Color by Her

Color by Her


Justice and Peacebuilding by Women Artists of Color

It is important for us to be visually literate; it is a survival skill. The media is what passes for culture in contemporary U.S. society, and it is extremely powerful. —Yolanda M. Lopez

In the ages of social justice activism, women of color have always stood at the intersection of race and gender. Visual literacy, as artist Yolanda M. Lopez has emphasized, becomes a prominent tool for change in practice in addition to a survival skill. Encompassing multiple marginalized racial groups, women of color have taken to various methods in being activists for their communities, including creative mediums. Specifically, in America, women artists of color have created a diverse range of work to visually represent and raise awareness about the injustices that their people have suffered. Simply put, the journey for women of color to be heard and acknowledged is difficult. They are often left out of conversations regarding both racism and sexism already, and the art world is no exception. However, it is precisely the diverse artistry and interdisciplinary perspectives and power of these women that are key to tackling intersectional matters. By presenting their messages and stories in their artistic work, their limitless creativity both directly addresses the need for social change and inspires more initiatives to fight against the same injustices.

Defining peace is a matter of understanding the types and sequences of violence that take place in society. I will interpret peace and justice under the framework of legal scholar Elizabeth Porter’s definitions. Violence can entail physical harm but also harm to someone’s personhood, dignity, or sense of worth or value. Peace itself is the ongoing counter to instances of violence. Creating peace is an endeavor that include all members of society to ensure that the progress made post-conflict is never lost. Positive peacebuilding is what creates progress, as there are active and continuous processes that occur after conflict to ensure and build constructive relationships in society going forward.1 This goes in tandem with the understanding of justice. The type of justice to focus on through art is one that addresses the conditions of violence and strives to meet the needs of victims.

My research focuses on examples of contemporary visual artists, particularly those from African American, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Latin American, and Native American communities, who answer the call to action in support of both women and people of color. It is through artistic works that reflect these marginalized groups, specifically work done by women of color, that society can contribute to advancing peace and justice in America.

The background section of this paper gives biographical context of each of the four artists studied, names the selected works used in the research, and includes the current issues surrounding the misrepresentation and underrepresentation, discrimination, and violence against women of color. The literature review provides the context that proves how women of color play major but often overlooked parts in feminism and civil rights movements, how they struggle in the world of academia and the arts, and how their artistic activism is still extremely valuable against all odds. The methods section explains my selection of the artists, the artworks, and the elements that I chose to analyze in each piece. The analysis breaks down each of the eight artworks with the method of coding and explains why each is individually significant. Finally, the discussion puts all the diverse works in conversation with one another, demonstrating why the work of women of color in the arts is a means of justice and peacebuilding, and what more this research could explore with additional time and resources.

Context, Background, and History

To dive into this specific purpose of art, this research analyzes the works of following women artists. The selection of artists includes Tschabalala Self, Cynthia Tom, Yolanda M. Lopez, and Jaune “Quick-To-See” Smith, who will represent the African American, Asian America, Latin American, and Native American communities respectively.

Tschabalala Self

Tschabalala Self is a thirty-one-year-old artist who incorporates painting, textile, and collage into her work. She grew up in Harlem, New York, and is currently based in New Haven, Connecticut. Her work educates audiences on the depictions of bodies and Black femininity, and she describes her art accordingly.

My current body of work is concerned with the iconographic significance of the Black female body in Contemporary culture. My work explores the emotional, physical and psychological impact of the Black female body as an icon, and is primarily devoted to examining the intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality.2.

The artworks selected to represent this artist are Ol’Bay (2019) and Dime (2019), both of which are from her Out of Body exhibition, displayed in the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston from January 20, 2020 to July 12, 2020.

Cynthia Tom

Cynthia Tom is a visual artist who works with mixed media, paint, photography, installation, and sculpture. She is also a curator, activist, and Board President emeritus of the Asian American Women Artists Association. She uses her art to tell the stories of communities of color, specifically that of women and her own family. With her exhibitions, she addresses the pride and pain of the Asian American identity through her ancestors’ trauma of human trafficking and her experience as a Chinese woman with the “multi-generational depth and breadth of sequelae3 of believing you are unwanted, undeserving, and unnecessary.”4

The artworks selected to represent this artist are Awakening the Feminine: Taking a Stand and Launching the Gifts.

