WOMEN CHOOSE WOMEN AGAIN
WOMEN CHOOSE WOMEN AGAIN
WOMEN CHOOSE WOMEN
AGAIN January 17 â€“ April 13, 2014 Curated by Mary Birmingham & Katherine Murdock
Visual Arts Center of New Jersey
WOMEN CHOOSE WOMEN Pat Adams Virginia Cuppaidge Lois Dodd Audrey Flack Mary Frank Yvonne Jacquette Joyce Kozloff Faith Ringgold Arlene Slavin Joan Snyder Pat Steir Michelle Stuart Nina Yankowitz 1973 & 2014
AGAIN Sarah Leahy Antonia Perez Elizabeth Oâ€™Reilly Julie Heffernan Henrietta Mantooth Clytie Alexander Judith Henry Beverly McIver Elke Solomon Ann Messner Judith Hudson Sandy Gellis Debra Pearlman 2014
Choices and Connections by Mary Birmingham
s a curator I know the value of a good exhibition title. A perfect one is sufficiently intriguing to invite a closer look, suggesting the exhibition’s theme or organizing principle without giving away too much. The best titles are often provocative and sometimes playful, with multiple or ambiguous meanings.
When I first encountered the exhibition title Women Choose Women several years ago, it piqued my curiosity, so I tracked down a copy of the 1973 catalogue. Reading it, I was impressed by the scope and breadth of the show and its message of female empowerment. I was sorry I hadn’t discovered it earlier. Women Choose Women was the first New York City museum survey organized by women and devoted exclusively to the work of women artists. It was the brainchild of Women in the Arts (WIA), an activist group that had recently formed to demand better representation for women artists in New York City’s museums and galleries. A jury of female artists and critics selected 109 artists from among the members of WIA whose work reflected the broad range of art being made at the time. This ambitious and groundbreaking show opened on January 12, 1973, at the New York Cultural Center. Well attended and widely reviewed, it helped create a momentum that began breaking down barriers for women artists. The title, Women Choose Women, connotes a decisive act—taking control. It also suggests a collaborative effort—women choosing women. This title was a catalyst in my decision to revisit the seminal exhibition four decades after its inception. I asked Katherine Murdock, Exhibitions Manager at the Art Center and an emerging curator, to collaborate with me. Together we Notes appear at the end of the catalogue.
invited thirteen artists from the 1973 exhibition to show their work again, and in a nod to the spirit of the original show, we asked each of them to choose another female artist for inclusion in the new exhibition. Rather than reconstitute the original show, we decided to showcase recent work by all twenty-six artists. Women Choose Women Again celebrates the collective energy that helped fuel 1970s feminism and reaffirms the value of female collaboration and networking today. Like the 1973 exhibition that inspired it, the current show presents a variety of work reflecting the diverse interests and artistic practices of its makers. With no unifying theme determining the content of the exhibition, the curatorial challenge was to choose work that would faithfully represent each artist yet still hang together cohesively to create an interesting and meaningful show. As we spoke with the artists and chose work for the exhibition, we began to find formal and thematic connections among the works. We came to view the show as a web of connections linking all of the artists and their work. Feminist critic Lucy R. Lippard has observed that the web or network is a favorite feminist metaphor because it is an image of “connectiveness, inclusiveness and integration.”1 In a short essay she wrote for the Women Choose Women catalogue, she suggested that women artists and critics should continue to explore and define “the web formed by the multiple threads” of their individual aesthetic directions.2 In Women Choose Women Again we create a new web and explore its multiple threads— threads connecting artists, threads connecting their work, and threads connecting the two exhibitions, past and present.
Michelle Stuart, Drawing on Space, 2011 (detail, complete work on page 81)
ach of the thirteen artists from the 1973 show provided a statement about the artist she selected; they are reproduced in this publication. Several chose from among their closest friends while others looked to their established networks of artist friends. The studentteacher relationship3 was the initial point of contact for some, although all of these ultimately progressed into friendships. Sometimes admiration for another artist’s work provided the impetus to choose.
The twenty-six artists employ traditional and unconventional materials and techniques to create paintings, sculpture, photographs, works on paper, video, and installations. As we selected works for the show, a few broad themes emerged that provided formal and conceptual links within the group, including: various ways of observing or interpreting landscape; nature and environmental concerns; portraiture, self-portraiture, and hidden identities; the female body; the aging process; motherhood and childhood; memory and loss; materiality and surface; architecture; repetitive forms and patterns; and the use of the grid. Sometimes we found affinities in the works of artists and the women they chose, and sometimes the connections extended into the larger group. In true web fashion, many works connected in several different directions. For more than two decades Lois Dodd and her former student Elizabeth O’Reilly have been painting together outdoors, from Maine to Ireland to Blairstown, New Jersey. They share a commitment to painting their everyday surroundings, on site. Dodd’s large oil painting of Blair Pond and O’Reilly’s small watercolor collage of the Hamilton Avenue Bridge convey light reflected on water with an economic distillation of form that borders on the abstract. Mary Frank, who exhibited a bronze sculpture in Women Choose Women, shows a recent painting in this exhibition, as does her friend, Henrietta Mantooth. In Frank’s Horizon Bird, a large white bird fills the distant horizon like a range of snowy mountains against a flaming sky. In Mantooth’s Lost House, a group of birds hover over a small house. The large expanse of canvas beneath the house makes it appear as if the birds have carried it off into the sky. Both works are surreal and mythic, their images wavering between threatening and benign. Michelle Stuart and Sandy Gellis share a conceptual interest in non-traditional materials collected directly from nature, such as water, soil, and plant materials, although the relationship between their works in the current show is a formal one. Stuart’s Drawing on Space is a grid of altered photographs of antique camera lenses over images of exploding fireworks. Gellis’s series Hair Portraits consists of glass orbs containing human hair suspended in water. The circular forms in both works appear celestial and cellular at the same time, creating a dialogue between the microcosm of the personal and the macrocosm of the universal. Installed on small shelves, Gellis’s objects are presented like scientific specimens, and relate equally well to Nina Yankowitz’s Breaking Glass/Buried Secrets In Science. In this installation, a glass
Joan Snyder, Proserpina, 2013, (detail, complete work on page 73)
house acts as a container for the hidden stories of women’s achievements in the sciences. A video includes textual vignettes that appear to float on water. We found an unexpected yet compelling relationship between the work of Joan Snyder and Ann Messner. Snyder’s painting Proserpina4 interprets the story of the Roman goddess Proserpina (known as Persephone in Greek mythology) and the myth of spring: Ceres, the goddess of grain and the harvest, was inconsolable at the loss of her daughter Proserpina and wandered the earth searching for her, neglecting her task of giving grain to the world and causing the crops to die. Proserpina was finally restored to her mother, but only for six months each year. When Proserpina returns to her mother in spring, the earth blooms, but while she remains in the underworld for the other half of the year, Ceres withholds the earth’s bounties. Snyder’s vibrant and highly expressive work conveys the duality of an earth wounded by maternal loss and the recovery of hope. The cycle of death and rebirth in nature is also addressed in Messner’s ghost limb, a pale specter of an abandoned tree limb that Messner painstakingly hollowed out and painted. Precariously perched on the edge of a stool like a pair of disembodied legs, it personifies the fragility of nature. The artists’ incorporation of organic matter—tree, poppies, dirt, charcoal—adds a substantive materiality to each work that speaks of loss and endurance in achingly poetic ways.
The surface tactility of Snyder’s work is a quality shared by several others in the show. Debra Pearlman applies layers of magma or crushed glass to her printed and painted works on canvas, creating surfaces that appear seductive and dangerous at the same time. These two adjectives—seductive and dangerous—could just as easily describe the enigmatic content of works such as Twilight, which conceals as much as it reveals. Throughout her long career Pat Adams has embedded the surfaces of her works with sand, mica, crushed shells, and other granular materials. There is a tangible materiality in small works, such as In the Moment, that lends weightiness to their intimate scale. In That Is To Say, Adams creates a complex weave of line, form, and color that wrestle between surface and depth. Clytie Alexander is interested in the surface and its interaction with the surrounding space. The singular mark in Red Loop is an abstract notation skating over subtle layers of modulated light, implying a depth below the surface. The loop assertively delineates the boundaries and surface of the canvas, drawing the eye to the space around and beneath it. Both Elke Solomon and Sarah Leahy use ink on translucent surfaces. Solomon’s loose washes and shorthand brushstrokes of India ink on Mylar create a shimmering, nearly transparent close-up portrait of a chandelier. Her ability to convey the idea of light with a dark, opaque medium is quite stunning. Leahy’s moody painting juxtaposing two nearly identical interior views was made through a labor-intensive process involving ink washes painted on clear plexiglass sheets and sanded out with fine-grade sandpaper. Slowly burnishing and refining the surface, and building up a dense but translucent image, Leahy creates an image of a space that seems charged and strangely alive—dark and luminous. Interior is a diptych showing two slightly skewed views of the same interior space, almost like consecutive frames in a filmstrip. Beverly McIver’s striking self-portrait Double Take plays with a similar idea. Superimposing duplicate portraits, one just slightly above the other, the artist creates a sensation of double vision. She wears a pair of red sunglasses belonging to her friend Dorothy Pearlstein, and poses with her hand to her head. This gesture sets up a dynamic tension that is heightened by the loose, broad brushstrokes. The frenetic energy within the painting makes us wonder: Does she hold her head in a gesture of puzzlement, or restraint? The suggestion of camouflage or disguise in McIver’s use of the sunglasses connects it to the work of Judith Henry. In her series Girls, Girls, Girls, Henry appropriates and shares the identities of high-school girls from different times, places, and social strata by restaging their yearbook portraits. Using sketches of their faces as masks to veil her own identity, Henry photographs herself posing as each girl. The new gridded arrangements of faces are ambiguous images that are simultaneously specific and anonymous.
