Category Archives: Women Artists

Susan O’Malley (American 1976-2015)

Susan O’Malley’s work is a celebration of life and a cheerful affirmation that we are on the right path.  Having passed away suddenly, this Bay Area Artist and Curator will be remembered as a voice of wisdom and ernest encouragement. She received her MFA from California College of Arts in San Francisco in Art and Social Practice and through whimsical performances, conversations, and text with bright gradients of color she conveyed a message of hope and trust in ones self.

Click on the circle to see full images.

O’Malley created an art project called Pep Talks, where she counseled others on how to keep a positive attitude and not give up. Her work is a reminder that things will get better and that there is beauty and meaning in the world.


Below is O’Malley’s work: “An Unsolicited Open Letter to the Young-ish Artist (this means all of us, right?).” May 29, 2013.

Dear Young-ish artist, I noticed that you needed to be reminded of a few things – many of which I’m sure you already know. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. So here it goes.

Taking the path of an artist is a radical one. There is no steady paycheck, 401K or linear trajectory. You do it because it’s either art or insanity; or because you have a gift that needs to be shared with the world; or because you want to be famous. But here’s the deal: it takes time to cultivate it. Very few of us can jump out of undergrad and earn a living as a novelist. Sometimes you have to take a job writing copy at an internet company to prove that you can take care of yourself; or you have to take several jobs so you can buy the materials for your giant octopus sculpture; or you have to experience the darkest grief of your life in order to find your voice. And there will be lots of bad poems and terrible paintings and bad decisions before anything comes of it. It takes time and it takes space and sometimes it takes doing very little alone or in the company of other like-minded people for these things to happen. Everything is part of it. So be patient, pay attention, and be kind to yourself.

Maybe it will take 15 years, so in the year 2028, when you quit your day job writing ad copy for Hologram Space to begin. Maybe then you’ll decide to finish the novel you’ve been plugging away at in your free evenings. You decide to do it because it’s been nagging at you for years, sometimes making you feel so empty inside that you don’t recognize yourself, your spouse, or your children. And as you finally jump into this adventure it dawns on you: it’s always been here. You’ve always had everything you needed to do it. It just took you this long to accept this and the uncertainty of the process. And, now finally, you’ve said yes and things are happening. Don’t scold yourself for taking so long, just appreciate that you’ve finally made it here.

Sincerely, Your friend Susan O’Malley,



Since her tragic passing this year her work has taken on extra meaning.  The messages seem to come from a place beyond time, yet fully human and brimming with love and understanding. Susan O’Malley’s work will be remembered as courageous, joyful and inspiring.


Her book entitled “Advice From My 80 Year Old Self,” is being published and is due to release this year. The book serves to point out how perspective in life can be a gift in helping us get through the hard times.


During her life Susan O’Malley participated in an artist residency at Montalvo Arts Center, a retreat in the mountains of the peninsula. Here she created a healing walk for the benefit of all and to complete this walk seems like a great way to pay tribute to her contribution and experience her message to the world.


Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, 1929)

Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama has been interested in the Pop Art movement since the 1960’s, having moved to the United States in 1958 from Japan. Although she was sometimes violently discouraged from pursuing art by her abusive mother, she ended up seeking out the arts as a method to cope with her insecurities and developing obsessive compulsive disease.  By embracing the bright colors and psychedelic forms of Pop Art, Kusama channelled the phantasmagorical hallucinations she had beginning in childhood into something therapeutic, not only for herself but for her audiences too.

kyayoi-kusama-beloved-media-029 In her early career she painted, sculpted and worked on performance art such as “Happenings.”  As a feminist, she has brought political aspects to her work, and a type of playful edgy sensuality.

Performance Art

She is particularly known for her polka-dot artworks, performances and installations. Environments that she sometimes places herself in the middle of, like a camouflaged entity in her natural environment. By finding ways to blend in with her created world, she sought self obliteration as a way to unite with the infinite universe.


When I arrived in New York, action painting was the rage, de Kooning, Pollock and others. I wanted to be completely detached from that and start a new art movement. I painted obsessional, monochromatic paintings from morning till night. They were huge paintings that had no composition like a 33-foot white infinity net painting. -Kusama

Kusama – Studio 1958
Infinity Mirror Room - 1965
Infinity Mirror Room – 1965

…a polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colorful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement… Polka dots are a way to infinity. -Yayoi Kusama

More recently, she has made use of LED technology to build immersive art, where guests can enter and experience something like an infinite reflection of stars in space as seen in her work entitled, “Mirrored Room.” She attempts to give her viewers a glimpse of eternity and actually become it through immersion.

kusama5 kyayoi_kusama-22 kusama6

In 1977, Kusama checked herself into a psychiatric institute in Japan where she continues to live, working in a studio across the street. Despite being diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Kusama as remained a prolific artist who continues to create awe inspiring work and push the boundaries of what art is and what it does.

