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Art & Design

Great art and design can decorate, educate, advocate, inspire, and challenge. At its core, art is about expression. Women’s creativity has impacted the art world, and the world at large, by challenging viewers to see the beauty and injustice of the world from their perspective.

Collection Objects

Learn the stories behind these objects or explore more American women artists and their art in the collections

Two life-size colored pencil drawings of the same woman in two outfits - one conservative, one colorful and form-fitting - flank a mirror where the viewer can see themselves reflected in the middle.

Judith Baca's "Las Tres Marías" Includes You

A vibrant palette and daub-like forms commingle in a vertical stripe pattern to conjure fleeting elements of the landscape.

Alma Thomas, A Hero of Abstract Expressionism

Helen Keller’s Lost Watch

Helen Keller's Watch

Two busts of self-portrait of artist Janine Antoni - one made of white soap, one made of chocolate. Her features have been worn down by bathing the soap and licking the chocolate.

Self-Portraits Made of Soap and Chocolate

A white cup and saucer depicting an abstract outdoor scene. Image is on both inside and outside of cup. The saucer has brown stripes around the rim.

Industrial Designer Belle Kogan Merged Sophistication with Affordability

Romaine Brooks portrays herself in the dark colors of a man's outfit, her eyes veiled under the shadow of her hat brim.

Artist Romaine Brooks Challenged Gender Norms

Conversation Kit

Let's Talk! Native Women and Civic Action Conversation Kit
Native Women and Civic Action Teaching and Discussion Guide

Grades 8–12. Time: Variable (1–4 class periods). Aligned to CCSS and C3 standards.

In this lesson plan, students will learn how different women artists, including Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Shan Goshorn, and Matika Wilbur, have used their art to bring attention to important issues that have affected marginalized people. Students will also look at, and use, art as a tool to explore new perspectives and think about it as a way to create change or take informed action.


Interview with Amy Sherald, winner of first prize at "The Outwin Boochever 2016" for her painting titled "Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance)." Michelle Obama selected Sherald, to create her official portrait for the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.

The REDress Project, an outdoor art installation by artist Jaime Black (Métis), features empty red dresses. Black hopes to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Native women and to evoke a presence through the marking of absence. 

Mandy Van Heuvelen, a cultural interpreter coordinator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, shares the story of contemporary Native artist Nora Naranjo Morse.

Maya Lin's lifelong concern for the environment is at the core of her projects and site-specific works, including "Folding the Chesapeake," her installation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery in the Wonder exhibition (November 13, 2015 – July 10, 2016).

Smithsonian American Women book cover.

Smithsonian American Women

Remarkable objects and stories of strength, ingenuity, and vision from the National Collection.

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