Joyce Kozloff, If I Were a Botanist (Mediterranean) I – III, 2013, (detail, complete work on page 61)
The multiplicity of faces in Girls, Girls, Girls forms a connection with the repeated figures in Change 3: Faith Ringgold’s Over 100 Pound Weight Loss Performance Story Quilt. This work documents the artist’s changing image, depicting seventeen versions of her nude body at varying weights. Ringgold surrounds the painting with pieced fabric incorporating a handwritten text that is somewhat confessional. The work reflects her personal body image while raising larger issues about beauty standards in our culture. The changing female body is also addressed in All the Ravages of Time Cannot Overcome True Nature, Judith Hudson’s watercolor drawing that poses the advice-column query “Dear Doctor, How long will my allure last?” A ticking clock and skeleton add an element of contemporary vanitas. Feminine beauty is a subject Audrey Flack has addressed throughout her career—first as a photorealist painter and later as a sculptor of female figures. Her Self-Portrait as Lipstick Medusa transforms the notion of a snake-haired mythological monster so hideous that the mere sight of her turned humans to stone. Flack’s Medusa, a self-portrait, has tamed the snakes, which coil neatly around her curls. Nestled in her hair is a tube of red lipstick, perhaps hinting that this Medusa’s power stems from beauty, not revulsion. Julie Heffernan’s allegorical Self Portrait Dressing Wounds is a complex work filled with arthistorical references to landscape, portraiture, still life, and history painting. Surrounded by the vestiges of a collapsing civilization and a damaged natural world, a solitary woman tends her injuries but is unable to stem the chaos and catastrophe around her. The ineffective bandages wrapped and strewn from limb to limb convey a palpable vulnerability echoed in Ann Messner’s ghost limb.
Antonia Perez, Rope, 2012 – 2013, (detail, complete work on page 43)
Joyce Kozloff’s If I Were a Botanist (Mediterranean) I – III, is based on an artist book she made in 1977 exploring the relationship of botany to the star-motif patterns prevalent in Islamic decoration. The artist transformed the individual book pages into large-scale panels with paint, collage, and digital printing. In an additional layering of past and present, Kozloff utilized scraps of her own previous works as the collage elements by cutting up proofs of prints made over a forty-year span. The colorful and repetitive pattern-on-pattern design is enlivened by these fragments of the artist’s own history. The architectural scale of the work references Islamic wall decoration, but it also engulfs the viewer in a dazzling field of flowers. Interlocking pattern and color play important formal roles in the work of Antonia Perez as well. Interested in textiles and their relationship to culture, Perez often combines traditional crochet techniques5 with unconventional materials such as discarded shopping bags, a strategy she employed in making Rope. In this work Perez transforms the ubiquitous shopping bag into a group of five crocheted snake-like ropes that seem almost animate. These objects, with their colorful abstract designs, blur the boundaries between sculpture and textile and hover between fine art and material culture. •
lthough the current exhibition does not include actual works from its 1973 predecessor, thirteen of those works are reproduced in this publication, providing a link to the original show and, in a sense, bookending the period between 1973 and the present. Some invite interesting comparisons with newer works.
Pat Steir chose Judith Hudson for this show not only because she likes her work but also because it bears little resemblance to her own current work. Yet Steir noted an interesting affinity between Legend, the work she showed in the original Women Choose Women exhibition, and Hudson’s series of Sex Advice Drawings, one of which is on view in the current exhibition.6 I find a similar affinity between Faith Ringgold’s 1967 painting U.S. Postage Stamp Commemorating the Advent of Black Power and Judith Henry’s Girls, Girls, Girls from 2013. Both contain gridded arrangements of mask-like portraits, with multiple variations of repeated facial elements. Both explore issues of identity—race and gender—and both hide or obscure parts of their subjects’ faces. One fascinating aspect of this project has been the chance to view the recent work of several artists in the context of their work from forty years ago. Although Australian native Virginia Cuppaidge has lived and worked in New York City since 1969, all of her abstract work has its roots in the Australian landscape. Painted four decades apart, Eblin (in the 1973 show) and Field (in the current show) share a similar spatial organization with interlocking planes and strong linearity. The bright palette of the earlier work, inspired by the strong light of Queensland, carries over into the later work as well. Recently Arlene Slavin has been revisiting and referencing her work from the 1970s. Like the 1973 Shah-nameh, Intersections G20 is based on a series of diagonal lines and planes over a pencil grid. The colorful intersecting X forms serve as points of visual entry into the luminous depths of the painting. For most of her career Yvonne Jacquette has depicted buildings and landscapes from elevated vantage points. MBNA (Credit Card Co.) Parking Lots I is a nocturnal view of a rural office complex seen from an airplane window. Her 1972 painting A Quick Look at the Weather also displays an angled viewpoint, but looking up from the ground instead. This work dates from the period in which Jacquette began investigating weather patterns and cloud formations, a process that led directly to her distinctive aerial views. The striking juxtaposition of Michelle Stuart’s Mare 15 from 1972 and Drawing on Space from 2011 evidences an unwavering vision, from Stuart’s fascination with the cosmos to her consistent way of seeing compositional space. The earlier work is based on a drawing of the moon; the later one presents photographic images that resemble stars and planets. Coincidentally, one takes the form of a window and one incorporates images of camera lenses, presenting two things we look through to see space. The gridded format of both works is calendar-like, reminding us that lunar and planetary movements often help mark the passage of time. •
Faith Ringgold, Change 3: Faith Ringgold's Over 100 Pound Weight Loss Performance Story Quilt, 1991, Acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border, 73 x 85 ½ inches
etrospection can turn to nostalgia when the glance is only backward; this exhibition draws its inspiration from the past while remaining firmly rooted in the present. In revisiting Women Choose Women we not only reengaged some of the original participants but also appropriated the exhibition’s title. However, we added one word—Again. We hope it conveys ideas of longevity, continuity, and renewal, while reiterating the timeless value of the original concept. Women choosing women was a good idea in 1973, and it remains so today.
Mary Birmingham is Curator at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey. 15
From WIA To WAR To Zines
An Overview of Feminist Art Exhibition Practices in New York City by Anne Swartz
Ad Hoc Women Artists’ Committee protest at the Whitney Annual, 1970.
he current exhibition Women Choose Women Again reprises the approach of the first New York City museum exhibition of feminist art, organized forty years ago by the Women in the Arts Foundation (WIA). The previous show now serves as a springboard for new discoveries about feminist art. Engaging the ideas of generation and collaboration, cocurators Mary Birmingham and Katherine Murdock invited 13 of the original 109 artists to choose an artist for inclusion in this iteration of the show; so, again, women choose women.
Feminist art is art made about the content of women’s lives and experiences. Feminist exhibitions showcase that work. And in creating these exhibitions, organizers frequently adopt different strategies, often relying on group efforts and networks intended to bypass or undermine, rather than perpetuate, the existing structures of the male-dominated art world. This essay surveys the unique flashpoints in New York City that reveal the arc of feminist exhibition strategies and practices from alternative to mainstream.1 The charting of this history evidences the profound changes feminist artists have achieved for themselves and for future artists. WIA was founded in 1971 by an uptown group of women artists, writers, and other artworld professionals with downtown connections; its mission was to “overcome discrimination against women artists.” The group incorporated in 1973 and created the original Women Choose Women exhibition, which several WIA members helped install, at the New York Cultural Center from January 12 through February 18, 1973. A modest catalogue accompanied the show and featured essays by the New York Cultural Center’s director, Mario Amaya, and by Notes appear at the end of the catalogue.
feminist critic Lucy R. Lippard. Laura Adler, Mario Amaya, Elizabeth C. Baker, Linda Nochlin, Pat Passlof, Ce Roser, and Sylvia Sleigh juried the show. This retrospective glance to the historical exhibition shows the value of feminist collective activity in combating the exclusion, isolation, and absence women experienced forty years ago, while raising those issues in light of today’s art world. Whereas feminist artists of the 1970s combated patriarchy and focused on equality, feminist artists now focus on intersectionality, which makes feminism more inclusive.2 The prevailing presumption that there were no great women artists led feminism to radicalize women in the art world. The notion—unfortunately still very much in circulation today—is that if an artist is “good enough,” she or he will receive appropriate recognition. However— as art historian Linda Nochlin argued in her landmark 1971 article “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”—women did not have the same access to institutions, materials, and training and suffered greatly from cultural suppositions that discouraged women from pursuing a profession in art.3 “Genius” status was thus reserved for male artists who had opportunities unavailable to women. In particular, women lacked access to exhibition opportunities. Because showing one’s work leads to visibility and documentation, which is how art is circulated, known, collected, and acquired,4 this lack of access denied women artists the prospect of getting their work recognized. However, as the culture as a whole shifted, the situation for women artists changed as they sought to strike out against the conventionally defined patriarchy and entrenched expectations for the next generation. Women slowly gained recognition as artists and curators, but the progress was minuscule, partially because feminist art differs in content from men’s art and therefore operates differently. This art challenged the existing framework, which sometimes expanded to include it but usually did not. The women who succeeded in the 1940s and 1950s in getting exhibitions often remained distraught and burdened by the slow or minimal exposure and the absence of patrons and press. Artists Louise Nevelson and Louise Bourgeois, for example, became known as “the Two Louises”—a moniker stemming from the seemingly unrelenting determination with which each of these artists pursued venues to show their art, even as they were isolated or alienated from the very system they wanted to engage. It was the rare woman artist who was shown in or represented by midtown and uptown commercial galleries in New York City. The feminist artist groups of the 1970s, such as WIA, dedicated themselves to changing this, as they realized the importance of exhibiting and the need to create opportunities for themselves.5 WIA, alongside similar groups, emerged with the changing consciousness of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the Women’s Movement emerged and feminism saturated the lives and experiences of many women artists. All-women exhibitions and galleries were something of a double-edged sword, however: As art historian Jenni Sorkin has described, they
repeated existing art-world structures that marginalized women, yet they also motivated and radicalized the artists.6 Further, exhibitions circulate work in a way that almost no other artworld mechanism does. WIA thus focused on what equity they could attain, while resisting the circumstances of the existing art world whenever possible.7 WIA wanted to transform the art world and attitudes about women as professional artists. They picketed exhibitions in major museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971 and 1977 and the Museum of Modern Art in 1972 and 1984. They also took an activist stance by creating a public face, countering the discrimination women experienced. Participation in protest activities, such as interviews and letter-writing campaigns, gave members opportunities to address the inequities women artists experienced. They specifically combated the unfairness they saw in the National Endowment for the Arts in its jury organization and lack of support and funding for women artists. Options had to be created. The idea of an alternative exhibition space emanates from such events as the Salon des Refusés of 1863, created by Emperor Napoleon III, which included the three thousand works rejected that year by the Paris Salon, an antiquated establishment regarded as having become too narrow in its acceptance criteria. The Salon des Refusés is usually identified as the inception of Modernism and the avant-garde. However, it came into existence by official decree. Certainly, there were occasional focused exhibitions of women artists, such as in 1943 when Peggy Guggenheim held 31 Women at her Art of This Century Gallery—probably the first major exhibition of women artists in an avant-garde commercial gallery.8 But women artists seeking to exhibit their work, desiring inclusion, and hoping for recognition rarely had official mandates or attention from commercial galleries. Resisting a system without a clear place for their art, they turned to their experiences with organizing and protest. Some of them had had Communist parents and exposure to the Union and Labor Movements, while others had been involved in the Peace or Civil Rights Movements.9 Many were radicalized by the Women’s Liberation Movement, also known as Women’s Lib, the second wave of feminist activity after the suffragists. The most consistent and persistent qualities of the history of feminist art from its inception in the early 1970s until the present are collaboration and networking, especially in creating alternative exhibition strategies and practices. Feminist artists created unconventional scenarios and utilized consciousness-raising (CR)—essentially group conversations where each person is given the opportunity to speak on a particular personal topic or issue—as a unique way to create a place and space for themselves in the art world, which previously did not have a place for such dialogue (or for them). As an invention of the period of the late 1960s and early 1970s, CR was a way of connecting with others to explore or examine personal experiences.10 Women’s Lib had proffered the idea that “the personal is political,” and these personal networks and collaborative peer groups became an essential component of gaining
