Smart Things Some Women Artists Have Said

Virginia Woolf's Tea Towel, 2016. 16"(w) x 24"(l) Hand embroidery on vintage linen.

My friend Judy Martin posted a meme on Facebook that was a list of some inspiring things artists have said. I noticed that with one exception they were all by men, and suggested we put together a list of things women artists have said, and Judy, being as smart as she is, challenged me to go ahead. By no means is this a definitive list, just a few that leapt out at me. Please add others!

"It is commonly thought that everything that is can be put into words." ~ Agnes Martin

"A mystery confounds the problem of industry in art. In the last analysis, to work is simply not enough. But we have to act as if it were, leaving reward aside." ~ Anne Truitt

"Don't ask what the work is. Rather, see what the work does." ~ Eva Hesse

"Art is a guarantee of sanity. That is the most important thing I have said." ~ Louise Bourgeois

"Art is restoration: the idea is to repair the damages that are inflicted in life, to make something that is fragmented - which is what fear and anxiety do to a person - into something whole." ~ Louise Bourgeois

"I trust my work. It's a collaboration with the material, and when it's viewed, it's a collaboration with the world." ~ Kiki Smith

"There should be something revelatory about art. It should be totally creative and open doors for new thoughts and experiences." ~ Tracey Emin

"You have to know how to use the accident, how to recognise it, how to control it, and ways to eliminate it so that the whole surface looks felt and born all at once." ~ Helen Frankenthaler

"I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day, and the only method I have found that relieves my illness is to keep creating art. I followed the thread of art and somehow discovered a path that would allow me to live." ~ Yayoi Kusama

"Look at yourself in the mirror and don't be afraid to notice how beautiful you are." ~ Yoko Ono

"Despite the variety of my explorations, throughout it all it has been my contention that my responsibility as an artist is to work, to sing for my supper, to make art, beautiful and powerful, that adds and reveals; to beautify the mess of a messy world, to heal the sick and feed the helpless; to shout bravely from the roof-tops and storm barricaded doors and voice the specifics of our historic moment." ~ Carrie Mae Weems

"Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done: the dictation of the materials." ~ Anni Albers

"For me there is no gap between my painting and my so-called 'decorative' work. I never considered the 'minor arts' to be artistically frustrating; on the contrary, it was an extension of my art." ~ Sonia Delaunay

"When I look back on the years of excessive self-doubt, I wonder how I was able to make my paintings. In part, I managed to paint because I had a desire, as strong as the desire for food and sex, to push through, to make an image that signified." ~ Miriam Schapiro

“Females carry the marks, language and nuances of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed on the female body.”~ Wangechi Mutu

"Nobody will give you freedom. You have to take it." ~ Meret Oppenheim

"There are things that are not sayable. That’s why we have art." ~ Leonora Carrington

"I think that art is still a site for resistance and for the telling of various stories, for validating certain subjectivities we normally overlook. I'm trying to be affective, to suggest changes, and to resist what I feel are the tyrannies of social life on a certain level." ~ Barbara Kruger


  1. my friend Bronwyn Berman wrote these wise words back in June 2017
    “And what is made it or almost made it? My experience is that we make it then we unmake it. I think I’ve made it more than once but thought I hadn’t made it so kept wanting to make it, then when it had been unmade again I realised that I had made and not appreciated it, then think that really what I have now is making it then think I’m a deluded ‘has been’ who is too old to ever make it, and in any case couldn’t be bothered with too much of making it. I think we’re probably always making it, as soon as we make it the unmaking begins and when we’re unmade then we start making again.”

  2. in stitching words like these, they become a part of us ... creating a sampler of thought and intention ...


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