Art is essential to the human spirit. Where would we be without our creatives, our musicians, our storytellers, our painters, our performers? Our hearts go out to all the artists whose work has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. In the spirit of gratitude, here are some of the incredible women whose creations have kept us inspired during the tedium of quarantine. These women grace us with a profound talent, intellect, and ability to imagine what’s possible.
Linsday Degen has created a surprising new platform for knitwear in the fashion world. The Brooklyn-based designer launched her first collection, ASK TELL, in 2012, a celebration of the repeal on the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. Degen’s first show made a big splash for its quirky and innovative ready-to-wear knit designs, and Degen has been going strong ever since. Clearly passionate about issues surrounding gender and identity, Degen collaborated directly with Converse to put out the “genderless” CONVERSE SHAPES collection this year, a response to a very 2020 question: “What if clothing was made agnostic of gender?” We love Degen, not only for her politics, but for her beautiful imagination and ability to imagine what’s possible. At a base level, just looking at photos of Degen’s whimsical work makes us smile, and that has a tremendous value on its own.
For decades the male gaze has been most insurmountably present in comic books. Toronto-based illustrator, Jenn Woodall, gives us the fun fantasy of comic illustration with a much needed feminist lens. Woodall illustrates females with curves, tattoos, piercings, and clothing styles that are wholly authentic to the 2020 woman. While we enjoy seeing the stickers, one-pagers, and commissions she shares consistently on socials, Woodall also publishes narrative comics that tackle struggles based on her own journey with anxiety and depression. We highly encourage you to follow Woodall’s incredible work @funeralbeat on Instagram.
Minnesota-based choreographer and artistic director of Ananya Dance Theatre, Ananya Chatterjea, makes our list of creatives with 2020 vision because of her incredible work at the intersection of dance and social justice. Known for choreographing poignant responses to global issues like oil, water, immigration, violence, and misogyny, Chatterjea’s excellence as a contemporary-Indian choreographer is compounded with her reputation in the academic world as an award-winning scholar, published author, and public speaker. She is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Joyce Award, and countless grants for the development of new work by Ananya Dance Theatre.
While her long list of awards and accolades is an indication of her incredible impact, one need not look further than her latest work to understand the importance of Chatterjea’s voice in our world. As noted on her website, Ananya Dance Theatre’s latest work, Agun, focuses on “stories of families torn apart, women assaulted and abandoned, and children tortured and lost during the partition of India in 1947, and again, with the recent escalation of violence along the India-Pakistan border, the current crisis around immigration at the U.S.- Mexico border, and the 150-mile forced march of Dakota people in 1862.” Chatterjea’s creative ability to tell the difficult stories that need to be told is what we need in 2020. We look forward to following her dance-making and writing for many years to come.
The work of Brooklyn-based photographer, Dana Scruggs, is reliably breath-taking. While Scruggs can more recently boast dozens of major magazine covers, from ESPN to Rolling Stone, we’ve been a fan of her fresh point of view since discovering her shoot with Adonis Boso in 2014. Scruggs has been celebrated for shattering barriers and assumptions as a black female photographer. We find ourselves inspired again and again, because Scruggs proves that at the core of any artist’s work is a unique and unrelenting vision. Movement and physicality is a clear motif in the work of Scruggs. Maintaining a minimalist approach to styling and production design, her ability to capture her subjects in motion is her genius. In a world where everyone with an iPhone fancies themselves an artist, Dana Scruggs proves why we still need photographers.
She is not a new or emerging voice. She is not an artist who needs your charity or attention. Rupi Kaur is one of the greatest voices of our time and the only poet you need to know in 2020. A #1 New York Times Bestselling Author, having had her poetry books translated and published into over thirty languages, Kaur shared with Rolling Stone, “…It all just goes back to the human emotion. Sadness looks the same across all cultures, races, and communities. So does happiness and joy.” In just a few lines of poetry, Kaur has the ability to comfort, heal, and root her readers in understanding.