Major retrospectives on her work have be held at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and Tate Modern and in 2008 and she sold a work for $5.1 million, a record for a living female artist at the time. Also she has written several books and been a long time avant-garde influence in the fashion world. She says she will paint until she dies, always pushing to create more art for the healing of mankind.


Forget yourself. Become one with eternity. Become part of your environment. -Yayoi Kusama

Promotion by Louis Vouitton



Judy Baca – Muralist (American 1946)

Muralist Judy Baca is a Chicana artist working in the mural style of many artists from Mexico before her. She is also a political activist who started the community arts organization Social Public Art Resource Center in Los Angeles.

She is most well know for “The Great Wall of Los Angeles,” the largest mural of its time in Los Angeles started in 1974. Taking over 4 years to complete, this mural is half a mile in length and receives regular restoration treatments.



Judy Baca’s mural work was recently the subject of political debate in the city of Los Angeles where the fine line between art and other stuff (advertising, signage, graffiti) was challenged.

Baca’s work continues to push the boundaries to help continue to evolve the definition of art to include all useful methods, rather than the narrow definition allowed by city governments. In the past, only murals created in fresco were allowed to fit the definition of a public art mural because other types of applications are seen as ephemeral.  Several cases have been to court over this issue and the unfortunate removal of murals in California. Previously murals painted in acrylic or aerosol were in danger of being removed based on definitions that did not recognize advancements in technology and conservation methods, sometimes murals would be removed if they had not been painted with a brush!


Baca and her group SPARC have defended art in many mediums with many styles of application. The debate has now moved to the technological arena, some debate whether the use of digital projection, printing and painting on panels can be considered art. The question comes down to what is intended to be permanent and what classifies a work of art as being valuable to a community historically.



Under the Visual Artist Rights Act (VARA) and California Art Preservation Act (CAPA) there are many rights that Artist’s have but are typically not aware of. Judy Baca and SPARC have defended artists in these rights and art has been able to proliferate in ways that might have been smashed down without the guidance and support that Baca has provided and fought as an artist herself.




Amanda Sage (American 1978)


Amanda Sage is an American Artist living in Los Angeles and Vienna Austria.  Sage grew up in Boulder Colorado and attended an arts school where she met teacher and artist Hiraku Hirata. She studied in Vienna and became a student artist Ernst Fuchs becoming his assistant and mentee for over 10 years. She studied the Mische-Technique, using oils, acrylic and casein in a wet medium and now teaches courses in visionary art and painting techniques that appear to glow with light on the canvas.



“She who works with her hands is a laborer… She who works with her hands and her head is a craftswoman…
She who works with her hands and her head and her heart is an artist”

 – St Francis of Assisi (masculine and feminine reversed from original version by Amanda Sage)


Leslie Shows


The Sky Becomes Sediment 2008

Leslie Shows is a local Bay Area artist whose paintings have titles like ” The Arrangement of Salts and Metals by Properties,” where she succeeds in melding elemental natural tones with moody pychedelic lightning and rainbow crystals.  The vibrant colors and the explosive use of paint in Leslie Shows work, balanced with the subtle greys and stone.  Her paintings reunite the rift between science and art by utilizing color and form to explain what is happening in our real world sometimes on such a grand scale that we are usually unable to notice.  The first image is detail of her painting called “The Nitrogen Cycle.” She magically displays working concepts on thge working of our physical world by combining elements to create something as basic as the air we breathe. Everything is located on a grand Geologic Time Scale which surpasses our normal experience of the world by millions of years and can destroy our reality with one shift.

I especially love the displays of lightening in her art. She is using the paint as a medium often without use of a brush to create gradients and layers like the sedimentary layers of the earth.  There are many textures created by metals and remnants of the manufacturing process being scratched through the painted surface. The fractal physics of liquid dynamics is visible on a smaller scale.

Here is a brillant installation which suits her work on a grand scale at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. She brings a timeless element to a world that is always changing and we are just a passing moment in it.



Leslie Shows from

Frida Kahlo (Mexican 1907 – 1954)


Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón de Rivera

July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954

Frida Kahlo has intrigued me since I was a child. She was the second female artist I recognized, after Georgia O’Keefe, when I saw her work in a museum in Fort Worth, Texas. It was her poignant portrayal of pain that shocked me and made me aware of a new aspect of life I hadn’t considered. Of course this was a very marked aspect of herself that she dealt with through out her life.  As a teenager she was in a streetcar accident that fractured her spine, pelvis, collarbones and forced her to wear full torso body casts and be in bed for much of her life. She also suffered in a relationship with Diego Rivera, a famous muralist that was 20 years older that her. They were in love and overcome many obstacles, but not without sadness that you see expressed in her art.

