Ali Cavanaugh and the Female Form

An expressionist with a streak of formalism, Ali Cavanaugh offers insights into the unexpected and recognizable aspects of life with playful and thought-provoking figurative paintings.

Winner of the prestigious Presidential Scholarship from the David Kendall Foundation, she graduated from Kendall College of Art and Design in 1995. She quickly established a following of students and devoted collectors; today her work is featured in more than 300 collections.

This month her paintings, along with those of 52 other female artists, premiered in a first-of-its-kind exhibit called “Women Painting Women” at the Robert Lange Studios in Charleston, SC.

“I was honored to have been included with such amazing talent in this show,” she said. “There’s an inexplicable bond created when one artist finds another that shares a love for the same subject matter. Imagine that times 50.”

“Women Painting Women” was inspired by a blog of the same name.  When they couldn’t find an online resource for the topic, artists Sadie Valeri, Alia El-Bermani, and Diane Feissel created the online community to explore and share how other women artists are handling their female subjects.

“My muse is my daughter,” Ali said. “I have painted my husband and two sons a few times, but I truly have an insatiable thirst for painting the female form. The appeal is multi-faceted.  It’s about the familiarity and self discovery that a woman finds when mothering her daughter, and the mysterious grace and beauty in the elegance of the female form.” 

In figurative art, the female form as subject is as old as painting itself.  Only a handful of women made names for themselves in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, but by the 1700s, women began forging a path into the art academies.   Still, it wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that women artists were widely accepted by arts community.

“Loose networks of women painters existed, but nothing like what we have today through art blogs,” Ali said. “It seems like women have found an outlet where they can excel. The show was a success because it took this virtual network of amazing international talent and made it tangible.”

“Women Painting Women” has succeeded in bringing together otherwise solitary, female artists. And now they share a camaraderie that women centuries, and even decades ago, did not have. “We all had each other’s e-mail,” Ali said. “So, for weeks leading up to the show there were so many heartfelt messages going back and forth between us.”

For more on Ali Cavanaugh, go to

For more on Women Painting Women, go to

– Cheryl Wilder 

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