Kate Simon (born 1953)
Gelatin silver print, 1983 (printed 2013)
Madonna is a singer-songwriter, dancer, actress, auteur, producer, and fashionista who transformed the postfeminist landscape of American culture. As a new kind of ethnic street-smart woman in the 1980s, Madonna exploded across music, film, and MTV while producing videos and concert tours combining dance-driven spectacle and erotic exhibitionism. Her thrift-store bohemian style influenced a generation of adolescent girls to layer up in fingerless gloves, fishnets, and religious necklaces. Madonna’s club-pop sensibility synthesized aspects of disco, gay culture, and African American dance with the rock-and-roll theatricality of David Bowie and Deborah Harry. At times accused of cultural theft, she is rather an artistic omnivore, taking inspiration from European art films, Indian music, voguing, or African American culture. She was an early activist for gay rights and can point to an acclaimed (if minor) film career. At age fifty-five, Madonna is, arguably, the most important female musical artist in recording history: her influence on such figures as Lady Gaga and Pink is immeasurable.