Yolanda M. Lopez

Yolanda M. Lopez is a Chicana artist who confronts the gender, racial, and cultural identity of Latinx representations through painting, mixed-media, drawing, and collage. She is most well-known for transforming the Catholic image of Our Lady of Guadalupe (in Spanish, Virgen de Guadalupe), into new portraits. In her iconic art, she creates “new visions of Chicana womanhood” that “destabilize patriarchal and catholic expressions of women.”5

The artworks selected to represent this artist are Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe (1978) and Margaret F. Stewart: Our Lady of Guadalupe (1978).

Jaune “Quick-to-See” Smith

Jaune “Quick-to-See” Smith is an artist who uses printmaking, painting, and drawing to discuss tribal politics, environmental issues, and human rights. Born on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai reservation as a member of the Flathead Indian Nation in Montana, she has long been involvemed in feminist activism within the art world. In her own words:

In the mid-l970s in Santa Fe, I found that only Native men were able to exhibit in the galleries. I set about organizing Indian women to move out of the trading posts and into galleries and museums My training as a mother, helped me with this activism. I organized the Grey Canyon Artists, located and shipped exhibitions, first in New Mexico and then across the U.S. While working as a full-time artist, I have also consistently organized and curated exhibitions for Native artists for over 30 years.6

The artworks selected to represent this artist are Fear (2004) and Which Comes First? (2004).

Current Issues of Representation and Violence

With many different communities of color in mind, it is imperative to understand how they are typically presented in existing media outside of the world of art. Women of color have contributed a tremendous amount to academic and social movements in history. They are powerful and professional humans in society, both in the past and in the present. However, this idea is nowhere nearly as prominent as it should be, as the media’s depictions of women of color have consistently failed them. In a study that analyzes the portrayal of ethnic minorities in popular U.S. television from 1987 to 2009, it not only reveals the significant underrepresentation of most ethnic minority groups, but also compared to their white female counterparts, “women of color are particularly likely to be presented as hyper-sexual and less professional.”7 The meager and biased representation in media not only limits the roles that women of color see themselves in, but it also legitimizes these stereotypical depictions in the minds of others by affirming them. The unfair and unrealistic portrayals displayed on screen become the extent of what society knows women of color to be both in media and in real life.

The consequences of perpetuated hyper-sexualization,  misrepresentation, and underrepresentation are dire. A painful example is the recent spa shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 16, 2021, in which six of the eight victims were Asian women. The suspect told the police that “he had a ‘sexual addiction’ and had carried out the shootings at the massage parlors to eliminate his ‘temptation.’”8 Examples such as this one highlight the extent of the violence involving discriminatory race and gender-based perception that women of color in America endure. While the shooting in Atlanta is not confirmed to be directly linked with mainstream media’s representation of Asian women, it illustrates the extreme effects of violence fueled by multi-layered discrimination. The suspect’s justification for his crime was fetishization. His projection of his sexual fantasy cost the women their lives. There is no part of his conceived narrative of women of color that gives them any shred of humanity.

The works of the artists I’ve selected to study provide the world with a better alternative to understanding the identities of women of color when the existing depictions of them constantly harm, dehumanize, or dismiss them. Women of color play a crucial part in American history. The literature review will demonstrate the depth and complexity of their roles in our social fabric and the significance of presenting their truths authentically.

Literature Review

Perhaps one of the most significant aspects in the discussion of women of color is their contributions to civil rights and feminist movements, or rather, the lack of acknowledgement they have received compared to their male or white female counterparts throughout history.  Sociologist Becky Thompson criticizes the retellings of  second-wave feminism and women’s rights movements in the 1960s through 1980s, which often do not emphasize nearly enough analysis on class and race. To counter white-washed narratives, Thompson draws on the work of postcolonial and feminist theorist Chela Sandoval refers to this era of history as “hegemonic feminism” which is “white-led, marginalizes the activism and world views of women of color, focuses mainly on the United States, and treats sexism as the ultimate oppression.”9 The narrative of white middle-class women fighting for their rights neglects the era that needs to be known as multicultural feminism, defined by the international and intersecting perspective of feminist communities of color.

