Reneesha Mccoy is a self-proclaimed “witness of women.”
A self-taught North Carolina-based artist, she creates works shaped by her own body and her mind’s strength, often with themes of motherhood.
“I do believe elevating the work of female artists collectively will initiate change in a positive way,” she says. “We’re all exposed to the rawness surrounding us, each with different interpretations."
Reneesha is referring to Invest In Her Art (IIHA), a Westport-based “discovery platform” that showcases the creations of international female artists who, like Reneesha, are imbued with vision, drive, and sometimes jaw-dropping talent.
Debuting online in May 2020, the idea was actually years in the making, says founder Diana Mashia.
Having double-majored in art history and economics at Barnard, Diana has always found ways to feed her imaginative streak while staying firmly grounded. Spending her early career working both on Wall Street and in advocacy at the Alliance for the Arts, she began to see a burgeoning connection between expression and business.
In 2019 she returned to school – this time Columbia University – to earn a master’s in public policy, a move that would spur her to forge her own path to champion women artists. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset,” Diana says.
IIHA is more than an online gallery for buyers who want a statement piece to hang over the couch or a series for the office hallway. Led by art historians, storytellers, strategists, and media professionals, IIHA aims to increase visibility of, and accessibility to, works by women and binary individuals, eventually transforming art education so schoolchildren like Mashia’s own see as many of Georgia O’Keeffe’s clouds as they do Vincent van Gogh’s sunflowers.
There’s work to be done. Research shows that from 2008 to 2019 only 2% of art auction sales represented work by women. In addition, only around 11% of female works are in museum collections, Diana says.
“Just as in venture capital, I saw we needed women at the table,” she says. “There is a huge gap in equity in the art world.”
Many of the 4,000+ artists (25% are local) IIHA curates consider questions of what it means to be a woman or the place of the feminine in nature.
For instance, Alba Páramo, a Mexican-born printmaker who now lives in Paris, creates etchings that evoke her reveries of love and sacred connection through images of animals inspired by mythology, literature, cultural history, and Tibetan art. In Los Angeles, Greek artist Theodora Marchant creates voluptuous Picasso-esque bodies that speak to intimacy, emotion, and the human mind. “In my subjects, I aim to express a universal language that remains timeless and incorruptible,” she says.
“Art, for me, is life. It’s the joy that connects us,” Diana adds. “There’s still a long way to go, but we feel the tailwinds behind us.”