visibility and achieving parity. Effectively, these artists were going to take on the establishment through resistance and insurrection born from personal experiences.11 Change began in 1969 when a group of women found the Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC) uninterested in their concerns. In response, they formed Women Artists in Revolution (WAR). Juliette Gordon, one of the founding members of WAR, remarked on the grassroots nature of their formation and their consciousness-raising approach: “What was to become WAR began with small meetings in various lofts, where we found a strange new kinship awakening.”12 In February 1970, a small group of WAR-associated artists curated the first feminist exhibition, generically referred to as X-12 but also called X12 Twelve Artists Women, X-12 Feminist Artists, and X to the Twelfth Power. The show was held at the alternative downtown space MUSEUM: A Project of Living Artists.13 The exhibition statement referred to the hope of eradicating divisions between art made by women and art made by men: We do not deny our true femininity whatever it may be. We accept it, we will rejoice in it. We affirm all the vital values HEALTH, BEAUTY, CREATIVITY, COURAGE, SENSITIVITY, STRENGTH, FEELING, ENERGY. Between the fully liberated man and woman there will be no difference but biology.14 In writing on the exhibition three years later, artist and participant Vernita Nemec reflected that she felt the show was more important than the art. She also remarked on how woman-only exhibitions seemed less pressing after a few years because of improved opportunities for women.15 The show was extensively reviewed with critics focusing on the level of high quality art which they had not anticipated in work created by women.16 Also in 1970, the Ad Hoc Women Artists’ Committee, which included some of the same artists and critics from WAR, formed and protested against the Whitney Annual, held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which had only 8 women out of a total of 151 artists. Feeling that they needed to disrespect the institution that had disrespected them, they rallied strongly against the museum for three months, demanding change, pelting staff with egg bombs and sanitary napkins, and writing slogans on bathroom mirrors in lipstick. Their efforts did have a small impact: The 1970 Whitney Sculpture Annual included a higher number of women artists—20 out of the total 100 artists. Additionally, African-American artist Faith Ringgold, a member of the Committee, successfully demanded the inclusion of artists of color in that exhibition, and works by African-American artists Betye Saar and Barbara Chase-Riboud were shown.17 The Committee also sought free admission to museums for artists, which they did achieve at some institutions, such as the Whitney. One mainstay of this period was the development of the feminist art cooperative gallery, an idea in active existence in New York City since mid-century.18 Having learned firsthand about the limited opportunities for women in the existing gallery system through often heartbreaking and demeaning experiences, women established these feminist art cooperatives with the
Sylvia Sleigh, A.I.R. Group Portrait, 1977 – 1978, oil on canvas, 76 x 82 inches. Estate of Sylvia Sleigh.
express purpose of showing women’s art. Several spaces developed in short order in major urban centers, including Womanspace in Los Angeles (1971), A.I.R. (Artists in Residence, Inc.) Gallery in New York City (1972), Artemesia Gallery in Chicago (1973), Soho 20 in New York City (1973), ARC Gallery and Educational Foundation in Chicago (1973), FOCUS in Philadelphia (1973), Muse Gallery and Foundation for the Visual Arts in Philadelphia (1977), and WARM (Women’s Art Registry of Minneapolis) (1976). To highlight one example, A.I.R. Gallery, founded by a group of women artists, had in its mission statement: “A.I.R.’s goal is to provide a professional and permanent exhibition space for women artists.”19 The group had an actual gallery space in SoHo, New York’s gallery district, and their focus was not on a communal, or shared, or even similar aesthetic; nor was it on creating a community for themselves. Instead, A.I.R. members were interested in creating opportunities to exhibit their
art, and they viewed their project as a feminist intervention in the marketplace.20 Curator Julie Lohnes underscored this point with a bell hooks quotation in a 2012 statement for a show she had organized at A.I.R.: “a space for feminist intervention without surrendering our primary concern, which is a devotion to making art.”21 Co-op galleries were only one aspect of the communal activities of the period. The Women’s Caucus for Art, founded in 1972, became a massive organization focusing on creating national opportunities for women visual-arts professionals, especially artists. Newsletters, magazines, and lecture series also became ways for women artists to spread their messages; these included the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series (1971) founded by Joan Snyder at Rutgers University, Women Artists Newsletter (1975) started by Judy Seigel and Cynthia Navaretta, Chrysalis (1977) founded by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and Arlene Raven, Heresies (1975) founded by the Heresies Collective, followed by WARM Journal (1980) by the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota, and Woman’s Art Journal (1980) created by Elsa Honig Fine—among many, many other similar projects and outlets. There were two other successful organizations that became significant in circulating feminist art, but neither was intended to focus exclusively on work by women artists. They are Franklin
Martha Wilson with Karen Finley, who was performing "A Woman’s Life Isn’t Worth Much" May-June 1990, at Franklin Furnace, New York, NY.
Furnace and the New Museum, which were started by feminists Martha Wilson and Marcia Tucker, respectively. Philadelphia artist Martha Wilson opened Franklin Furnace in 1976 as part of a larger collection of art-related spaces on Franklin Street in New York City. Initially the organization was conceived as a kind of bookstore, an outlet for what are now known as artist’s books. The mission was to “present, preserve, interpret, proselytize, and advocate on behalf of avant-garde art, especially forms that may be vulnerable due to institutional neglect, their ephemeral nature, or politically unpopular content.” Wilson focused on time-based art, especially live art, which began organically at her space when artist Martine Aballea prepared an installation two months after the space opened and she situated herself reading at the center. Thus, Franklin Furnace became a key institutional support for performance art. Wilson collaborated with artists in running Franklin Furnace, especially Jacki Apple as curator and Barbara Quinn, who managed development. She regards the central role artists have played in its administration as a significant component in Franklin Furnace’s willingness to embrace pioneering and bold art in its programming.22 Wilson’s commitment to artists making live art essentially remains unsurpassed; she focused her attention on art marginalized by uptown institutions she regarded as largely ignoring ephemeral art.23 She embraced artists seeking such freedoms—even radically engaged artists such as Annie Sprinkle, a former prostitute and stripper transitioning to performance artist, and Sprinkle’s collective Deep Inside Porn Stars—in the 1984 exhibition Carnival Knowledge, which resulted in the cancellation of federal grants and the loss of corporate sponsorship to Franklin Furnace. They subsequently created the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art in 1985 to support alternative and experimental work. Further, Karen Finley’s 1990 installation A Woman’s Life Isn’t Worth Much, which included drawings and text about the curtailing of women’s rights, oppression of women, and sexism, became a flashpoint for censorship, resulting in Finley’s being named one of the “NEA 4”—a group of artists (also including Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes) whose grants were withdrawn by the National Endowment for the Arts for explicit controversial content related to anger, subjectivity, feminism, the body, and sexuality. Wilson points out that the religious right’s attack on the progressive left centered on the use of the image of the woman’s body, followed by work with homosexuality as its subject.26 Although not a female separatist space, Franklin Furnace, under Wilson’s aegis, supported and cultivated work that benefited from her feminist stance and commitment to free expression. As a curator at the Whitney, Marcia Tucker had come under fire by WAR during their protest activities there. How could a feminist curator not support their efforts?27 Tucker was distraught by the reaction from WAR, as she regarded herself as sympathetic to the feminist art cause and because she’d organized solo shows of Ree Morton, Gladys Nilsson, Nancy Graves, Jane Kaufman, Lee Krasner, and Joan Mitchell, among others, and had shown Betye Saar’s work.28
After extremely negative critical reviews of the survey exhibition of artist Richard Tuttle’s work in 1976, Whitney Director Tom Armstrong seized the opportunity to oust Tucker as Curator of Contemporary Art. He told her the museum’s focus was turning to the permanent collection rather than contemporary art, thus making her position theoretically obsolete.29 This experience shifted Tucker into high gear and truly radical approaches followed. In 1977 she founded the New Museum, which was dedicated to supporting contemporary art (made within the last ten years). Tucker wanted the New Museum to function more as a think tank for conversation and participation than as a traditional arts institution, explaining it as a place that would: ...redistribute authority and privilege in the museum context; to share power and decision making; to create alternative management structures that stressed collaboration, openness, mutual respect, exchange, and dialogue. In the process, I had to learn to accept contradictions, inconsistencies, and mistakes.30 Though the New Museum didn’t become a hub of feminist exhibition activity during Tucker’s tenure (she left the museum in 1999), there was an emphasis on artists investigating urgent social issues, including sexuality and gender. And the redistribution and reconfiguration of power and privilege that Tucker promoted had its roots in feminist organizing and activism, or what critic Juli Carson terms “a feminist space.”31 During Tucker’s time at the museum, solo shows of women’s work included Joan Jonas (1984), Linda Montana (1984), Ana Mendieta (1988), Nancy Spero (1989), and Mary Kelly (1990). Group shows, including Art and Ideology (1984), Difference: On Representation and Sexuality (1984), and Damaged Goods: Desire and the Economy of the Object (1986), explored gender and sexuality-related issues. Tucker’s complicated exhibition Bad Girls (1994) was her way of inserting humor into the dialogue, a technique used much more effectively by the Guerrilla Girls. The Guerrilla Girls successfully ignited feminist art in inventive ways, employing anonymity, absurdity, and humor at a moment when feminism was being disavowed by artists and women in the broader culture. The group was born out of a desire to jumpstart feminism in the art world. In the mid 1980s and incensed by the dearth of women artists in a large survey exhibition of contemporary art at the Museum of Modern Art, two of the women who would help form the Guerrilla Girls—they took the pseudonyms Frida Kahlo and Kathe Kollwitz—participated in a protest at the museum. However, they were discontented with the minimal impact their participation had at that moment. Frustrated with the discrimination and supposed liberal stance and meritocracy of the art world, these two women and other women visual-arts professionals decided to “do something to change the system” and named themselves “the conscience of the art world.” They decided to wear masks and use pseudonyms (influential women artists from history) to focus attention on the issues, not the individuals involved. Members of the Guerrilla Girls who had been active in the feminist art movement in the 1970s had seen personality cults develop around some participants, which
were contrary to the group’s collectivist ideology.33 Frida Kahlo described the group’s goals: We didn’t want the Guerrilla Girls to become a discussion group. We wanted to do something that would change the system. To do that we had to transform the way others thought about the art world. We wanted people to realize that there was conscious and unconscious discrimination against women and artists of color. We knew we had to do it in a new and different way. We took a structural look at the art world, and said something is really wrong here. But instead of pointing our fingers and saying “This is bad,” we designed a way to let the viewer come to that conclusion after seeing our work.34 They succeeded in promoting conversation about these issues. Among the main strategies of the Guerrilla Girls was late-night plastering of the streets of SoHo with posters that called attention to the almost universal exclusion of women and artists of color in art institutions and galleries. (The first of these posters, known as These Artists and These Galleries, were made in 1985.) At gallery openings over the following days, the group would listen in on conversations about their work. Many of the group’s posters combined provocative, irrefutable facts with a humorous tone, and even if the information was upsetting, it was accurate and began a conversation about
The Guerilla Girls with images of their pseudonyms.
