International Journal of Art & Design Education

Women in Art: The Last Taboo

Volume 20.3   2001



The intention of this paper is to explore traditions and current trends in art with particular reference to the depiction of female experiences such as pregnancy, abortion, birth and motherhood. The inclusion and exclusion of such images in art history over time and across societies reflects prevailing attitudes, whilst affirming various stereotypical and gendered constructions developed and sustained within those societies. These constructions in turn relate to criteria defined by class, access to education and notions of femininity. Work by artists which feature aspects of these experiences (particularly childbirth), is considered taboo by many in a Western society which continues to render the essentially female experience as private, invisible and stigmatised and confuses the natural with the sexual. The work of undergraduate art students, inspired by the artwork of women artists who make explicit or are influenced by essentially female experiences, is discussed and attempts made to connect their work to the issues outlined.