It’s International Women’s Day, a day that has been celebrated for well over a century when it was founded by a collective of fed-up women in 1911. The day isn’t solely used to highlight the rampant and perilous inequality women continue to face across the planet, but it’s additionally a time for reflection, action and celebration of women throughout history.
At Artupia, we voice change through a predominantly visual vocabulary, so we asked our formidable artists to not only describe what International Women’s Day means to them, but depict it in a painting.
Trigger warning: domestic and sexual violence are mentioned in this article.
1. Giada Mirizio
“The 8th of March is a day of remembrance for me, not a celebration. Just remembering the increasing number of feminicides is enough to realise that there is little to celebrate. In a patriarchal society which sees women continuously objectified, the keyword is: resilience. After years of struggle, gender equality between men and women has not yet been achieved. The woman is still seen as the ‘weaker sex’. However, a woman is anything but a ‘weaker sex’. I made this work because I believe that every woman, even if she feels tender or fragile, has a fighter inside of her.
This is a tribute to all those who have been able to move away from that life that sought to control them. This is for all the women who got up again despite the intense effort and pain. This is for the women who became braver than before, our contemporary heroines, because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This is a support to all those who are facing a battle or hardship of any nature. Above all, this is a symbol of hope. A hope to be seen for what we really are, the depths of our souls, the corners of our minds, and not just as an empty desirable vessel. This is a hope to have equal rewards, equal rights, equal opportunities… a hope for a better world.”
“This particular painting is inspired by my sister. I would like to talk about the girl in this painting and why I chose the flower to go along with her. I have known this girl for many many years, by saying sister, we are not biologically related, but close enough to call each other sister. I’ve seen her get hurt and bloom in love. I’ve seen her love and trust like she never had before. I’ve also seen her defeated by life, but she never gives up, and continues to laugh like she never did before. I’ve seen her grow up from a girl to a woman, getting more beautiful day by day, but still keeping her heart pure. A sincere, lovable, and courageous girl that I adore.”
“In this work I wanted to represent the very core of beauty and femininity in women, who even without hair retain their charm, strength and inner beauty. Hair is an important and characterising element of being a woman. It can completely change a woman’s face depending on how she colours or cuts it, and it can provide a powerful impact and aesthetic to her being. Since hair holds such precedence, what happens when a woman finds herself having to lose her hair due to exceptional circumstances? Can she still maintain her beauty and femininity? My personal answer is yes, and I wanted to show it in this work. I dedicated my painting to a woman, who is perhaps fighting for her life, in order to demonstrate that even in the midst of a serious illness, her beauty endures.
International Women’s Day is certainly an occasion to remember the value of women, and I think that a woman’s life should be valued every single day. Whether it’s with a gift, a tribute, a poem or a beautiful expression, it must always be completed with a gesture of appreciation and above all, respect.”
“Two of God’s greatest gifts: woman and nature. When God created man, he wanted his image to be represented by two entities, male and female. The Woman: with her sensitivity, her love, her delicacy and her patience and possession of an unparalleled inner strength, she is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping men company and supporting him life’s more challenging moments.
The Woman: able to play several roles simultaneously, the sister, the friend, the wife, the mother, the grandmother. The Woman: capable of growing life in her womb and able to bear the pain of birth. Her strength sees her forget almost instantly the intense pain of labour to give way to a river of love and joy for her new creation. The Woman: an act of love and God’s blessing to man. Here in my painting and on my canvas is my depiction of The Woman.”
“Agata: the firstborn to a wealthy family, she loved animals and nature and cultivated a passion for simplicity in her country house. One summer night she was robbed of everything, except her most important qualities: her sensitivity, her intimacy and her ability to create life with her femininity.”
“Since it’s International Women’s Day, I wanted to issue a warning to all the women who will receive flowers or mimosas on this day. Don’t be dazzled by appearances, keep your guard high because the most beautiful and valuable gift that a man can give a woman is respect!”