the shocking level of corruption.35 As Kahlo noted: “It was hard [for people] to give up the idealistic, optimistic, and altruistic art world.” The Guerrilla Girls focused on all marginalized groups, striving to join them and understand their common situation. They refuted the claim that women and artists of color were not engaged in the dialogue of art in a qualitative way and that the ways artists were judged were not masculinist. They were particularly discouraged by the way art was treated as “a commodity rather than as a social voice.” Their efforts were successful in drawing attention to discrimination in the art world and effecting some change.36 In the early 1990s, a new framework for feminism emerged as the Third Wave, where younger feminist artists focused on broader issues relating to gender, sexuality, and economics.37 Initially separate from the art world, this burgeoning activist feminism defined itself much more broadly and became increasingly more inclusive. In the world of music, the punk Riot grrrl Movement came into existence, and the ideas and interests of the younger women involved in this movement spread via the DIY zine, a low-budget variation on a glossy magazine that instead of circulating general, broad ideas focused on the personal and individual message. These ephemeral publications were often shared by friends, who faxed or hand-distributed photocopies in the early days of the movement and later moved to the Internet for electronic circulation and distribution. Zines have an aesthetic all their own, challenging any notion of the visual organization (and sometimes even form) of the printed book, an extension of their radical content. An interesting extension of girls’ bedroom culture, these zines were frequently the work of younger women producing them at home alone or in small collectives.38 Rapidly, these small groups of like-minded artists began to seek opportunities to show their work beyond the self-produced brochure or flyer. In particular, in the 1990s and 2000s, lesbians became more prominent in protesting their absence from the art world and began organizing, along with other groups bound by identity, such as South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC).39 The subculture of lesbian art within the art world at large and feminist art in particular became more prominent and accepted because of the insistence of these groups in their activities. The widespread embrace of identity politics in art of the 1990s and 2000s, partially accounts for this situation. These groups successfully organized, networked, and circulated their work and ideas more broadly than previous ones. Like feminist art groups in the past, they received attention from the popular art press and curated their own exhibitions and events. And they had the advantage of the experiences of those earlier groups. As well, many of these artists were young, had incredible energy, and produced a great deal of work. Unlike the previous groups, however, they were able to circulate their ideas and art much more widely in zines and on the Internet through artists’ respective websites (and, in some cases, their gallery websites). Further, these artists benefited from the rise of queer theory as an academic discipline and the attentions of both queer and feminist (as well as queer-feminist) art historians. And some of them have achieved art world centrality: gallery representation, visiting and tenured academic positions
READYKEULOUS, The Hurtful Healer: The Correspondence Issue, installation view at INVISIBLE-EXPORTS, New York, NY, January 2011
in urban centers, and administrative or curatorial positions in major museums. Fierce Pussy, the New York Lesbian Avengers, Dyke Action Machine, LTTR, and Ridykeulous40 combined artistic and activist practices to promote a genderqueer, feminist agenda through their art. In essence, they opened up the definition of gender and sexuality to include artists who do and don’t identify as women, which is a significant shift from the 1970s groups. However, even with the expanded definitions, the majority of participants remain women. LTTR produced events and a journal, founded in 2001 by Ginger Brooks Takahashi, K8 Hardy, and Emily Roysdon. Ulrike Müller joined LTTR in 2005 and Lanka Tattersal was an editor and collaborator for issue 4. Each time the journal appeared, the collective changed what their initials abbreviated—first it was Lesbians to the Rescue; then Listen Translate Translate Record—before moving on to phrases unrelated to the letters. The group focused on sustainable change, queer pleasure, and critical feminist productivity. One of the reasons for LTTR’s success results from what art historian Virginia Solomon refers to as an engagement of the social alongside the artistic. She says: “While other participatory practices have tried to demonstrate that the art object is always embedded in a world defined by social relations, LTTR makes already existing social practices the stuff of art.”41 Whereas earlier homosexual artistic groups focused on the power of collective organizing (such as the Heresies group) or the engagement of participatory performance (Solomon discusses General Idea in this context), LTTR focused its attentions outward.
Ridykeulous, founded in 2005 by artists A.L. Steiner and Nicole Eisenman, similarly used its social network and events as part of its artistic activities, as well as produced a zine and exhibitions. They resisted the attribution of their art to the status of “alternative” through demanding a place in mainstream dialogues. As art historian Rachel Wetzler comments: “In adopting the role of curators and organizing exhibitions, Steiner and Eisenman forcefully insert themselves and their collaborators into the spaces, both literally and figuratively, of the art establishment.”42 They create exhibitions of art by large amorphous groups (not all of whom identify as female or queer) as a means of disturbing the existing conditions of the art world. Also, both Steiner and Eisenman belong to other groups and pursue solo careers, giving them several outlets for circulating their work. In the 2000s, major retrospective examinations of 1970s feminism revealed that the formation of a feminist canon had occurred.43 The 2002 show Gloria: Another Look at Feminist Art in the 1970s was curated by Catherine Morris and Ingrid Schaffner at White Columns, an alternative space founded in the 1970s by artists. Later the same year, Catherine Morris co-curated with Lauren Ross Regarding Gloria, a group exhibition of feminist artists that showed the impact of 1970s feminism. Also in 2002, the useful exhibitions Personal & Political: The Women’s Art Movement, curated by Simon Taylor and Natalie Ng at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York, and Goddess at Galerie Lelong in New York City, were both on view. Even the graffiti feminist groups of the 1970s have received attention. (Graffiti artists usually work alone but travel in groups, which for women was and is especially important due to the prevalence of crime.) From 2005 to 2011, a transition occurred where many major museums held important exhibitions of feminist art.44 However, although the generation that came of age in the 1970s were now getting attention, some artists took issue with these shows. These artists often wanted different treatment of their work or to be exhibited alongside artists whose work was not included. Further, they didn’t necessarily agree with the curatorial theses of the exhibitions heralding their art. This dissension was the case with the 2007 WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, as one example. This show was a much-heralded and lauded exhibition in the feminist art community. However, Cornelia Butler used the current zeitgeist by examining international feminist art in that exhibition. She remarked in the catalogue: “My ambition for WACK! is to make the case that feminism’s impact on art of the 1970s constitutes the most inﬂuential international ‘movement’ of any during the postwar period…”45 Even as artists celebrated that show, they also expressed concern about the exclusion of many, many feminist artists active in the United States during the 1970s. Because the exhibition wasn’t focused entirely on American feminist art, only a select number were included.46 I was involved in organizing AGENTS OF CHANGE: Women, Art, and Intellect, an exhibition at Ceres Gallery, an alternative space in New York City, in 2007. I mention it as an example of
how much feminist art exhibitions have evolved since WIA’s show in 1973 when an esteemed jury selected the work, but left much to the organizing artists. It had its limitations—not held at a museum, had a small publication available only at the exhibition, and was a single show rather than a series.47 However, for AGENTS OF CHANGE, we had distinguished art professionals involved in all phases; in particular, gallery member and coordinator Phyllis Rosser48 and curator Leslie King-Hammond, with installation support from Lowery StokesSims. The major source of funding came from the Toby Fund, a foundation created and run by the prominent philanthropist Toby Devan Lewis. The nineteen artists included were multiethnic and multi-generational, and all but one (the emerging Korean artist Sungmi Lee) hold or held academic positions at top institutions or enjoy or have enjoyed successful independent careers as visual-arts professionals. The gallery itself is a product of the New York Feminist Art Institute (NYFAI), one of the collective groups that developed in the 1970s under the aegis of artist Nancy Azara, and has a professional staff and a location in the Chelsea gallery district (a center of the art world in the 2000s). The exhibition originated from the activities of The Feminist Art Project, a collaborative initiative housed at Rutgers University and founded in 2005 by Judith K. Brodsky and Ferris Olin. It received a flattering review in The New York Times, where art critic Holland Cotter noted that “art conceived from a feminist perspective has always tried to trip up the machinery of the academic art industry and raise a collective voice, in myriad ways only beginning to be defined.”49 Artist Judy Chicago commented about the sophistication of the individuals forming the Feminist Art Project, remarking, “This group is hardly grassroots.”50 Times have changed in some ways. But more needs to be done. Since WIA began and organized Women Choose Women, feminist art has received increasing attention in an art world still often antagonistic to women artists and artists of color. More younger women artists are showing in spaces, sometimes independent and alternative, occasionally mainstream and supported. The need to work outside the system remains for many women artists, but the situation is slowly changing as I have charted here. Women artists have significantly more access than they once did—thanks, in large part, to the efforts and vision of their predecessors in the 1970s.
Anne Swartz is a professor of art history at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her scholarly projects include
guest curating the exhibition “Pattern and Decoration: An Ideal Vision in American Art, 1975 – 1985” at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York in 2007 – 2008. She lectures and writes on various aspects of contemporary art. She has published in symploke, n.paradoxa, The Cleveland Museum of Art Bulletin, Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Art, ArtPulse, ArtPapers, Brooklyn Rail, Woman’s Art Journal, ArtPulse, and NY Arts Magazine, in addition to authoring numerous exhibition catalogues.
