surrealism) became a part of Spain’s contemporary art scene.
This art revolution came to stay, plus Spanish contemporary art continues to evolve. Current events, irony, and a sense of humor play a big part in the message modern art communicates. Spanish artists and their modern creations have earned their place in well-known museums, and different forms of Spanish art like music, photography, sculpture, and performance art can be admired all around the world.
Spanish Female Artists are Breaking Barriers
Spanish art has come a long way, but there was a time when museums rarely included women in their collections, places like Museo del Prado only had four Spanish female artists in their entire collection and the industry was dominated by men.
Luckily times changed, powerful artists are campaigning for women’s rights, and finally, creative spaces like inclusive museums and all female galleries are starting to boom in cities like Barcelona.
Spanish female artists deserve this long-awaited recognition and honoring their legacies is essential to the future and inspiration of society and younger generations.
I invite you to celebrate and honor these talented women with me, let’s take a look at 12 contemporary Spanish female artists who will empower your creativity.
1. Cristina Iglesias
Born 1956 in San Sebastián
Cristina is a sculptor and engraver from the Basque Country. She’s known for using different materials like alabaster, resine, iron and organic waste applied to different techniques that focus on enhancing textures and space. She started small in the 1980’s with local expos and has come a long way in the international contemporary arts scene.
She’s held exhibitions in Switzerland, Taipei, Paris, Canada, Venice, United Kingdom and the United States’ Carnegie Institute. In 1999 she was honored with the Premio Nacional de Artes and currently has pieces in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), London’s Tate Gallery, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Barcelona (MACBA), and other reputable museums around the world.
Her most famous creation is located in Madrid, this grand piece is known as the puerta-escultura (sculpted doors), and it’s the entry door of one in three buildings of the Museo del Prado. The towering work of art is 19 feet tall and weighs 22 tons, it’s considered indestructible and memorable for all visitors of the museum.
2. Maruja Mallo
Born 1902 Viveiro
Painter and Illustrator
Maruja is the pioneer of avant-garde Spanish female artists of the 20th century and a great friend of surrealist Salvador Dalí. Maruja studied art in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid. She was a painter and illustrator, who belonged to literary art circles of Spanish society.
Her style is known for twisting visible reality and combining it with the dream world, it’s expressive, colorful, and has defined contours. Maruja worked as a professor and held her first exhibition in 1935. While she was exiled to Argentina after the Spanish civil war, she was able to return to Spain in the 1960’s where she passed away in Madrid 35 years later, in 1995.
Art connoisseurs consider her the first Spanish female artist to dabble in surreal art. Her works of art can be appreciated in the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía.
3. Remedios Varo
Born 1908 in Girona
Even though Remedios is Catalan, her surrealist style blossomed in Mexico and she thought of herself as Mexican at heart.
She was a member of the opposition during the Spanish Civil War, and because of her honest criticism of the dictatorship, the powers-that-be incarcerated her briefly and forced her to leave the country. She moved to Paris before heading to Mexico. Upon arrival, she befriended Frida Kahlo and gained most of her inspiration from the colorful life she lived in Mexico.
In her works, Remedios Varo sought to transfigure the role of women as an object of male desire, and as such they’re depicted as alchemists, witches, and spiritual beings. Remedios created alternative worlds, where imagination fuses with reality creating new forms. Throughout her life, Remedios participated in over 95 shared exhibitions and 14 completely dedicated to her life’s work. She passed away in Mexico City in 1963.
Her entire collection is available in Mexico’s Museo de Arte Moderno (MAM).
4. Maria Blanchard
Born 1881 in Santander
Maria Blanchard’s known for her paintings in cubist style. She was born with severe disabilities and a deformed spine, which produced walking difficulties. Children of her childhood teased Maria relentlessly as she grew up, which scarred her emotionally and caused the development of psychological traumas. She found art as a way of expressing her feelings and escaping her troubles. She studied in Madrid, learning the lush use of colors and precision in drawing, which are key elements of her compositions.
She spent time in Paris where she hung around other Spanish artists who influenced her own cubist style. Maria’s work became figurative, colorful, and expressive over the years. Some even considered her work to be intimidating and harsh because it was emotional and strong. She died at the young age of 51 in 1932.
5. Naia del Castillo
Born 1975 in Bilbao
Sculpture and Photography
Naia del Castillo is an innovative multidisciplinary photographer and sculptor who’s received many grants and awards. She has lived and worked in Bilbao, Rotterdam, London, Barcelona, París, Roma, New York, Hong Kong, and Madrid.
Her pieces question the division between existence and meaning, you’ll find elements related to the body, women’s issues, everyday life and nature. Her work is included in the collections of Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía, Houston ‘s Fine Arts Museum, and more.
Since 2016, she’s worked as a professor and is writing her doctoral thesis on the relationships between sculpture and photography in current artistic practices. Naia holds a bright future ahead and she’s written for different art publications and media.