Kahlo in Deigo Rivera Mural, “Panamerican Unity

Frida Kahlo was painted in this mural in 1940 by Diego Rivera. The couple had recently divorced when he came up to San Francisco to participate in Art in Action. During the World Faire held on Treasure Island that year, he painted this fresco which was later transferred to San Francisco City College.  The couple remarried shortly afterwards and they lived in a specially designed house with a bridge between the two separate parts.


This is a painting of Frida’s father who took many pictures of her growing up and encouraged her as an artist. She had a multicultural background. Her father was a Hungarian Jew and her mother was of Mexican and Native Indian decent.


Frida is most famous for her self portraits which give us a glimpse of what her life may have been like at the time. While she didn’t recieve much fame during her life, she is now the subject of a major movie and her image is found everywhere in gift shops and museums around the world.

The Little DeerI especially appreciate her visceral images of nature and was struck by this painting I originally saw in the Kimball Museum at age 8.

She and Diego were very political, housing the soviet refugee Leon Trotsky. They actively held communist party meetings in there home and had a very lively social life. In 1953 she had her first and only Solo Exposition in Mexico. Doctors orders were to stay in bed so she had her bed delivered in an ambulance so she could attend the opening.

“I suffered two grave accidents in my life…One in which a streetcar knocked me down and the other was Diego.

“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”

-Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Leonora Carrington (British 1917 – 2011)

Leonora Carrington is a Mexican Surrealist Artist who was born in Britian in 1917 and died this year, 2011. She met artist Max Ernst in London and escaped the NAZI occupation of Paris she fled to Mexico City. She is one of the top three female surrealist artists of all time and remained in Mexico for the rest of her life.

Her paintings are very detailed and they portray a secret or obscured aspect of the world. She uses many symbols and ritual shapes to express the mystical order and activities in the universe that most people do not notice. She was very well educated in europe but left it all to pursue art and express her point of view.


She wrote and illustrated this children’s book in 1977 and she also made sculptures and masks for theatre.

“You may not believe in magic but something very strange is happening at this very moment. Your head has dissolved into thin air and I can see the rhododendrons through your stomach. It’s not that you are dead or anything dramatic like that, it is simply that you are fading away and I can’t even remember your name.”
-Leonora Carrington The Hearing Trumpet

“We went down into the silent garden.
Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.” -Leonora Carrington

Remedios Varo (Spanish 1908 -1963)

Born María de los Remedios Varo Uranga

Remedios Varo was born in Spain. During the Spanish Civil War she escaped to Paris with her husband Benjamin Peret a Surrealist Poet. However she again escaped to live in Mexico as a politcal exile and she stayed there the rest of her life. There she met other the artist Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Leona Carrington.

She developed a unique style all her own which was influenced by psychology, mystic traditions, pre-colombian art and surrealists like Breton, Picasso and el Greco. She often includes architecture, nature, and detailed line work in her paintings which critique science, culture and women’s roles in society and art. Ultimately she brings a deep curiosity and intrigue into the transformation from within.


Celestial Pablum 1958
Transito en Espiral
Still life reviving 1963
Woman leaving the psychiatrist's office

Visit to the Plastic Surgeon
Reflejo Lunar

Varo in mask made by Leona Carrington



“On second thought, I think I am more crazy than my goat.

-Remedios Varo

Georgia O’Keefe (American 1887 – 1986)


Georgia O’Keefe has always been my favorite artist because she and I share the same birthday. She captures the essences of those things that seem simple and pure, but are actually complex and common if you only change the way you look at it.


Portrait by Steiglitz
Jack in the Pulpit No. 6
From the Lake No. 1
Pelvis with Distance
Blue and Green Music

Georgia O'Keefe


“To create one’s own world in any of the arts takes courage.”

-Georgia O’Keefe

Julia Morgan (American 1872 – 1957)

Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan was one of the first women to graduate from University of California at Berkeley with a degree in civil engineering, the first to graduate with an architecture degree at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first woman to work as a professional architect in California. During her 45-year career, she designed more than 700 homes, churches, office buildings, hospitals, stores, and educational buildings, including the famous Hearst Castle.

The pool at Berkeley City Club
Hearst Castle Interior Swimming Pool
The Neptune Pool - Hearst Castle

I especially love the pools she designed with blue mosaic and sometimes gold glass inlaid.  She also designed Hearst’s Summer House in N. California called Wyntoon, right on the river.

Drawing of Wyntoon
Exterior Murals - Wyntoon

Several other places she designed include Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, Redo of the Fairmont Hotel in SF after the Earthquake and YWCA’s in Oakland, Utah and Hawaii.

Chapel of the Chimes
Hearst Castle
Julia Morgan at Hearst Castle

Julia Morgan Quotes:

“Never turn down a job because you think it’s too small; you don’t know where it can lead.”

“Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves.”

“My buildings will be my legacy… they will speak for me long after I’m gone.”

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