Inspiration to Action by Katherine Murdock
Faith Ringgold's studio.
was honored when Mary Birmingham invited me to co-curate the exhibition Women Choose Women Again. This experience has been humbling, energizing and inspirational. One of the preparation highlights for this show was visiting the artists and listening to them communicate their enthusiasm for their work. Other passions were revealed and the depth and drive of these individuals emerged as we conversed during our studio visits. As we discussed and viewed their most recent work, I was able to get a glimpse into their processes and see how they transform inspiration into action. Entering each studio was like stepping into a snapshot of the artist’s process. Some artists had their brushes poised, suggesting they had just paused to speak with us, while others had cleared their counters and pinned up photographs, ready for a critique. All of the women had work in various stages of development. During our studio visit with Nina Yankowitz, she expressed the way she approached her work. “I don’t think about what’s happening, I think about what’s not happening and travel the spaces in between.” Many of the artists have a similar way of thinking outside the box, which leads them to an expanded vision of their environment or community. During our visits, Mary Frank and Elke Solomon expressed a shared passion for assisting impoverished communities. Frank told us about her lengthy involvement with the organization, Solar Cookers International. She enlightened us about the benefits of solar cookers for communities and the environment and explained her practice of cooking while she makes art. Solomon was active in homeless awareness and helped run a soup kitchen for ten years. She All quotes are from artist statements or from conversations with the author.
Nina Yankowitz with the original Women Choose Women exhibition catalogue in her studio.
commented on the importance of collaboration in the context of art, but I found her statement relevant in many ways. In Solomon’s words, “Collaboration is from something outside of both of you. There is nothing like it.” Faith Ringgold immediately engaged Birmingham and me in deep conversation. She told us that even as a young person, she craved meaningful exchanges of thought and sought friendships to fulfill that need. As an adult, Ringgold provides school children with the opportunity to talk about bullying, possibly fulfilling their desire for meaningful conversation. She created one piece about bullying with text that begins, “Bully Bully what you say? yellin at me that way.” Another current project combines her fascination with quilts and her interest in the number game, Sudoku. She is in the process of developing a game app for the iPhone and iPad based on this idea. By incorporating current trends and events into her work, she keeps herself relatable to all generations and continues to inspire a wide audience. As I settled into her studio for a visit, Henrietta Mantooth welcomed me into her story. She has immersed herself in numerous cultures, growing up in Missouri during the Depression and later living in Latin America for eighteen years and working as a journalist. The subject matter of people seeps into her paintings—as seen in her painting, walking. She takes a humble and grounded approach when creating her work, often literally working on the floor. Occasionally, her ideas are painted out on scraps of cloth as if they were notes that needed to leave her hand immediately. Mantooth declares that she would “choose discovery over perfection every time.” Her engaging manner and openness made me feel as though our conversation would continue. Judith Henry has a fascination with people, acting as an invisible observer with her urban photography. I am intrigued by the way she uses her lens to chronicle the changes in New
Yorkers over time. She combines amusing captions of eavesdropped conversations with everyday images. Sandy Gellis acts like a naturalist, collecting specimens from the natural world including water, plant life, sediment from a river and even human hair. Entering into her studio is like stepping into a biology lab. I am intrigued by her interpretation of portraits. Instead of creating a conventional portrait, Gellis uses sampled strands of hair to represent the person being portrayed and contains them in a glass globe filled with water. This encourages the viewer to examine the details of a larger subject. In a sense, both Henry and Gellis investigate their environments and report their observations through their art. Audrey Flack welcomed us to her home and studio. Sitting around her kitchen table, we listened to her recollections of the 1973 show, Women Choose Women, and her involvement in the installation process. Upon arrival at The New York Cultural Center, she recalled that many of the works were small, giving the impression of a “dainty lady’s show.” Anticipating the potential impact of this exhibition, she requested that the artists show their biggest and best works. She even exchanged her 1971 oil painting, Amiens Notre Dame for the painting Jolie Madame from 1973. Chosen by Virginia Cuppaidge, Antonia Perez revealed an unexpected connection to this exhibition. We were delightfully surprised to learn she attended the 1973 exhibition with her mother and recalled the impressive nature of that show. When we visited Perez’s studio, she pulled her copy of the exhibition catalogue that she had saved for forty years. As a young artist, it was inspirational for her to view such a large exhibition that included only female artists. Often, artists are appreciative when curators view their work. As a young curator, I feel privileged to have had exposure to a historically strong community of artists. This enriching project seemed to clarify for me that true inspiration results in action. Some of the artists were driven to activist work, writing, investigating their environment in addition to creating, installing and viewing art. Their passion was contagious—I found myself with creative energy to burn. In response to several of these visits I began writing notes, doodling with pens and paint and running as a release of a physical energy. I even attempted to create my own solar cooker. During our train rides home, Birmingham and I reflected on our time spent with the artists. She shared her insight about the work, and we made connections and repeatedly refined our ideas for the exhibition. Co-curating this show has sparked an energy in me that continues to expand.
Katherine Murdock is Exhibitions Manager at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey. 33
WOMEN CHOOSE WOMEN Pat Adams Virginia Cuppaidge Lois Dodd Audrey Flack Mary Frank Yvonne Jacquette Joyce Kozloff Faith Ringgold Arlene Slavin Joan Snyder Pat Steir Michelle Stuart Nina Yankowitz 1973 & 2014
AGAIN Sarah Leahy Antonia Perez Elizabeth Oâ€™Reilly Julie Heffernan Henrietta Mantooth Clytie Alexander Judith Henry Beverly McIver Elke Solomon Ann Messner Judith Hudson Sandy Gellis Debra Pearlman 2014
Steady Change I, 1969
Gouache, 18 ½ x 10 ½ inches (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women)
That Is To Say, 2010 Oil, isobutyl methacrylate on paper with pencil, crayon mounted on wood, 19 1/8 x 24 inches Courtesy of the artist 37
“Why Sarah Leahy’s work? It is startling, memorable. The self-imposed constraints of her technique (successive additions and subtractions of ink on plexiglass) induce a rich querying of that surface. Within the contrast of black and white it is as if within this spareness each aspect of visual ordering is intensified, and in this no-color situation it is to be noticed that suddenly and strangely, subliminal color is released that lingers hauntingly.”
— Pat Adams
Interior (right panel of diptych), 2011 â€“ 2013
Ink on plexiglass, 60 x 43 inches Courtesy of the artist and Kim Foster Gallery, New York, NY
Acrylic on canvas, 49 x 77 inches (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women)
Field, 2012 Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 60 inches Courtesy of the artist 41
“Being an abstract painter, I view artists’ work through that lens. Antonia’s work, while making political statements is first of all visual. No narration is needed to understand her medium of used materials, and her imagery transcends that in a very powerful way.”
— Virginia Cuppaidge
Rope, 2012 â€“ 2013
5 ropes of crocheted plastic bags, dimensions variable, 120 x 1 Â˝ inches diameter (each) Courtesy of the artist
Night Window Red, 1972 Oil on canvas, 66 x 36 inches (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women) 44
Winter Sunset, Blair Pond, 2008
Oil on linen, 48 x 52 inches Courtesy of Alexandre Gallery, New York, NY
“She’s someone I paint with—we paint outdoors. I’ve watched as her work has grown and I’ve always enjoyed what she’s done. She’s a very good painter.”
— Lois Dodd
Hamilton Avenue, 2009 Watercolor collage, 11 他 x 11 他 inches Courtesy of George Billis Gallery, New York, NY 47
Jolie Madame, 1973
Oil on canvas, 72 x 96 inches National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women)
Self-portrait as Lipstick Medusa, 2014
Polychromed and gilded aqua resin, 27 x 9 x 9 Â˝ inches (including base) Courtesy of the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, NY
“I selected Julie Heffernan for the Women Choose Women Again exhibition because she is a terrific painter. She tells stories and uses symbolic content to impart meaning. Her work is comprehensive and intelligent and she doesn’t shy away from the beautiful. “Women can be beautiful, strong and intelligent. Showing their vulnerability can make them even more valuable. I have been trying to depict women this way for years so it was natural that when I first saw Julie’s women I said ‘Yes!’”
— Audrey Flack
Self Portrait Dressing Wounds, 2012 Oil on canvas, 67 x 70 inches Courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York, NY 51
Bronze, 13 Âź x 22 x 15 Âž inches (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women) 52
Horizon Bird, 2011 â€“ 2013
Acrylic on panel, 48 x 48 inches Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY
“Henrietta’s work continues to surprise me. She has a great ability to take risks in order to touch and be in touch with the human condition and to remain intimate with her materials… Over the years I have felt Henrietta’s influence on my work mainly because of her sense of freedom. She makes no effort to be cool, or romantic, or artistically calculating.”
— Mary Frank
Lost House, 2007
Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 64 inches Courtesy of the artist
A Quick Look at the Weather, 1972
Oil on canvas, 80 x 64 inches Collection of Dorene and Frank Herzog, Houston, TX (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women)
MBNA (Credit Card Co.) Parking Lots I, 2006 Oil on canvas, 42 x 67 inches Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY
“I selected Clytie Alexander because her work encompasses an understanding of architecture translated to two-dimensional work. Either with a focus on reflective color (the Diaphan series), or fully expressed line carried by color (the Loop series), her work engages in a dialogue with the space of the wall upon which it is situated. My work is related to the wall in a different way but, as in Clytie’s work, the picture plane is also parallel to the wall.”
— Yvonne Jacquette
Red Loop, 2012 Oil on canvas, 54 x 48 x 2 inches Courtesy of the artist and Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, NY 59
Underground Landscape, 1972
Acrylic on canvas, 78 x 96 inches (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women)
If I Were a Botanist (Mediterranean) I â€“ III, 2013 Acrylic, collage and digital archival inkjet print on canvas, 3 panels, 54 x 121 inches (overall) Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY 61
“I have known Judith Henry’s art since 1960 (I guess that dates us both). It always surprises, delights, moves and challenges me. I am so pleased to have this opportunity, not only to choose her, but also to show together.”
— Joyce Kozloff
Fargo High School (1935) Senior Girls, 2013
From the series Girls, Girls, Girls Archival inkjet print, 36 x 26 inches Courtesy of the artist
U.S. Postage Stamp Commemorating the Advent of Black Power, 1967 Oil on canvas, 72 x 96 inches (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women)
Mahalia We Love You, 2011 Acrylic and marker on paper, 30 x 22 inches Courtesy of ACA Galleries, New York, NY 65
“Beverly McIver is a wonderful, wonderful artist, whom I’ve known for a long time. I’d like to help her make some contacts with other artists. The connections people made in the 70s were different than today—during the women’s movement there was always something going on. There’s not as much happening now.”
