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This is an image of a painting by February James.

February James, What it cannot own, 2022


10 Women Who Found Freedom in Their Art

This Women's History Month, CULTURED delves into the magazine's archives to highlight 10 female artists who confront gender inequities by redefining the erotic, quashing the idea of women's work, and refusing to go quietly. 

By Annie Lyall Slaughter

March 22, 2023

When fear ferments long enoguh, it turns into activism, producing some of the world’s most arresting and necessary art. If we turn to the history of contemporary works by female artists, we find a record of protest, rallying-cries, and subversive exploration. As women's rights over their voices, bodies, and autonomy are increasingly threatened, these artists have set themselves and their successors on the course of righteous indignation.

February James's Sitters Feel and Reflect the Oppressive World Around Them

In this climate-changing, post-Roe world, eco-feminist perspectives are more relevant than ever. Last fall, a group show at Berlin's Galerie Max Hetzler titled "Bodyland" took on this complicated topic and the self-described autodidact February James was a standout among the group of female artists included. Echoing Marlene Dumas's loose handling of watercolor, James's What it cannot own, 2022, is both a tribute and a eulogy to her sitter. The woman's tired eyes are painted in a sad, hazy green - reflections, perhaps, of the expoloitation that envelopes her.