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GoNOLA Tops: 5 Female Artists to Know Now

These contemporary female artists display creativity and innovation that speaks to the complex perspective of the women who choose to call New Orleans home

A painting from Jessica Strahan. (Photo courtesy of Malik Bartholomew)

New Orleans has always been the kind of place to overtake your senses: a treasure trove of sights, aromas, sounds and tastes as rich as the city’s history. For as long as New Orleans has existed, so too have its artists. A place so stimulating, so robust with output, nurtures those who can turn that inspiration into art. And, one could argue, who better to do this than women?Those who have learned to see the world a bit differently—say, from an angle, or from the inside out, instead of simply from the top down.

Here are five contemporary New Orleans female artists whose creativity and innovation speak to this unique intersection between a fascinating place, and the complex perspective of the women who choose to call it home.

Five New Orleans Female Artists

Barbie L’Hoste

One of Barbie L’Hoste’s mixed media works. (Image courtesy of David J. L’Hoste Photography)

Take a journey through Barbie L’Hoste’s colorful mixed media landscapes, and you’ll discover new characters around every bend. L’Hoste draws inspiration from the playful side of social media: the nuances of her characters, and their positions within space, parallel this Internet realm in which we are constantly putting forward new personas of ourselves. L’Hoste says, “In the same way that we can discover limitless virtual environments, I strive to create abstract landscapes for these characters, or personalities, to perform within.” In a very “meta” sense, L’Hoste aims to use social media as a positive force to share her work with a wide audience, and to interrupt the daily grind with a bit of joy and lightheartedness.You can find some of L’Hoste’s work at Of Myth, Fun, and Folly on view at the New Orleans Art Center (3330 St. Claude Ave.) from July 9 – July 31.

Alexandra Kilburn

Kilburn’s deities exist in the space between New Orleans’ contagious celebratory atmosphere and its many undeniable hardships.

"Home" by Alexandra Kilburn.
“Home” by Alexandra Kilburn.

Inspired by New Orleans’ vivid colors, vibrant community, and the way in which spirituality saturates the air here, Alexandra Kilburn creates “tiny goddesses” on paper, salvaged wood, and even occasionally in the form of large, outdoor murals. The deities exist in the space between New Orleans’ contagious celebratory atmosphere—its appreciation for the present moment—and its many undeniable hardships.

“I hope in some small way these imaginary deities bring forth good feminine energy—strong, wise, comforting, something the world desperately needs,” Kilburn says, “and that each one contains some of that strange and lovely New Orleans spirit.”

Some of Kilburn’s work will be featured in an all-female show at the Where Y’Art Gallery (1901 Royal St.), opening on Dirty Linen Night on Aug. 13. You can also find her work at Where Y’Art.

Molly McGuire

Molly McGuire's "Swamp Queen."
Molly McGuire’s “Swamp Queen.”

Molly McGuires riveting circus banners seek to recreate her childhood memories of when a traveling carnival popped up each year on the gravel flat behind her house—only to disappear just as quickly.

“The place would be transformed into this magical epicenter of activity for a week,” she explains. Eventually, the carnies took a liking to McGuire, letting her play the games and take rides for free: “It was the first time I felt like I fit in somewhere.”

The sensations associated with these memories—the lights, smells, and “distant screams”—are transposed into her banners, which explore the seemingly endless cache of Louisiana folklore. “People ask me which circus I work for,” Mcguire says, “and I tell them—‘the circus in my mind!’”

You can find McGuire’s work on her website, Her banners will also be featured at the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, TX, as part of the show “Original Sideshow Attractions” (opening reception on Sept. 11) alongside vintage circus banners by the infamous Snap Wyatt.

Ember Soberman

Ember Soberman's "Restoring a Queen."
Ember Soberman’s “Restoring a Queen.”

Although she started out as a watercolorist, Ember Soberman now practices encaustic painting, a process by which wax, resin, and pigments are heated, mixed, and applied in layers to create a unique vibrancy and depth of color. Soberman thinks of each of her paintings as a kind of ledger: through the layers of encaustic paint —a remarkably durable, ancient material—she seeks to convey “a visceral sense of place.” She adds, “I draw from the stories of my surroundings in and around New Orleans, a profoundly diverse environment worth recording in the present and preserving for the future.”

Soberman will be one of three female artists showing at The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, a satellite gallery of Where Y’Art, opening White Linen Night on Aug. 6. You can also find her work at Where Y’Art.

Jessica Strahan

A painting from Jessica Strahan. (Photo courtesy of Malik Bartholomew)
A painting from Jessica Strahan. (Photo courtesy of Malik Bartholomew)

Jessica Strahan’s #youarewhatyoueat series seamlessly combines the contours of the human face with that of fruits and vegetables. What results is both beautiful and delicious. Strahan explains that the series comes out of that daily battle between junk food and health food, those feuding desires we all know so well. She seeks to manifest what she wants to eat, and who she wants to be, in her paintings: “I would rather be a banana than a bag of greasy chips.” Strahan plans to take this message of healthy eating to an even broader audience, hoping to incorporate her love of portraits, particularly of kids, into a couple children’s books, one on fruit and one on veggies.

You can find Strahan’s work at the Axiom Art Gallery (4613 Freret Street) and on Instagram.

Where Y’Art is a curated community of over 100 New Orleans artists, where you can meet the people creating art, learn their stories, and even find them on the ground in the City. Discover, follow, and shop the art of our community online at and in New Orleans at 1901 Royal St.

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