— Faith Ringgold
Double Take, 2013 Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches Courtesy of the artist and Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, NY 67
Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 72 inches (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women)
Intersections G20, 2010 Acrylic and pencil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches Courtesy of the artist 69
“Elke Solomon’s art practice is always a delightful surprise. It is constructed out of the ephemera of real life. She notices and convinces us to notice, the beauty in weird combinations of stuff. She can take light sockets, plastic flowers and pot scrubbers and transform them into magical chandeliers. A rendering of a used tablecloth becomes a wonderfully strange wall hanging. Solomon is a fearless cook, who often makes color-coded dinners. She is always amazing.”
— Arlene Slavin
Chandelier, 2011 India ink on Mylar, 30 x 22 inches Courtesy of the artist 71
Oil, acrylic and string on canvas, 48 x 48 inches (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women)
Proserpina, 2013 Oil, acrylic, papier-mĂ˘chĂŠ, poppies, rice paper, dirt, charcoal on linen diptych, 48 x 120 inches (overall) Courtesy of the artist and Tierney Gardarin Gallery, New York, NY 73
“I have long been aware of Ann Messner’s work, but only tangentially. I wanted my choice for this show to be outside the box, perhaps even outside my comfort level. As I looked at Ann’s work as a possible choice for this show, it resonated with me. Her work is visually and politically powerful, a combination not easily come by. It no longer seemed outside my nor any box. Here is a recent quote by Ann published in M/E/A/N/I/N/G that I especially like: ‘We each hold the option to take our place in the procession of a great tradition, within which it is the task of the artist to point, to make visible what we do not want to see, at whatever the cost and at whatever the risk to each of us as individuals. We stand not alone but upon the shoulders of those who stood before along this long line of collective practice.’
— Joan Snyder
quote from M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online #5 (http://writing.upenn.edu/epc/meaning/05/meaning-online-5.html)
ghost limb, 1998 â€“ 2011
Hollowed tree, wood stool and pigment, 90 x 36 x 40 inches Courtesy of the artist
Legend, 1971 Oil on canvas, 72 x 108 inches (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women) 76
Small Waterfall, 2013 Oil on canvas, 63 Âź x 31 inches Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read Gallery, New York, NY 77
“I chose Judith Hudson’s work because it is nothing like mine and I like it very much.”
— Pat Steir
All the Ravages of Time Cannot Overcome True Nature, 2009
Watercolor and acrylic on paper, 40 x 26 inches Collection of Michael Combs, New York, NY
Mare 15, 1972 Print of moon drawing on paper, red string, sectioned wood box painted white with glass window, 25 Âź x 22 Âź x 3 inches (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women) 80
Drawing on Space, 2011 Altered archival pigment photographs, 20 units, 8 x 10 inches each (38 x 58 inches overall) Courtesy of the artist and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York, NY 81
â€œSandy Gellis has been a quietly innovative and inspirational artist since the early 1970s and remains so today. Though largely unsung, her ecological work on water and rivers is not only formally interesting, it is important.â€?
â€” Michelle Stuart
Hair Portraits: Julia, 2013
Hair, hand-blown glass and water, 17 inch diameter Fabricated by Jane Bruce and Sandy Gellis Courtesy of the artist
Pleat Diptych #1, 1970 Paint on pleated canvas, 2 panels: 120 x 72 inches (overall) Installation photo at Kornblee Gallery, 1971 (Not in current exhibition; on view in the 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women) 84
Breaking Glass/Buried Secrets in Science, 2004 â€“ 2013
Aluminum, glass, video, wood, 49 Âž x 27 x 31 inches (including base) Courtesy of the artist
“The menu of significant art made by women is so vast that I imposed a filter of ‘unrecognized for most creative, challenging, contributions’ into my process for selection(s). The politically charged paintings I saw in Debra’s studio expose fantasies about THE CHILD in children and in spectators—her work should not be a secret.”
— Nina Yankowitz
Two-color photographic silkscreen print on two canvas panels with hand-scraped magma 59 x 82 inches (overall) Courtesy of the artist
EXHIBITION CHECKLIST Pat Adams In the Moment
2011 Acrylic, sand, shell on paper mounted on wood 8 ¼ x 14 inches
That Is To Say
2010 Oil, isobutyl methacrylate on paper with pencil, crayon mounted on wood 19 1/8 x 24 inches Courtesy of the artist
Clytie Alexander Red Loop
2012 Oil on canvas 54 x 48 x 2 inches Courtesy of the artist and Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, NY
Virginia Cuppaidge Field
2012 Acrylic on canvas 36 x 60 inches Courtesy of the artist
Lois Dodd Winter Sunset, Blair Pond
2008 Oil on linen 48 x 52 inches Courtesy of Alexandre Gallery, New York, NY
Audrey Flack Jeanette Flack with Dice Tiara
2009 Polychromed plaster 19 ½ x 9 x 7 inches (including base)
Self-portrait as Lipstick Medusa
2014 Polychromed and gilded aqua resin 27 x 9 x 9 ½ inches (including base)
Courtesy of the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, NY
Mary Frank Horizon Bird
2011 – 2013 Acrylic on panel 48 x 48 inches Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY
Sandy Gellis Hair Portraits: Grace
2013 Hair, hand-blown glass and water 13 inch diameter
Hair Portraits: James
2013 Hair, hand-blown glass and water 9 inch diameter
Hair Portraits: Janet
2013 Hair, hand-blown glass and water 16 ½ inch diameter
Hair Portraits: Julia
2013 Hair, hand-blown glass and water 17 inch diameter
Hair Portraits: Self
2013 Hair, hand-blown glass and water 13 inch diameter All works fabricated by Jane Bruce and the artist Courtesy of the artist
Julie Heffernan Self Portrait Dressing Wounds
2012 Oil on canvas 67 x 70 inches Courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York, NY
Judith Henry Fargo High School (1935) Senior Girls
2013 Archival inkjet print 36 x 26 inches
Northeast High School, Philadelphia (1982) Senior Girls
2013 Archival inkjet print 36 x 26 inches
Shaker Heights High School (1960) Senior Girls
2013 Archival inkjet print 36 x 26 inches
All works from the series Girls, Girls, Girls Courtesy of the artist
Judy Hudson All the Ravages of Time Cannot Overcome True Nature 2009 Watercolor and acrylic on paper 40 x 26 inches Collection of Michael Combs, New York, NY
Good Morning Body
2013 Watercolor on paper 40 x 60 inches Courtesy of the artist and Salomon Contemporary Gallery, New York, NY
Yvonne Jacquette MBNA (Credit Card Co.) Parking Lots I
2006 Oil on canvas 42 x 67 inches Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY
Joyce Kozloff If I Were a Botanist (Mediterranean) I – III
2013 Acrylic, collage and digital archival inkjet print on canvas 3 panels, 54 x 121 inches (overall) Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY
Sarah Leahy Interior
2011 – 2013 Ink on plexiglass diptych 60 x 84 inches (overall) Courtesy of the artist and Kim Foster Gallery, New York, NY
Henrietta Mantooth Lost House
2007 Acrylic on canvas 72 x 64 inches
2010 Acrylic on cloth 23 ½ x 23 inches Courtesy of the artist
Beverly McIver Double Take
2013 Oil on canvas 60 x 48 inches Courtesy of the artist and Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, NY
Ann Messner ghost limb
1998 – 2011 Hollowed tree, wood stool and pigment 90 x 36 x 40 inches Courtesy of the artist
Elizabeth O’Reilly Blue Containers, 3rd Street 2008 Watercolor collage 8 ¾ x 5 ½ inches
Cars Under Expressway 2008 Watercolor collage 8 x 8 inches
2009 Watercolor collage 11 ½ x 12 inches
Green Tanks from 9th Street
2008 Watercolor collage 15 ¾ x 7 ¼ inches
2009 Watercolor collage 11 ¾ x 11 ¾ inches
Night Under Expressway 2011 Watercolor collage 8 x 11 ¼ inches
Union Street Bridge & Pylons
2009 Watercolor collage 15 ¾ x 6 inches
All works courtesy of George Billis Gallery, New York, NY
Debra Pearlman Twilight
2011 Two-color photographic silkscreen print on two canvas panels with hand-scraped magma 59 x 82 inches (overall) Courtesy of the artist
Antonia Perez Rope
2012–2013 5 ropes of crocheted plastic bags Dimensions variable, 120 x 1 ½ inches diameter (each) Courtesy of the artist
Faith Ringgold Born in the USA
2013 Acrylic on paper 29 x 23 ¼ inches
Change 3: Faith Ringgold’s Over 100 Pound Weight Loss Performance Story Quilt
1991 Acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border 73 x 85 ½ inches
Mahalia We Love You
2011 Acrylic and marker on paper 30 x 22 inches
Romie We Love You
2011 Acrylic and marker on paper 30 x 24 inches All works courtesy of ACA Galleries, New York, NY
Arlene Slavin Intersections G20
2010 Acrylic and pencil on canvas 48 x 36 inches Courtesy of the artist
Joan Snyder Proserpina
2013 Oil, acrylic, papier-mâché, poppies, rice paper, dirt, charcoal on linen, diptych, 48 x 120 inches (overall) Courtesy of the artist and Tierney Gardarin Gallery, New York, NY
Elke Solomon Chandelier
2011 India ink on Mylar 30 x 22 inches
2010 Mixed media Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist
Pat Steir Small Waterfall
2013 Oil on canvas 63 ¼ x 31 inches Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read Gallery, New York, NY
Michelle Stuart Drawing on Space
2011 Altered archival pigment photographs 20 units, 8 x 10 inches each (38 x 58 inches overall) Courtesy of the artist and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York, NY
Nina Yankowitz Breaking Glass/Buried Secrets in Science
2004 – 2013 Aluminum, glass, video, wood 49 ¾ x 27 x 31 inches (including base)
Widening the Frame
Vol. 1 produced and edited by Nina Yankowitz Video 37:46 minutes Courtesy of the artist
Judith Henry, Fargo High School (1935) Senior Girls (detail), 2013, full artwork can be seen on page 63
Acknowledgements from Marion Grzesiak, Executive Director, Visual Arts Center of New Jersey
Julie Heffernan, Self Portrait Dressing Wounds, 2012 (detail, complete work on page 51)
he Visual Arts Center of New Jersey is proud to present Women Choose Women Again, our first exhibition of 2014 and the final exhibition during my tenure as Executive Director. This exhibition was inspired by the historically important 1973 exhibition Women Choose Women. Today, forty years later, our co-curators have invited a selection of the original artists to exhibit their work again and to â€œchooseâ€? new women artists in the spirit of the original exhibition. This show truly celebrates women in the arts for a new generation. The artists involved present recent work in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, prints, drawings and more, demonstrating that creativity and art are not only genderless but timeless. I thank our co-curators Mary Birmingham and Katherine Murdock for their tireless efforts assembling this show. I am grateful to art historian Anne Swartz for her insightful essay examining feminist art exhibition practices in New York City. I am additionally grateful to the individuals and galleries who lent works to this exhibition: ACA Galleries, Alexandre Gallery, Betty Cuningham Gallery, Cheim & Read Gallery, Michael Combs, DC Moore Gallery, Garth Greenan Gallery, George Billis Gallery, Kim Foster Gallery, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, P.P.O.W. Gallery, Salomon Contemporary Gallery, and Tierney Gardarin Gallery. I would also like to thank our Exhibitions Associate Justin Hall, Design & Publications Manager Kristin Maizenaski, Exhibition Intern Brenna Larson, Researcher Yadira Hernandez N., and my entire staff for their hard work and commitment to all that we do. I extend my special gratitude to our Board of Trustees who continue to support all of our efforts. Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank the thirteen artists whose work was originally exhibited in Women Choose Women and the thirteen artists whom they have selected to join them in this new exhibition four decades later. Their work is sure to inspire all who see it.