“Many of my paintings were inspired by the Female Universe: the woman’s world with her beauty and her sensitivity. Among all my renderings, I chose the painting of Frida Kahlo who was a true style icon. Kahlo possessed a unique way of asserting her femininity outside the traditional canon. Fascinating and complex, she was able to transform her suffering into visual expression and her fragility into artistic power. Frida is an undisputed emblem of femininity for everyone, she demonstrates how a woman can withstand lifelong suffering and pain and transform it into art, colour and poetry. Through her strength and desire for freedom, for me, Frida represents the 8th of March. She is the embodiment of the force that has enabled women to achieve social, economic and political achievements over the years. Her values communicate the ability to fight against the discrimination and violence which are tragically still prevelant today across the world.
Happy 8th of March to ALL … and may it always be so!”
“My rendition consists of a sequence of figures of women, including the image of Madonna, which symbolises the essence of the woman in all her perfection. The Woman, for me, represents the true image of God, as the creator of new life.She is an essential figure in the history of humanity. Unfortunately, she is often mistreated, discriminated against, stoned or considered substandard. She is a very delicate figure, the pure representation of beauty in every sense, and a true symbol of strength and security for the future of all humanity. I collaged the faces of women and the texture of their hair to capture the woman in her eternal movement.
The eye alone represents the eye of hope, despite the negativity of the world. Regarding the 8th of March, we can’t forget the tragedy of women’s experience in the workforce. It is, therefore, without any doubt that the most important quality of femininity to remember is the woman’s integral contribution to not only work but also to society.”
“I know some local, elderly women farmers who live in the Brazilian countryside. This painting is inspired by the marks left by the strong sun on their faces. This lady has very wrinkled skin, but a steady look meaning she doesn’t give up the fight.”
“This work seeks to express the strength of women. Only women can overcome life’s great problems with a smile. The woman is the bearer of happiness. The woman has the strength to endure life’s darker moments by radiating light and inspiring those around her.
This work is very important because I consider women to be the engines that drive humanity’s most significant achievements, and it’s man’s duty to protect and bring joy to women. Women are the greatest gift to life. Often men forget the importance of women in society, and it is therefore vital to dedicate a day to them.”
“Being a woman to me, means getting to know myself over again. Rediscovering the little girl, the mother, the lover, the friend; and making peace with them all. International Women’s Day reminds us of the roots that anchor us on earth, and nourishes our right to freedom, respect and growth.”
“Your desires? Be attractive, smart, clever, empathetic, successful? That is, to enchant everyone around you and yourself?! That’s what Pygmalion wanted and did! You just have to want it and the world will be yours!“
“While creating this painting I was inspired by a female figure from the past that I consider to be very important: Emmeline Pankhurst. This important British woman was a political activist who led the British women’s movement about a century ago, fighting and succeeding in getting women the right to vote. In my opinion, women’s ability to vote is and was the first real victory for feminism, a victory that paved the way for all other important achievements. I used a square format for my painting because it is a form that is important to me, as it is a very balanced and equal. The grey figure in the background represents the women of the past, while the figure in colour in the foreground depicts the continued fight in freeing women across the world who still face injustices everyday. To highlight these goals, I integrated Emmeline’s words into the painting:‘We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help free the other half.’ For me, Women’s Day represents an opportunity to celebrate and reflect upon the incredible progress achieved by women over the years, instead of a banal homage in the shape of mimosas. There is still a lot left to do in order to attain true equality between sexes, whilst simultaneously respecting the emotional needs of both men and women.”
“Sometimes fear and suffering are so deeply rooted in us, accepting discrimination and disrespect comes naturally! We have been forced to endure injustices, insults and offences… living in a spiral where we oscillate between feelings of comfort and fear. We get used to being silent and suffering physical and psychological violence behind closed doors, and then we feel ashamed of ourselves for ‘accepting’ this hardship. Despite wanting to scream, you’re paralysed by fear of upsetting or disturbing the ‘dream’, as his hands close tighter around your mouth. For me, International Women’s Day represents the strength, dignity and determination that lies deep within every woman, a reservoir of force we rely on when we’re dragged down and suffocated by the hands of those who claim they ‘loved’ us.”
“For me, there is no better icon than Nasrin Sotoudeh for the 8th of March. Stories like her’s are beyond my imagination, and I can’t even begin to fathom the courage, strength and heartbreak that this Iranian woman endured. Mother and lawyer, Sotoudeh’s condemnation was rightly defined by Tiziana Ciavardini as ‘an insult to mankind’. International Women’s Day serves to reflect on how much more there is to be done in a world where we still have to fight to achieve freedom and respect for all.”