Beauty is Strength: 6 Artworks That Inspire Human Resilience

Whether made in response to crisis, or to daily issues, these artworks will inspire reflection, strength, and resilience, for anybody feeling overwhelmed by life’s many difficulties.

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5 min read


As we live through the age of a pandemic and of climate disaster that requires us to show solidarity to communities in crisis all over the world, we sometimes need a reminder of how resilient the human spirit can be. These artists have used art to reflect upon life’s calamities, from big global events to personal struggles. The beauty of these pieces can help us find our strength to carry on as we move through our day-to-day lives amidst global issues.



1. “Niagara” by Phaan Howng 

Phaan Howng (@phaanlove) works with what she calls ‘post-apocalyptic optimism’ to caution us against the excess of overconsumption and to encourage an appreciation of nature. “Niagara” was an installation for the Smithsonian Institute’s 2018 Long Conversation: a creative marathon between artists, scientists and other big thinkers that's guaranteed to leave you feeling better about the future”.  



While this piece is full of beauty, with its bold colours, its scale, and the inspiration it takes from natural forms like waterfalls and rocks, it also presents its viewers with a cautionary tale about “long-term consequences of poor environmental policies, wars, and pollution, among other things,” according to Howng. As we admire this installation piece, we are reminded of the agency we have in the ongoing climate crisis, and the responsibility we have toward ourselves and the planet to keep its beauty alive and untarnished.


2. “Redefining Life” by Pitsho Mafolo

From the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pitsho Mafolo’s (@pitshomafolo007) work is inspired by his culture and heritage. “Redefining Life” was featured in the Art of Resilience exhibition, which aimed to show the importance of paying attention to human stories amongst disaster and catastrophe through creative expression.



This detailed mixed-media piece conveys stories of pain, but also features strong, stark lines which can be taken to represent hope, destiny and rebirth. This piece also depicts a man at its centre, who is holding the earth with well-defined and determined eyes. This work reminds us that stories of suffering still carry messages of empowerment, and that our lives, at any moment, can be redefined.


3. “Heart of Glass” by Qualeasha Wood 

Qualeasha Wood (@qualeasha) is a textile artist whose “transgressive works explore voyeurism, queerness, and her experiences with internet culture as a Black woman all through visually arresting woven textiles,” writes Jaelynn Walls for Teen Vogue. Wood’s work reflects upon how women, specifically Black women, are “policed, fetishized, and belittled in online spaces”.



Wood takes a bold, brave approach to the toxicity of online culture through self-referentiality. This piece, like many of her others, is honest, arresting, and recognisable especially to women who have struggled to feel safe in the digital overload of our internet age. It, like the rest of her work, glows with a modern woman’s resilience and strength.


4. “One day at a time” by Gabriela Miño Castro 

This vibrant self-portrait features in the UNESCO initiative, through the Creative Resilience exhibition, to show us how global pandemic challenged the ways in which women in STEM perceived the world. This exhibition bridged the gap between sciences and the arts through showcasing ‘sci-artists’ like Gabriela Miño Castro, who is a Biotechnologist from Ecuador.



This acrylic painting draws attention to how COVID-19 lockdowns have led to a melding together of professional and personal lives. It specifically addresses how difficult and enduring this transformation has been for women in a male-dominated world. Even so, the painting is full of vivid florals, and hopeful imagery. Castro suggests taking everything “one day at a time,” despite all the pressure.


5. ‘Roots (After Frida)’ by Hiba Schahbaz 

Hiba Schahbaz (@hiba_schahbaz) is a Pakistani artist known for mesmerising large-scale explorations of the female form. Christina D. Bartson writes for BOMB that Hiba has inverted an ancient Pakistani visual narrative by centering the nude female figure as the anchor of her work, not as an object to be viewed passively.” Schahbaz’s reclamation of femininity is also a celebration: it is full of bright, warm colours, and it shows its viewers just how beautiful a woman’s body can be, all while honouring her training in the classical techniques of Pakistani miniature art.



Even Schahbaz’s choice of creating and showing large-scale paintings is a ‘‘bold assertion of the right to claim and occupy space, both figuratively and literally”, writes Bedatri D. Choudhury of Hyperallergic. ‘Strength’ reminds us of the power held by the female gaze. In this painting, a nude woman stares down a lion. This symbolises the power of vulnerability and femininity against every odd.


6. “Altar” by Shilo Shiv Suleman 

Finally, this series of self-portraits by Shilo Shiv Suleman (@shiloshivsuleman) also looks inward to find strength. Suleman situated the artmaking process in the female body through ‘wearable shrines’, bringing her own body into the conversation. In self-worship and self-creation, she, much like Schahbaz, demonstrates the resilience of femininity, and undertakes a reclaiming of a body that has been written over and suppressed for generations. 




Suleman’s project is a poignant expression of the divine feminine. To this end, her use of traditional religious iconography bridges the modern and the ancient. Her work shows us how resilient a woman’s body is, and how beautiful for its enduring strength. In a time defined by social media, self-image having become a huge issue for women and girls everywhere, these photos pose the question of whether we are doing enough to care for ourselves and to worship our own bodies, while assuring us that profound beauty is to be found in our continued resilience.

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