Maybe the best way to describe the debut of feminist art in the 1970s is to say that it hit like a shockwave -- one that ricocheted sharply off the marble walls of mainstream galleries and museums.
Like the Impressionists, abstract expressionists, and surrealists before them, feminist artists introduced content that was revolutionary and often controversial. Shaped by the iconoclasm and egalitarianism of the time, they took on topics like women's identity, violence against women, and female perspectives on women's bodies, colonial oppression, and war.
The long-term effect was profound. In 2002, The New York Times art critic Holland Cotter wrote, "Most of the interesting American artists of the last 30 years are as interesting as they are in part because of the feminist art movement of the early 1970s. It changed everything"-- from content to materials to entire genres.
But in the 1970s, rebuffed by the male establishment, what was there for the women to do but to create their own venues? So they did. Feminist art galleries, educational programs, publications, and studios sprang up across the country, some of which continue to the present day, including WARM -- the Women's Art Resources of Minnesota (formerly Women's Art Registry of Minnesota).
An exhibition this winter at CLA's Nash Gallery features the work of a veritable pantheon of feminist artists from Minnesota and around the nation, all of whom were involved in founding those institutions -- hence the title, "The House We Built: Feminist Art Then and Now." The show is both historical and contemporary, and locates the story of Minnesota artists in a national context.
Associate Professor Joyce Lyon, herself a founder of WARM, and Nash Gallery director Howard Oransky curate the main exhibition. Related exhibitions are cocurated by Christina Michelon, a master's student in art history, and Deborah Boudewyns, Arts, Architecture & Landscape Architecture Librarian.
"The House We Built" runs from January 22 to February 23; several related events are offered, including a panel on the founding of WARM and the future of feminist art networks, featuring Lyon, WARM founders Elizabeth Erickson and Carole Fisher, and Joanna Inglot, art history chair at Macalester College. - MP
For more information, including a list of artists in the exhibition, go to: z.umn.edu/housewebuilt