NOTES Choices and Connections 1 Lucy R. Lippard, “Sweeping Exchanges: The Contributions of Feminism to the Art of the 1970s,” Art Journal 39 (Fall/Winter 1980): 365. 2 Lippard, “A Note on the Politics and Aesthetics of a Women’s Show,” in Women Choose Women (New York: The New York Cultural Center, 1973), 7. 3 One important result of the feminist art movement has been a gradual increase in the number of female faculty members in colleges and art schools. Lippard noted in 1973 that although the majority of undergraduate art students were female, only 2% of their teachers were female. [Ibid., 6.] In contrast, nearly all of the artists in Women Choose Women Again have taught or currently teach. Joan Snyder was an art student at Rutgers University in the 1960s, when there were no women artists on the faculty. Recognizing the need for women artists as role models, Snyder initiated The Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series (DWAS) at the Mabel Smith Douglass Library at Rutgers University in 1971—the oldest continuously running exhibition space in the United States “dedicated to making visible the work of emerging and established contemporary women artists.” 4 This painting was inspired by “Proserpina,” the last song written by acclaimed folk singer Kate McGarrigle, who died in 2010. McGarrigle’s daughter, Martha Wainwright, recorded a beautiful and haunting version of the song in 2012. The painting incorporates words appropriated from the song lyrics. [Joan Snyder in conversation with the author, November 6, 2013.] 5 The decision to install Perez’s Rope between works by Kozloff and Ringgold in this exhibition was based on the shared aesthetics of the pieces, but hopefully this juxtaposition will highlight an important historical connection. One outcome of the women’s art movement has been the gradual acceptance and even mainstreaming of materials and mediums previously overlooked as “craft” or dismissed as “feminine” or “decorative,” including quilts, ceramics, and needlework. Artists such as Ringgold and Kozloff helped break down some of the hierarchies previously ingrained in Western art, broadening the subsequent choices for male and female artists. 6 Pat Steir in conversation with the author, Nov. 1, 2013.
From WIA to WAR to Zines
An Overview of Feminist Art Exhibition Practices in New York City I am grateful for Mary Birmingham’s kind support of this project, as well as for her encouragement to go further in examining recent activities. In addition, Joyce Kozloff gave me a useful overview of the history of women artists’ protests and actions and offered suggestions for clarification, including the origin of consciousness-raising in mid-century China. I am also indebted to Frida Kahlo and other members of the Guerrilla Girls, who spoke with me on behalf of that group; Martha Wilson, who discussed her history and the evolution of Franklin Furnace; Jennie Klein for her suggestions, and Diane Banks for her assistance. 1 Mainstream is within a context here; it refers to the progressive left of the avant-garde art world. 2 The concept of intersectionality differs from the patriarchy. Its focus is on exposing discrimination and privilege as products of the current society and culture. It views these systems as interdependent, interconnected, and oppressive. Examples of these complications include sexism, racism, ableism, classism, and homophobia. This term was first advanced by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. [cf. Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum (1989): 139–167.] 3 Linda Nochlin, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” ARTNews (January 1971): 22–39, 67–71. 4 Documentation here also refers to research as a form of authorization. 5 Interview with Joyce Kozloff, November 26, 2013. 6 Jenni Sorkin, “The Feminist Nomad: The All-Woman Group Exhibition,” in WACK!: Art and the Feminist Movement, ed. Cornelia Butler and Lisa Gabrielle Mack (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), 471. 7 Carol Duncan, “When Greatness is a Box of Wheaties,” Artforum vol. 14 (October 1975), 64. 8 This exhibition showed: Djuna Barnes, Xenia Cage, Leonaro Carrington, Leonor Fini, Susie Frelinghuysen, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhaven, Meraud Guevara, Anne Harvey, Valentine Hugo, Buffie Johnson, Frida Kahlo, Jacqueline Lamba, Eyre de Lanux, Gypsy Rose Lee, Aline Myer Liebman, Hazel McKinley, Milena, Louise Nevelson, Meret
Oppenheim, Irene Rice Pereira, Barbara Reis, Kay Sage, Gretchen Schoeninger, Sonia Secula, Vieira da Silva, Esphyr Slobodkina, Hedda Sterne, Dorothea Tanning, Sophie Taueber-Arp, Julia Thecla, and Pegeen Vail. [“Selected Chronology of All-Women Group Exhibitions, 1943–83,” compiled by Jenni Sorkin and Linda Theung, in WACK!: Art and the Feminist Movement, ed. Cornelia Butler and Lisa Gabrielle Mack (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), 474.] 9 Judy Chicago had activist Marxist parents, as one example. [cf. Gail Levin, Becoming Judy Chicago: A Biography of the Artist (New York: Crown, 2007), 20, 37ff.] 10 The term consciousness-raising was the brainchild of feminist activist Kathie Sarachild in 1967. A member of New York Radical Women, a women’s liberation group in the late 1960s, Sarachild explained the origin of the term: “We were planning our first public action and wandered into a discussion about what to do next. One woman in the group, Ann Forer, spoke up: ‘I think we have a lot more to do just in the area of raising our consciousness,’ she said. ‘Raising consciousness?’ I wondered what she meant by that. I’d never heard it applied to women before. ‘I’ve only begun thinking about women as an oppressed group,’ she continued, ‘and each day, I’m still learning more about it–my consciousness gets higher.’” [cf. Kathie Sarachild, “Consciousness-Raising: A Radical Weapon,” in Feminist Revolution: An Abridged Edition with Additional Writings, ed. Kathie Sarachild, Carol Hanisch, Faye Levine, Barbara Leon, and Colette Price (New York: Random House, 1979), 144–45.] Kathryn T. Flannery defines the beginnings of the group-dynamics approaches and practices that became consciousness-raising, locating the origins in several places, including the Chinese “Speaking Bitterness” group sessions that Mao Tse-tung developed to give farmers opportunities to speak publically and communally about their oppressive experiences with their often abusive landlords. [cf. Kathryn T. Flannery, Feminist Literacies, 1968–75 (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2005), 227.] There is also the reality of the downside of CR, especially in perpetuating the race/ gender blindness in American feminism of the 1970s. [cf. Shirley Geok-lin Lim, “‘Ain’t I a Feminist?’: Re-forming the Circle,” The Feminist Memoir Project: Voices from Women’s Liberation (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998; reprinted by Rutgers University Press, 2007),450-66.] The origin of the phrase “the personal is political” comes from an essay re-published in the same book. [cf. Carol Hanisch, “The Personal is Political,” in Feminist Revolution, ed. Redstockings (New York: Random House, 1979), 204–05.] Michelle Moravec surveys the role of consciousness-raising in the early history of feminist art in “Toward a History of Feminism, Art, and Social Movements in the United States,” Frontiers, vol. 33, no. 2 (2012): 35–38. 11 Interestingly enough, anarchist theory provides much of the framework for creation and formation of a new society; at this time it is unknown whether any of the artists operating then had much knowledge of this subject. The later writings of anarchist theorists such as Howard Ehrlich and Jeffery Shantz read like a history of the feminist art movement. [cf. Howard Ehrlich, “Reinventing Anarchy, Again,” AK Press, rev. sub edition (July 1, 2001): 242–3, and Jeffrey Shantz, “Rebuilding Infrastructures of Resistance,” Journal of the Research Group on Socialism and Democracy, vol. 23, no. 2 (July 2009): 83.] 12 Juliette Gordon as quoted in Julie Ault, “Chronology,” Alternative Art: New York, 1965–1985: A Cultural Politics Book (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 27. 13 Artists exhibited there include: Lois di Cosola, Iris Crump, Mary Ann Gillies, Helene Gross, Dorlois Holmes, Inverna, Arline Lederman, Carolyn Mazzello, Vernita Nemec, Doris O’Kane, Silvianna, and Alida Walsh. 14 X12 Statements (http://www.ncognita.com/PDF/x12%20statements.pdf), accessed November 23, 2013. 15 Vernita Nemec, “X12: Feminist artists first show together,” WomanArt (September 1976): 6–7. 16 Robert Levin, “Twelve Artists: Women,” Changes (March 15, 1970), 43–4. 17 Faith Ringgold, We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 175–178. 18 Artist-organized spaces were a key component of early Modernist activity, seen in such groups as the Suprematists and Futurists, among many others. In New York City, the 1950s began an active period of creating such spaces and places. [cf. Joellen Bard, Ruth Fortel, and Helen Thomas, Tenth Street Days: The Co-ops of the 50s (New York: Education, Art & Service Inc., 1977).] 19 A.I.R. Gallery Mission Statement, http://www.airgallery.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=main.page&pagename=History &pageid=147, (accessed December 5, 2013). The six original founding members—Dotty Attie, Maude Boltz, Mary Grigoriadis, Nancy Spero, Susan Williams, and Barbara Zucker—invited fourteen artists—Rachel bas-Cohain, Judith Bernstein, Blythe Bohnan, Agnes Denes, Daria Dorosh, Loretta Dunkelman, Harmony Hammond, Laurace James, Nancy Kitchell, Louise Kramer, Anne Healy, Rosemarie Mayer, Patsy Norvell, and Howardena Pindell—to become members.