Understanding the multiracial feminist movement helps in understanding the work that women of color have done historically to lead to this moment of artistic activism. Their history is significant in recounting the expansive array of work that women of color were doing in the 1970s.Thompson describes that women of color were simultaneously involved with “feminist groups; forming women’s caucuses in existing mixed-gender organizations; and developing autonomous Black, Latina, Native American, and Asian feminist organizations.”10 Among these organizations, some notable examples of the 1970s include a Chicana group called Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, the Asian Sisters, the Women of All Red Nations for Native American women, and the Third World Women’s Alliance of Black feminists.11 These organizations worked together to provide the foundation for future feminist organizations, also causing antiracist white women to take on the ideals of multiracial feminism in their practice. Exposure to multiracial feminism helped white women in understanding the links between race, class, and gender. In addition, they were provided with experiences in related organizations such as conferences, health organizations, battered women’s shelters, and so on that were not analyzed as deeply by the previous generation of white feminists who documented the second wave. It is due to the work of women of color that built, in Thompson’s words, “the largely women-led cultural institutions that left a paper trail of multiracial feminism moved on, into mixed-gender, multi- racial grassroots organizations, working against the Klan, in support of affirmative action and immigrant rights, and against police brutality and the prison industry.”12 Therefore, one cannot retell the history of civil rights and feminist movements without including the various contributions across the multiracial feminists. Despite this, the white-washed history is the dominant narrative.

As women of color’s leadership has been overlooked in the history of activism, women of color continue to be mistreated or taken advantage of in the worlds of traditional academia and the arts. In universities, those who identify as a woman, a person of color, queer, or all of the above face the reality of being cast off as invisible. Marivel T. Danielson’s study of queer Latina cultural production points out that for the artist or scholar of color,  “her discourse stands a much greater risk of being dismissed as emotional, personal, biased, and political in as much as it engages with the impact of race, gender, and sexuality.”13 With the contribution of women of color sidelined , academic language is constructed and controlled by white males, thereby compounding scholarly exclusivity. This standard of educational structure perpetuates—and funds—the silence of the most marginalized groups. The process of breaking this silence entails a double standard, extant throughout academia, that women of color must endure: Women of color must be familiar with the language and context of the straight white man’s history while there is no interest in theirs. As Danielson writes, they are “informed that [they] must first establish [their] critical voices in this accepted language before moving on to include alternative voices and modes of theoretical discourse.”14 Meanwhile, theorists are not criticized for not addressing the issues of communities outside of their own. Thus, the women of color often must build their platforms and voices both without the support of and in spite of these systems or institutions.

The realm of the arts is not any more forgiving than academia. Most women, especially artists of color, have little access to commercial art market. Judith K. Brodsky and Ferris Olin report that “in 2015, white women were still paid only at 79.6 percent of the salaries commanded by men, and the gap was starker in the salaries of women of color, with African American women at 63.3 percent and Hispanic women at 54.4 percent of white male compensation.”15 While they are not fully compensated for their work, women artists of color are constantly used or taken for granted by museums and galleries, which  profit off of their inclusion. This is due to the desire of institutions to uphold an image of diversity and inclusion to promote a superficial version of multiculturalism. A concept meant to uplift  marginalized and disadvantaged groups was reworked in the service of capitalism. Writing at the turn of the twenty-first century, interdisciplinary scholar and artist Phoebe Farris noted that as the term “multicultural” became more mainstream,“its initial purpose as a cultural expression of affirmative action was lost and multiculturalism was co-opted as white educational and cultural institutions sought to make profits by securing grants to host so-called multicultural art exhibits, symposia, and artist/scholar residencies.”16  Consequently,  women artists of color, especially those who create protest art to address their history of gender and race and destroy the mainstream misrepresentations of their identities, must tread carefully in the mainstream middle and upper-class art world to maintain their integrity.

Despite these setbacks, art is still a significant means to achieving justice for marginalized communities. In her 1993 article, “Women of Color Breaking the Silence: Exploring the Life Stories of Women of Color,” Jennifer Jue argues that is precisely through creative mediums that they can take action:

When the history of women of color has been defined by others, their stories have been obscured and distorted by historical inaccuracies, cultural biases, and language barriers. As women of color begin to voice their experiences, they are defining their realities for themselves and becoming their own historians.”17