Many have attributed Kaur’s success to her ability to grow a following on Instagram, where she has over 2 million followers, some even calling her an “Instapoet.” For Kaur, it’s about accessibility and garnering a following for the genre of poetry, which doesn’t fly off bookstore shelves as easily as it did in the 1900’s. Whether you purchase one of her books or just follow her on Instagram, we hope you enjoy Kaur’s writing as much as we have. In these overwhelming times of isolation, sometimes all you need is a few good words.
Adrianne Lenker has that special thing you just can’t put your finger on. Having written her first song at age eight, Lenker put out two folk/pop albums before her sixteenth birthday. After emancipating her music career from her father, she set off on her own to study music on the east coast. Lenker first met her Big Thief bandmates while studying at Berklee School of Music. After graduating, Lenker and the band set roots in Brooklyn and released Big Thief’s cardinal album a few years later in 2016. Since then, they’ve been touring constantly and have released three more albums. Lenker is often noted for her magical lyricism and voice that embodies everything timeless about the best folk music. Watching her live, Lenker delivers a performance that pulls you in and never lets you go. Her unique energy, fragile voice, and powerful musicality create an experience that feels devoid of space and time. Whatever it is, we want more.
A Kat Webber music video has an ethereal vibe and attention to the female perspective that can only belong to the Canadian director. Creating beautiful worlds though natural lighting, thoughtful color palettes, and analog video are monikers of Webber’s work that keep us hungry for more. Having spent years as a post-production editor of international campaigns, feature films, and award winning music videos, Webber did more than earn her position as the creative center of recent music videos for Kiana Lede, Amaal, and DaniLeigh. Webber is still in the first years of her directing career and we have no doubt that her vision will take us to the stars.
The mission statement of Megan Lionel Murphy really says it all. She paints “heartbroken women that magically grow larger, stronger, and scarier than the world around them.” Following Murphy on Instagram, the Wisconsin-based artist is unabashed in speaking on her experiences with domestic violence. The beauty in Murphy’s work plays out in how those traumas have resulted in artwork that inspires healing for her and so many others. Looking at Murphy’s work, it’s hard not to feel a dichotomy between how beautiful the paintings are and their dark subject matter, but this is what artists do best. Turning trauma into art is one of the greatest ways that Murphy and so many other creatives help us look at the world and ourselves intimately. Murphy’s giant women are just one example. In her words, “They grow so big, nothing can hurt them anymore.”
Birds of Prey director, Cathy Yan, started 2020 with a bang. The superhero film starring Margot Robbie was a big hit, and while Birds of Prey was only her second feature film to date, all eyes are on Yan as one of Hollywood’s most passionate emerging female filmmakers. Born in China and raised between Hong Kong and Washington D.C., Yan brings a global perspective to her work, compounded with her experience as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal. Speaking on her objective lens, Yan shared with the Washington Post, “I have always been able, in an almost journalistic way, to take a step back and observe — analytically and anthropologically and sociologically… the movies I want to make always have to have a conversation not only with myself about personal growth, but also with the culture at large.” Yan is an inspiration to us, not only for her films, but for her journey as a multi-hyphenate creative. Whether reporting, writing, directing, or producing, Yan is an unstoppable force and undoubtedly on the road to becoming one of our greatest female auteurs.
The work of Olivia Bee speaks truth to the saying… one picture is worth a thousand words. Bee’s portfolio is staggering for her 25 years of age. Since her first photo book, Kids in Love, was published in 2016, Bee’s career has taken off, with many notable client commissions including Converse, Valentino, Apple Music, Vans, Netflix, Billboard, and countless celebrity subjects, from Lorde and Katy Perry, to Kesha and Miley Cyrus. With a body of work that ranges from fully produced editorial commissions to raw and authentic photojournalism, Bee has been most celebrated for capturing the American youth. Every generation needs its voice behind the lens. Gen Z found theirs in Olivia Bee, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.