20 Telephone interview with Dena Muller, past director of A.I.R. Gallery, December 16, 2013. 21 bell hooks, “Women Artists: The Creative Process,” as quoted by Julie Lohnes in her exhibition catalogue essay for Anomalistic Revolution: An exhibition of 18 A.I.R. Gallery Artists (New York: A.I.R. Gallery, 2012), http://www.airgallery.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=main.page&pagename=Anomalistic_Revolution&pageid=310, (accessed December 16, 2013). One limitation of artist-run spaces can be that the artist is given an exhibition slot with the freedom to curate the show as she wants without curatorial oversight and often without critical commentary. Consequently the artist sometimes does not evolve as rapidly as she would with such input. 22 Telephone interview with Martha Wilson, December 26, 2013. 23 Telephone interview with Wilson. 24 Nan Levinson, “That Special Shimmer: Annie Sprinkle,” Outspoken: Free Speech Stories (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006), 150–51. 25 Stephen C. Dubin, Arresting Images: Impolitic Art and Uncivil Actions, New Edition (New York: Routledge, 1994/2013), 149. 25 Interview with Wilson. 27 Marcia Tucker, A Short Life of Trouble: Forty Years in the New York Art World, ed. Liza Lou (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008), 92. 28 A Short Life of Trouble, 93. 29 A Short Life of Trouble, 100. 30 A Short Life of Trouble, 125. 31 Juli Carson, “On Discourse as Monument: Institutional Spaces and Feminist Problematics,” in Alternative Art, New York, 1965–1985: A Cultural Politics Book for the Social Text Collective, ed. Juli Carson (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 141. In this context, a “feminist space” does not entail separatism but rather an organizational configuration that differs from mainstream, often male-dominated institutions. 32 Telephone interview with Frida Kahlo, December 6, 2013. 33 Interview with Guerrilla Girl, December 2013. 34 Interview with Frida Kahlo. 35 Frida Kahlo commented: “There were other groups like Sister Serpent in Chicago and Grand Fury in New York City that used provocation. We were the feminist group that got the most attention for being outrageous.” (E-mail from Frida Kahlo, December 28, 2013.) They also adopted inherently different strategies; one Guerrilla Girl told me she was active in the group because they offered child-care whereas other feminist art groups did not. (Interview with Guerrilla Girl, December 2013.) 36 Women’s Action Coalition (WAC) was another art world–related organization involved in protests and actions against the discrimination of women artists. They formed in 1992 and rapidly grew into a massive international network. 37 Writer and activist Rebecca Walker is credited with the first use of the term “Third Wave.” (cf. Rebecca Walker, “Becoming the Third Wave”, in Ms. (January/February 1992), 39-41.) 38 Kathleen Hanna describing her work on zines in The Punk Singer: A Film About Kathleen Hanna, directed by Sini Anderson (80 minute documentary), 2013. 39 Ann Cvetkovich, “Fierce Pussies and Lesbian Avengers,” in Feminist Consequences: Theory for the New Century, ed. Elisabeth Bronfen and Misha Kavka (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 273–320. Lesbian art originated well before the late twentieth century. There are examples of lesbian imagery in the Middle Ages, as well as iconography of lesbianism by lesbian artists in early twentieth-century art, such as in the work of Romaine Brooks. The discussion of lesbian themes in art is the focus of the publication “Lesbian Art and Artists,” Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Artists #3. Additionally, articles in Chrysalis frequently focused on lesbian art and artists. Art historian Tara Burk has usefully reviewed lesbian art in the 1970s [cf. Tara Burk, “In Pursuit of the Unspeakable: Heresies’ ‘Lesbian Art and Artists’ Issue, 1977,” Women’s Studies Quarterly, vol. 41, nos. 3 & 4 (Fall/Winter 2013), 63–78.] 40 They are calling their forthcoming journal issue READYKEULOUS. 41 Virginia Solomon, “What is Love?: Queer Subcultures and the Political Present,” e-fluxjournal #44 (April 2013), (http://worker01.e-flux.com/pdf/article_8966059.pdf), accessed December 29, 2013. 42 Rachel Wetzler, “Galleries: Angry Art Letters on the Lower East Side,” Hyperallergic (http://hyperallergic. com/17693/angry-letters-exhibition/), accessed December 29, 2013.
43 There were other group exhibitions of feminist art in New York City, Los Angeles, and elsewhere during the 1990s and 2000s. I am not presuming to be comprehensive here and am focusing on exhibitions that showcased the resulting canon, as presented by those earlier shows upon which the more recent ones are dependent. As art historian Nizan Shaked noted about WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution that Cornelia Butler, the curator, relied on many of those earlier shows in defining her approach: “Previous exhibitions by M. Catherine de Zegher, Nina Felshin, Susan Stoops, Marcia Tucker, Lynn Zelevansky, and Amelia Jones, as well as the book The Power of Feminist Art: The American Movement of the 1970s, History and Impact, edited by Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard, are cited by Butler as her major influences.” [cf. Nizan Shaked, “F is for Finally,” WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, vol. 9, no. 4 (Summer 2007), (http://x-traonline.org/article/f-is-for-finally/), accessed January 2, 2014.] 44 Hilary Robinson lists these exhibitions chronologically by their opening dates (touring venues not included): (2005) MOT Annual Life Actually, The Works of Contemporary Japanese Women, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan; La Costilla Maldita, Centro Atlánticode Arte Moderno, Gran Canaria; Konstfeminism: Strategier och effekter i Sverige från1970-talet till idag, Dunkers Kuturhus, Helsingborg, Sweden. (2007) WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California; Global Feminisms, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York (this exhibition was the first show at the newly inaugurated Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, which includes the opening of the permanent exhibition of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party); Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: 45 Years of Art and Feminism, Museo de Bellas Artes Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain; A Batalla dos Xéneros/Gender Battles, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain. (2009) elles@ centrepompidou, the Pompidou Centre, Paris, France; REBELLE. Art and Feminism 1969–2009, Museum Voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, the Netherlands; Gender Check: Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe, Museum Moderner Kunst Siftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna, Austria. (2010) Donna: Avanguardia Femminista Negli Anni ‘70 dalla Sammlung Verbund di Vienna, Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy; Med Viljann ad Vopni – Endurlit 1970–1980 (The Will as a Weapon–Review 1970–1980), Listasafn Reykjavikur, Reykjavik, Iceland; Žen d’Art:The Gender History of Art in the Post-Soviet Space: 1989–2009, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Russia. (2011) Dream and Reality: Modern and Contemporary Women Artists from Turkey, the Istanbul Modern, Turkey. [cf. Hilary Robinson, “Feminism Meets the Big Exhibition: Museum Survey Shows Since 2005,” Anglo Saxonica, Ser. III, no. 6 (2013), 129.] There were other exhibitions as well, such as Norma Broude and Mary Garrard’s 2007 exhibition Claiming Space: American Feminist Originators, Katzen Art Center, American University, Washington, DC (among others). 45 Cornelia Butler, “Art and Feminism: An Ideology of Shifting Criteria,” in WACK!: Art and the Feminist Movement, ed. Cornelia Butler and Lisa Gabrielle Mack (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), 15. 46 This point became a topic of discussion at the “Modern Art in Los Angeles: Feminist Art in Southern California” panel discussion at the Getty Center on March 27, 2007. Maren Hassinger and Rachel Rosenthal focused on that conversation during the panel. Hassinger subsequently chaired “‘Salon des Refuses’ or who was/is ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the recent feminist exhibitions,” a session at my invitation on this subject for TFAP@CAA 2009 (The Feminist Art Project Day of Panels at College Art Association’s Annual Conference February 28, 2009). Also, Joyce Kozloff and Joan Snyder have separately noted, in several lectures and talks, the numerous New York City feminist artists they’ve seen overlooked in many of these exhibitions. [cf. Shaked, “F is for Finally.”] Carol Duncan had made this point in 1975 about the older generation of artists who came of age in the 1940s and 1950s and their similar reticence about how their work was framed in relation to some feminist critiques. (Duncan specifically discusses critic Cindy Nemser in this piece.) (cf. Duncan, 62). 47 Leslie King-Hammond published the text in a volume about art critic Arlene Raven’s life and work. [cf. Leslie King-Hammond, “Agents of Change: Women, Art, and Intellect,” in “Arlene Raven’s Legacy,” Critical Matrix: The Princeton Journal of Women, Gender, and Culture, vol. 17, Spring 2008, edited by Johanna Burton and guest edited by Anne Swartz, 136-37 (images, 42-7).] 48 Stefany Benson, the gallery director, was also an essential participant who joined the gallery as we planned the show. 49 Holland Cotter, “Art In Review: AGENTS OF CHANGE: Women, Art, and Intellect,” The New York Times, February 16, 2007. 50 Judy Chicago speaking at The Feminist Art Project Meeting, New York, NY, September 2005.
page 7: Kristin Maizenaski pages 8, 80, 81: photo courtesy of Michelle Stuart and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York, NY © Michelle Stuart pages 10, 73: Peter Jacobs pages 12, 61: Photo courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY pages 13, 43: Timothy K. Lee page 15: © Faith Ringgold 1991 page 17: Photo courtesy of The Library, University of California San Diego page 21: Photo courtesy of the Estate of Sylvia Sleigh page 22: Photo courtesy of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc. page 25: © Lois Greenfield for The New York Times, 1996 page 27: Photo courtesy of INVISIBLE-EXPORTS, New York, NY pages 31, 32: Katherine Murdock pages 36, 37: Photo courtesy of BigTown Gallery, Rochester, VT pages 40, 41: © Virginia Cuppaidge pages 44, 45: Photo courtesy of Alexandre Gallery, New York, NY, © Lois Dodd page 47: Photo courtesy of George Billis Gallery, New York, NY page 48: Photo courtesy of Louis K. Meisel Gallery, © Audrey Flack page 49: Kristin Maizenaski page 52: John A. Ferrari page 53: Photo courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY page 56: Nash Baker; photo courtesy of McClain Gallery, Houston, TX page 57: Photo courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY page 59: Philip Ennik page 64: © Faith Ringgold 1967 page 65: © Faith Ringgold 2011 page 67: Philip Ennik page 71: Kathy Carver page 72: Douglas Parker page 75: Peter Jacobs page 77: Photo courtesy of Cheim & Read Gallery, New York, NY page 83: Terry Sanders page 84: Nick Sheidy (Installation photo at Kornblee Gallery, 1971), © Nina Yankowitz page 85: Barry Holden, © Nina Yankowitz page 87: James Dee
© 2014, Visual Arts Center of New Jersey ISBN: 978-0-925915-46-7
Visual Arts Center of New Jersey
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Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday: 10 am – 5 pm Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm Saturday & Sunday: 11 am – 4 pm Major support for the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey is provided in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wilf Family Foundations, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Horizon Foundation of New Jersey, the WJS Foundation, and Art Center members and donors.
“Women Choose Women,” the first New York City museum survey organized by women and devoted exclusively to the work of women artists, opened...
Published on Feb 18, 2014
“Women Choose Women,” the first New York City museum survey organized by women and devoted exclusively to the work of women artists, opened...