Through rewriting a new language over the passive history that others have dictated before, women of color actively resist and change the way mainstream audiences have been conditioned to think or even ignore their stories. The momentum of justice becomes more in their favor. Presenting these messages through their work tackles oppression in a myriad of visual outlets, displaying the diversity in their experiences. Farris’s sweeping bibliographic resource Women Artists of Color traces a long history of resilience and resistance through creativity.  The following order of the groups of women of color follow the structure of Farris’ book. First, the Native American women combine art, beauty, and spirituality in their way of life, perfecting their craft as technique has been passed down from their grandmothers, mothers, and aunts. Centuries of colonialism, racial discrimination, servitude, and rapid technological change following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the “New World’” and the Europeans colonizers in Turtle Island (the indigenous name for North America) have not destroyed the complexity of Native American culture.18 Second, Latin American culture also had to withstand a history of colonization in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries influenced by Portugal, Spain, and other parts of central Europe. The nineteenth century artistic representations of this transcultural community were characterized by “political unrest, social circumstances, avant-garde groups, the search for a national identity, tenuous cultural boundaries, struggles for independence, the colonization of pre-Hispanic peoples, the influx of blacks from Africa, the infiltration of European traditions, crossbreeding, and racial integration.”19 Third, the work of African American women artists speaks to the historical exclusion in the mainstream perceptions of race and gender. They directly combat societal issues by discussing their identities as they pertain to the intersections of race, gender, and class along with their cultural heritage. To reclaim their stories, “in counteracting stereotypes and preconceived notions about Black womanhood, these young artists will demonstrate the ongoing need to promote an understanding of the complexities of their experiences, to confirm that there is no monolithic Black female experience.”20 Finally, Asian American art reflects how the “melting pot” identity of the United States is paired with the alienation and displacement that occurs in the pursuits of freedom and the myth of the American Dream. These women artists, who connect Eastern and Western international cultures, “have had to endure layers of prejudice, seen as ‘outsiders’ not only in the traditionally male and Eurocentric U.S art world but also in their Asian motherlands- as emigrants of children or grandchildren of emigrants.”21 What all these four groups of women artists have in common is their socially and politically driven art. Both the worlds of academia and art that they operate in are constructed to work against them, but that only makes their messages more powerful. Their art is both a weapon to dismantle the oppressive institutions and cultural stereotypes and a tool to reconstruct possibilities for creative expression and identity for their multicultural communities. The  artists and artworks I study serve as specific examples of visual work that demonstrate the potential of this phenomenon.


I chose  to study one artist of each ethnic group mentioned previously to include as diverse of a range of work as possible. I looked for artists who were still living, feminists in theory and in practice, and exploring the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality directly in their visual work. In this process, I examined the work of many artists of color before I came to my decision to pick my four representatives. Some notable artists that I studied but chose not to write about include Mickalene Thomas, Flo Oy Wong, Coco Fusco, Ruthe Jones, and many more. Ultimately, my decision to pick the four artists that I analyzed in this paper was the result of the common theme I noticed upon going through their portfolios: While I was not necessarily looking this despite my intention to find art that displayed elements of their feminist character, there was a pattern of representations of the female body in every group. Therefore, I chose artists who make figurative paintings and selected works of portraiture to analyze. The figures or portraits were all done in unique ways that lead to the following method of thematic content analysis and coding.

The installation/paintings were difficult to select, as each artist had wide ranges of work that encompassed various parts of their respective identities. However, picking them with the new focus on the theme of the female figure narrowed down the vast selection. From this shared subject of ethnic representation, I went about coding each of the artworks with the following themes/elements as I saw them applicable.

The Woman/Character The Background
Color Color
Posture/action Surrounding objects
Clothes/nudity Complement/contrast to subject
Accentuated features Cultural context
Facial/emotional expression Composition of Space

Findings and Analysis

Tschabalala Self

In Self’s exhibit Out of Body, Self explores the idea of the Black female body by playing with the texture and shape of the figure but while keeping these women in the setting of urban life. She personalizes this project as she creates these characters to be “reflections of the artist or people she can imagine meeting in Harlem, her hometown.”22

A work of painting and collage, Ol’Bay features a nude figure with natural hair and dark complexion, a full and voluptuous figure, and a smiling expression. The woman character in this painting is in her natural element. It is not a hyper-sexual depiction despite her being nude. The subject is paired with the background of what appears to be a bodega or grocery store of some sort. The colors are lighter, which provides contrast to the woman’s darker complexion. The construction of the space is full enough with objects to establish an everyday setting, but not too busy as to take the attention away from the human figure in the foreground. This corner of Self’s world is nostalgic. Ol’Bay could very well refer to the Old Bay seasoning that she may also have memories of from home, and this painting/collage highlights that specific detail.

