The Eight Most Inspiring Mothers in Contemporary Art The Eight Most Inspiring Mothers in Contemporary Art

The Eight Most Inspiring Mothers in Contemporary Art

by Yasha Wallin

May 15, 2013

Margaret Kilgallen
In her short time on Earth, Margaret Kilgallen helped define San Francisco's "Mission School" aesthetic, and subsequently inspired a new wave of art making with an allegiance to the streets. At just 33, she was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant. She opted out of chemotherapy to carry her pregnancy through and died three weeks after the birth of her daughter, with husband and collaborator Barry McGee.
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Lorna Simpson
Lorna Simpson revolutionized the field of conceptual photography with work that challenges our notions of gender, identity, race, culture, and sexuality. In 1993, Simpson was the first African American artist to show in the important Venice Biennale. She was already established in her career when she had her daughter at age 38.
Lorna and Zora Simpson 2007 Gap ad

Shirin Neshat
Shirin Neshat explores women's roles and ideas of femininity in her home country of Iran and in relation to Islamic fundamentalism. She does this by creating arresting imagery—often incorporating Persian poetry and calligraphy—and through film, and performance. Along with raising a son, she's also been vocal politically: she was involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and in 2009 she joined a three-day hunger strike to protest the Iranian presidential election that year.
Image via Barbara Gladstone Gallery

Jenny Holzer
Twitter wasn't even conceived when Jenny Holzer became know for her "truisms"—short statements that capture powerful sentiments like "IT IS MAN'S FATE TO OUTSMART HIMSELF." In 1989 she became the first female artist chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, and that same year, the birth of her first child inspired her piece "Laments," one of the more personal and angst-ridden pieces about motherhood, violation, pain, torture, and death. She clearly strives to achieve a healthy work/life balance—recently she took to Twitter with another truism: MOTHERS SHOULDN'T MAKE TOO MANY SACRIFICES.
Image via Jenny Holzer

Laurie Simmons
Before she became known as Lena Dunham's mother, Laurie Simmons was most known for her prolific art career. Simmons stages photographs and films with paper dolls, finger puppets, and ventriloquists, creating fantasy dollhouse worlds. Her work helped inspire her daughter's breakthrough film Tiny Furniture, that Simmons also starred in.
Lena Dunham portrait via Laurie Simmons

Annie Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz has photographed everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to Rihanna to the Obama Family. And she's done this all while raising three children, the last of which she had at age 52.
Annie Leibovitz portrait with Demi Moore image via Wikimedia Commons

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The Eight Most Inspiring Mothers in Contemporary Art