Mapping an identity: How women artists develop an artistic identity

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Hope Irvine


Women artists, Artistic identity, Identity development

Subject Categories

Art Practice | Other Teacher Education and Professional Development | Women's Studies


The primary purpose of this study was to understand how five women artists made meaning of their artistic identities. A second purpose was to identify the ways in which their experiences may impact art education practice in terms of how to better meet the needs of art students in general, and aspiring young female artists, in particular. In-depth interviews were used to collect the data. A phenomenological approach served as a theoretical framework and practical method to interpret the findings. This study also drew upon feminist standpoint epistemology, which concerns itself with the material aspects of one's life and makes use of the inconsistencies and conflicts that shape women's experiences in a patriarchal world. Transcripts of the unstructured interviews were analyzed, compared and summarized to present individual life stories of each artist. Five themes emerged from the data, capturing experiences relevant to the artistic identity development common to all of the participants. The five themes were alienation, support, self and others, risk and determination, and identity. While some of the findings were consistent with prior research on the artistic development of all artists, significant gender-related issues specific to the experiences of women were also revealed.

The findings of this study contribute to our knowledge regarding how women artists make meaning of their artistic identity development and offer in-depth insights into some of the challenges and opportunities they encounter. The study concludes with several recommendations for the field of art education and suggestions for future research.


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