The painting/collage Dime, unlike the Ol’Bay, features a blanker red background, which directs all the attention to the character. This woman is dressed, with more detail to fashion and accessories, as shown by the jewelry and handbag. Her expression is more serious as she smokes, and her body is also emphasized to bring attention to her physical features, such as her strong thighs. If the subject is not Self herself, this could be a depiction of a “dime” or everyday woman on the streets of Harlem. While this woman is not the same as the woman in Ol’Bay, the Dime can also be a representation of a Black female body in a natural state. The Black female experience is not a monolith, thus the everyday states of each Black woman can and will vary. There exists beauty in the mundane.

What these two figures do have in common is the power in their posture and stance. They take up most of their canvases, and they establish their presence regardless of what they are doing. This is a significant idea because even today, society still has trouble acknowledging Black women’s presence in the first place. Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, states how the “history of injustices against black women and their resistance to it gets disappeared” and “Black women who are profiled, beaten, sexually assaulted and killed by law enforcement officials are too often invisible. And that invisibility can intensify when sexual orientation and gender identity—such as transgender women—are involved.”23

What Self’s portrayals of full, confident, and natural Black women in everyday settings from her hometown do is simply make them visible. In all settings, Black women deserve more space to inhabit than they are provided. Black women have the right to take up all the spaces in real life as well as the spaces of these canvases. If such spaces do not exist in the real world, it is a call to action to make more of them.

Cynthia Tom

Tom tackles various topics in her exhibitions. The series Awakening the Feminine acknowledges the female energies from Tom’s past, present, and future that inspire her. Circus Series: The Cloud Walkers incorporates surreal imagery to create limitless world that connect people to their intuition.24 In Taking a Stand, the expression of the subject’s face is stern and assertive, and she wears what resembles a traditional Chinese dress and Chinese architecture on her head. The painting is colorful, and the path she stands in front of seems endless. As the title would suggest, she takes a stand in establishing the path for her life. While the character is in the foreground, the road behind her is full of vehicles all headed in the same direction, opposite hers. It also features a blimp flying a flag that reads “Circo de Poesia,” a bilingual performing arts production company with which Tom is affiliated. This depiction of the cultured Asian woman demonstrates her determination and ambition for the journey of life, despite the long road ahead.

Launching the Gifts is part of a thematically heavier collection called Discards and Variances. Tom uses this collection to bring attention to her family’s past trauma with experiences in human trafficking that are unfortunately still relevant in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Tom resides, and across the United States. The series demonstrates “the heartbreak of the crimes and the resiliency of the victims” and indicates how “prior to the 1950s, stories of trafficking and abuse were common in the San Francisco Chinese community.”25 The woman in this painting is looking behind her to see what has caught her dress to prevent her from moving forward. There is a dressform—effectively a headless, limbless female body—heavy on her dress’s train, and ot inhibits her movement as she attempts to move forward. These body figures in Tom’s other paintings of this series represent the female victims of human trafficking, or infanticide. In this painting, these dressform-bodies are scattered across the painting and the background is dark while the character travels along this path. The bodies are also a similar color as the woman’s dress, and they are vibrant against the darkness. Launching the Gifts conveys the importance of being “secure enough in who you are in order to leave bits and pieces of yourself behind to help others and especially those everyone who adds meaning to your life.”26 The Asian American identity requires the strength to use your past and heritage to become a better person for yourself and for others you encounter.

The American dream is a long path for Asian women and other immigrants as well. As demonstrated in these two paintings, Asian women wear the weight of their heritage and family as they strive to embark on their own path to success. Especially in recent times of Asian attacks during the Covid-19 pandmeic and tragedies such as the shooting in Atlanta, it is work like Tom’s that tells the public to listen and work to understand the complexity and depth of the Asian woman’s experience now more than ever.

Yolanda M. López

López takes the religious image of the Virgen de Guadalupe, an already iconic female figure, and puts a personal spin on it by replacing the figure with herself and the other women in her family. In her self-portrait, while the background of a colorful mandorla against the sky remains similar to traditional Virgen de Guadalupe depictions, her version differs:  López has a much happier expression on her face and is running forward with not as much regard for the cloth on her back as embodied by the traditional Virgen de Guadalupe. López uses the same colors and background as the original image does but changes the features of the woman to resemble a Chicana woman.

