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Valentines Day is Over: 10 Contemporary Artists Whose Work Celebrates Self-Love
Sorry PDA-fans, your day has passed...
Art Expert 20 Feb 2022

Sorry, PDA-fans and loved-up couples, your day has passed. Now that shops are no longer filled with thousands of glittery cards saying “you’re my favourite weirdo”, ugly teddy bears, and single roses that are way overpriced – we can get back to the important stuff: self-love. And eating all of that discounted chocolate…

It can be hard to find examples of paintings in art history that celebrate female self-love, because so much of art history has just seen women as elaborate mannequins and objects of desire for the male viewer. Plus, any female artists to be seen in pre-20th Century art history, were definitely not allowed to paint other nude women luxuriating.

So we’ve looked around at the current generation of fabulous artists who are using their various media to celebrate celebrating yourself, taking time to care for your body and mind, and loving the skin you’re in.

BE Fernandez (@befernandezart)

Don’t Kill my Vibe – BE Fernandez

We love BE Fernandez’ Neo-Pop characters who always – whether they’re crying on public transport, dancing with friends, or blow-drying their hair – radiate strength and confidence. Her illustrations will also give you major fashion inspo and she’s worked for the likes of Adidas, Netflix, Vogue, and Maybelline.

Maud Madsen (@maud_madsen)

Opening Night – Maud Madsen

Maud Madsen treats her subjects with a real gentleness. Exploring ideas of insecurity and memory, Madsen often shows us the parts of ourselves that we have been trained to be most ashamed of – cellulite, our tummies, arms that wobble. We rarely see her subjects in full-profile, meaning that they are so easy to relate to.

Gisela McDaniel (@giselamcdaniel)

Inagofli’e – Gisela McDaneil

Gisela McDaniel’s figures appear almost regal, and are painted with such reverence that it’s hard to not want to treat yourself with that kind of respect after seeing them. McDaniel primarily depicts women and non-binary individuals who “identify as indigenous, multiracial, immigrant, and of colour”, and her work fights back against the violence and censorship the bodies of these people have faced throughout history and continue to face today.

Qualeasha Wood (@qualeasha)

fore the day you die, you gon’ touch the sky – Qualeasha Wood

We adore Qualeasha Wood’s tapestries, which empower black femme people in a world that marginalises them. Her work combines the traditional and the digital, reminding us that self-love transcends how we treat ourselves IRL, but also how we exist online. She has exhibited at The Met, Hauser & Wirth, Art Basel, and other huge names.

Hana Yilma Godine (@yilmish_hana)

Hana Yilma Godine

Painting on canvas and fabric, Hana Yilma Godine gives us glimpses into the private lives of her subjects when they are at their most tranquil and powerful. Incorporating Ethiopian fabrics into her pieces, her work has brilliant personality and tactility. Already this spring, the artist has had a double solo show in New York City at Rachel Uffner Gallery and Fridman Gallery.

Prudence Flint (@prudenceflint)

The Waiting – Prudence Flint

Prudence Flint, for us, is a reminder that the journey to peace within oneself takes work. Her figures often sit, motionlessly staring into space. To be alive is complex, and to untangle the traumas and difficulties that come with it is a difficult process. Flint’s work is a beautiful insight into the contemplative nature of truly being oneself.

Koak (@annakoak)

Dark Corridor – Koak

Koak’s paintings are beautiful and otherworldly and her characters look like animated goddesses. The artist investigates the roles that women play in everyday life and the grace, determination, and struggle with which they play them. Their illustrated style – developed by the artist during an MFA in Comics from the California College of the Arts – helps these characters to feel relatable to all audiences.

Chigozie Obi (@chigozieobi_)

Biri na udo: Chiamaka – Chigozie Obi

Chigozie Obi communicates the various struggles that marginalised people face, and shows the beauty and power of people who have been oppressed by society. Obi often works in mixed media, or thickly applied paints, which gives her figures a beautiful depth and texture. Her art is a celebration as well as a cry for action.

Nettle Grellier (@nettlegrellierartist)

Kirby grips are for cleaning bullshit out of your ears – Nettle Grellier

Nettle Grellier’s work looks at femininity in all of its strength, silliness, messiness, and pleasure. Her approach to depicting the human experience is so raw and astute, that viewers of her work will inevitably go away feeling satisfied: “that’s just like me!”. We love her no-punches-pulled pictures of living with and loving yourself.

Shona McAndrew (@shona_mcandrew)

Katye – Shona McAndrew

Shona McAndrew shows bodies entirely unapologetically, and totally beautifully. Teaching us to embrace our softness, own our power, and believe in our bodies’ strength. McAndrew’s art shows women not just as the immobile mannequins of the art historical past, but as complex, joyous, and awe-inspiring individuals.

Author: Verity Babbs

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