6. Erlea Maneros Zabala
Born 1977 in Bilbao
Multidisciplinary photographer, painter and illustrator
Erlea Maneros Zabala is Basque artist living between Spain and Joshua Tree, California. She’s known for fusing groups of images, examining their conditions of production, their effects, and observing the contexts in which they’re created, archived, and displayed.
Her works of art challenge the traditional and create unique abstract objects. She ‘s held solo exhibitions in the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum and the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía. She’s considered a pioneer of contemporary art in the Basque community.
7. Carmen Laffon
Born 1934 in Sevilla
Painter and sculptor
Formed in Sevilla, Carmen’s art beginnings started thanks to her father’s support. She entered art school at the young age of fifteen in her hometown and after three years continued her formation in Madrid and Paris.
Currently Carmen is a professor of fine arts and was named an academic by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid. Carmen represented Spain in international exhibits and received the Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas (National Prize of Plastic Arts) in 1982.
Her works of art reflect her independence, freedom and radical style. Her techniques include charcoal, pastel and oil painting; she focuses on landscapes, still life, portraits, and everyday objects. Carmen still lives in Sevilla and has four of her creations on display at the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía.
8. Lara Almarcegui
Born 1972 in Zaragoza
Photographer and conceptual artist
Lara Almarcegui is unique among Spanish female artists and her art is mindblowing and unconventional. She carries out artistic interventions and installations, recognized for its series of demolitions, self-constructions, and wasteland.
Her work leaves room for different interpretations and examines a process or urban transformation brought by social, economical, and political changes. Lara focuses on the unconventional and overlooked, she uses construction materials and wastelands. As a part of her creative process, Lara photographs the sites and collects data about the vacant areas before they’re transformed.
You could say she’s sort of a modern archaeologist who questions the current state, development, and decay of spaces. Her participation in 2013’s Venice Biennale was a deconstruction of the property where it was held and presented a display of the same materials and quantities used by employees when it was built. It was a mind-blowing display accompanied by exhaustive research, incorporating geology and mining to analyze the uncontrollable urbanization of Venice.
Lara is a groundbreaking artist who has her own gallery in Madrid and is currently living and working in Rotterdam.
9. Esther Ferrer
Born 1937 in San Sebastián
Performance Art and photography
Esther is an interdisciplinary artist focused on feminist performance art and considered one of the strongest Spanish female artists of her generation. She started doing individual interventions in the middle of the 1960’s and also performed as a member of an art collective named ZAJ. She represented Spain in the Venice Biennale in 1997 and was granted the Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas (National prize of Plastic Arts) in 2012.
Esther’s works carry irony and humor as they apply the use of non-conventional materials like photographs, cable, and everyday objects. She’s recognized worldwide and her art’s taken her to exhibit in Germany, England, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Poland, Brasil, Thailand, Mexico, Japan, and Korea.
10. Cristina Lucas
Born 1973 in Jaén
Performance art, happening, video, photography, installation, drawing, and painter
Cristina Lucas lives and works in Madrid. She’s a multidisciplinary artist who focuses on analyzing main political and economic structures so she can reveal contradictions between official history, reality, and memory.
Cristina’s art and message is embodied through installations or images. She’s known for questioning and bending the concept of gender, for her unique perspective, and strong feminist ideals. Her work’s been presented in individual exhibitions in Mexico, Luxembourg, Shanghai and Moscow.
11. Julia Spinola
Born 1979 in Madrid
Sculpture and Drawing
Julia has a degree in Fine Arts from the Complutense University of Madrid. Her work is focused on the relationship between gestures, materials, body, and space. She uses concrete and different recycled materials in her pieces. The perspective of her work is often variable and depends on the observer.
She participated in international individual and shared exhibitions along with other Spanish female artists. She was granted the Premio Ojo Crítico de Artes Plásticas (Critical Eye Award for Plastic Arts) in 2013.
12. Dora García
Born 1965 in Valladolid
Performance art, photography and film
Dora Garcia’s work presents multiple realities. She’s a film director, performance artist, and interventor who focuses on telling stories by placing you in a scenario where you’re able to question everything around it. She’s highly conceptual and her work has texts, sound, drawings, photographs, video, and installations restricted to specific locations.
Dora invites her audience to participate in her art, where each of her exhibitions is an experience and leaves viewers with altered perceptions or with a degree of skepticism and discomfort. Her art has traveled to Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv and was in the Venice Biennale in 2011. Dora’s creative, imaginative, and modern techniques are conquering the arts of the digital world.
Also for you: 8 types of Spanish music and Latin American music.
Share your Thoughts!
I hope you’re feeling as creative and inspired as I am after reading this blog post! Now you’re familiarized with the diversity in contemporary art and how Spanish female artists are vital to the industry. These women are set to inspire younger generations of artists to be just as innovative as them. Can you think of any Spanish artists who’ve inspired you? Let me know in the comments below and let’s start a conversation!
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