She goes on with this series to paint her mother, Margaret, and her grandmother. The painting featuring Margaret shows her with a sewing machine, fixing the same cloth that López wore when she was running. She sits at the table and works hard to complete the household task. She is a caregiver that takes on many roles to support herself and her family. López describes her thinking behind the painting of the Virgen image of her mother working at the Naval Training Center at a sewing machine:

I wanted to show her as a working woman. This is one of the problems with the Virgen de Guadalupe being so ubiquitous, there is no real imagery of Latinas at the work that we do. The other one was that of my grandmother. The Virgin de Guadalupe is always this beautiful, young thing. Yet there is no depiction of her as an older woman.27.

In all three Guadalupe paintings, the mundane elements of the everyday objects or activities is paired with the resemblance of the beautiful religious background. This juxtaposition intends to challenge the notion of who can and cannot exist in an iconographic space. As previously discussed, the search for national identity as a member of the Latin American communities is complex. López’s work pushes the narrative of the existing representations and figures they have. She encourages people to look at cultural identity through both traditional and modern lenses to gain a fuller understanding. This brings outside communities closer to addressing the needs of peace and justice for Latina women.

Jaune “Quick-to-See” Smith

Much of Smith’s work  illustrates the violent effects of white colonialism on the Native American communities across the country. The light blue nude female body in Fear is headless and almost limbless except the one abled arm used to carry heads of what appear to be tribe members, based on the heads’ resemblance to Salish masks. The background resembles the geometric weaving patterns of Native American tapestry. A stream of eyes      surround the body and darken the background with black and gray shadows could be surveilling, perhaps the perpetrators of the fear Native American communities face.

The nude female figure of Which Comes First? is also headless and without arms. The legs, however, are a vibrant orange and red to match the heart, as if they are burning. The gray color of the rest of the body seems lifeless. The insects surrounding the body appear to be eating away at the body. Judging from the emphasis on color in the legs and heart, the question in the title, Which Comes First?, could likely refer to those two parts of the human. Which part of the Native American woman will be taken first after it has been mistreated? Her heart or her body?

Elements of nature and spirituality are incorporated into these paintings which, as stated before, would be part of the Native American women’s way of life. At the same time, the effects of the “New World” colonizers can cloud those traditions and memories as displayed in these works. Smith interprets American history and society through her work, amplifying the Native American perspectives which are often unheard and thus more often overlooked. Smith’s efforts to bring Native women into the conversation not only as the subjects of her art but also through groups and exhibits she curates demand attention to the underrepresented American community. Peacebuilding can occur when these matters are brought to people’s attention.

Discussion and Conclusions

These four artists and eight examples of work across these women contribute meaningful messages about their respective community’s identities. Together, they all encompass the range and power of the work of women of color in the arts. The representation of the female figure of color is crucial in art, especially when created by women of color. It makes a big impact because these women of color across different communities take back control of their narratives that were overwritten, ignored, or forgotten even to this day, which could also be an act of the violence they strive to combat. When these women utilize their creative talents and passions to produce this type of work and foster communities surrounding it, they are reconstructing a nation that is cognizant of all perspectives from the past, present, and future.

While it has always been difficult for women of color to operate in academic, artistic, and social spaces of America, the creative endeavors they have undertaken to fight for social justice are key in representing their diverse communities. When women visual artists represent themselves or those in their communities, they work against historic underrepresentation. They take control of their own portrayals to the American audiences. One of the most indicative measures of female representation is through the depictions of their bodies or figures in art. Each of the four artists has a unique approach to this. Tschabalala Self creates full-bodied women who represent the Black communities of her hometown. Cynthia Tom illustrates the path of the immigrant and/or Asian American and the ancestral trauma the women and the rest of the family carries along the way. Yolanda M. Lopez explores modern takes on religious icons with generations of Chicana women in her family. Jaune “Quick-to-See” Smith emphasizes the value of the Native American woman’s identity after a long history of suffering by colonizers and the demand for humanity and justice. These representations are not stereotyped or hypersexualized, but authentic and characteristic of their present experiences.

Had I unlimited time, funds, and resources, there are some other approaches  that could expand my research on this topic. First, the analysis was conducted from interpreting eight pieces of work. With more time, there could have been more artists that could represent not just four racial categories but even more specific ethnic backgrounds. In addition, since all these artists are still living, it would have been interesting to contact and interview them. Especially considering how many of their individual pieces did not include any specific description.

These four women are also all award-winning artists that are known in the world of professional academia and/or museum settings. However, as discussed in the literature review, it is not he case that every woman artist of color can break into that setting. Instead, they likely need to find other outlets and spaces to inhabit and create their work to represent their identity. With the digital age of social media, there is an entire world of women creators of color that are trying to pursue the passion of artistic activism. There are already many Black artists on platforms such as Instagram that cultivate communities of color and the creative work that they do. With the insight of representation in television and in fine art, understanding the way women of color are portrayed in art on social media is also a big part of how peace and justice can be achieved through creative means.

It is also important to note that during my research, I found an abundance of easily accessible archival resources on women of color, women artists, and artists of color. However, there was unexpected scarcity and limitations to information that combined them all and conversed specifically about women of color art activists. Thus, a final idea would be to create a network of female artists of color. Having an organization community of women of color creatives of this generation works to fill the gaps of missing or less accessible information about their art or stories. In addition, this project could also entail creating a piece of art with the values of peacebuilding in mind. Both would be in an attempt to directly experience the work it takes to pursue the profession of both artists and curators alike.

These would all be methods to further combat the violence that is misrepresenting or underrepresenting ethnic minorities and women. The work chosen reflects how each of the minority communities face race and gender-based violence, and how they are not a monolith. Connecting the values and goals that go into the artworks of these women of color provide a multi-faceted and robust means of achieving peace and justice.

  1. Elisabeth Porter, Connecting Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2015) 5.
  2. About,” Tschabalala Self.
  3. an aftereffect of a disease, condition, or injury (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary).
  4. About,” Cynthia Tom Fine Art.”
  5. Karen Mary Davalos, Yolanda M. López (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 3.
  6. Jaune ‘Quick-to-See’ Smith,” Feminist Art Base, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum .
  7. Riva Tukachinsky, ​​​​Dana Mastro, and Moran Yarchi, “Documenting Portrayals of Race/Ethnicity on Primetime Television over a 20-Year Span and Their Association with National-Level Racial/Ethnic Attitudes,” Journal of Social Issues 71, no. 1 (2015), 32.
  8. Richard Fausset, “Eight Dead in Atlanta Spa Shootings, With Fears of Anti-Asian Bias,” The New York Times, March 26, 2021.
  9. Becky Thompson, “Multiracial Feminism: Recasting the Chronology of Second Wave Feminism,” Feminist Studies 28, no. 2 (2002), 337.
  10. Thompson, “Multiracial Feminism,”338.
  11. Thompson, “Multiracial Feminism,”339.
  12. Thompson, “Multiracial Feminism,” 348.
  13. Marivel T. Danielson, “Our Art Is Our Weapon: Women of Color Transforming Academia,” in Homecoming Queers: Desire and Difference in Chicana Latina Cultural Production (Rutgers University Press, 2009), 172.
  14. Danielson, “Our Art Is Our Weapon,” 175.
  15. Judith K. Brodsky and Ferris Olin, “Bernice Steinbaum: Advancing Women Artists toward Parity in the Marketplace,” Junctures in Women’s Leadership: The Arts (Rutgers University Press, 2018), 126.
  16. PhoebeFarris, introduction to Women Artists of Color: a Bio-critical Sourcebook to 20th Century Artists in the Americas, edited by Phoebe Farris, xviii.
  17. Jennifer Jue, “Women of Color Breaking the Silence: Exploring the Life Stories of Women of Color,” Religious Education 88, no. 3 (1993), 45.
  18. Farris, Women Artists of Color, 3.
  19. Farris, Women Artists of Color, 126.
  20. Farris, Women Artists of Color, 231.
  21. Farris, Women Artists of Color, 373.
  22. Current (Tschabalala Self: Out of Body),”Tschabalala Self.
  23. Patrisse Cullors quoted in Marcia Davis, “Black Lives Matter—Including Black Women’s, Activists Remind Nation: Deaths by Police Or while in their Custody Lead to Plans for a New York Vigil and a ‘Day of Action’ in 11 Cities,” The Washington Post, May 20, 2015.
  24. Taking a Stand,” Cynthia Tom Fine Art.
  25. Elements of Discards and Variances,” Cynthia Tom Fine Art.
  26. Launching the Gifts,” Cynthia Tom Fine Art.
  27. Yolanda López quoted in “Feminist Artist: Yolanda Lopez,” Butterfly, April 30, 2014.
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