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Feminist Abstract Art

Today we're going to talk about Canadian abstract artist Laura Warburton... if you Google her name you will find she is one of the top 5 abstract artists currently living in Canada.

But what is more her work deals with a variety of topics, including female sexuality and how we're treated by men. In particular I want to speak about her 'Yellow, Red and Blue' (untitled) paintings which use newspaper clippings of ads for sex workers as the 'skin' of the female figures.

Thought provoking? I think so. Its really about the sexualization and commodification of the female body.

But more so it proves that abstract art can also be feminist art. Way to go Laura Warburton!

YELLOW: Emotion of Optimism

RED: Emotion of Desire

BLUE: Emotion of Dreams

Sita Sings the Blues

Below is the animated film "Sita Sings the Blues" which tells the Indian tale of the goddess Sita (the wife of Rama)... [Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Hare Rama Hare Rama... you know it!]... and splices it together with a modern story about marriage disharmony.

And better yet its free and you will see by the ending it has a strong feminist message about independence.


The film was created by Nina Paley, an anti-copyright activist and feminist. Her film has sparked protests amongst some Hindus because Rama ends up ditching a pregnant Sita and treating her like dirt, but she outsmarts him in the end. (Which is completely accurate to the story, so why the heck are they protesting part of their own culture?! Silliness.)

!Women Art Revolution in Detroit

Miranda July, Yoko Ono and the Guerilla Girls are just a few of the artists featured in "!Women Art Revolution". The new documentary, playing this weekend at the Detroit Film Theatre, is a collection of interviews with female artists done over 40 years by filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson.

Leeson, a multimedia artist, began interviewing artist friends in her Berkeley, Calif., living room around 1966. The women weigh in on everything from gender politics to the finer points of their works in very different genres.

Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward, Detroit. 313-833-4005 or $7.50; $6.50 students, seniors.

If you are not in Detroit then check out your local listings for !Women Art Revolution to see when it is showing near you.

Check out Pussy Casting Art

You will probably enjoy this post:

The Truth about Pussy Casting

Ylva Maria Thompson is a Swedish artist who specializes in Pussy Casting.... :)

Feminist Art at the Subliminal Projects Gallery

Posted by Suzanne MacNevin.

Above: "The Creation" painting by Judy Chicago, 1985. One of the works on display at Subliminal Projects through August 20 2011.

The new exhibition showcases the legacy of feminist art with works by Judy Chicago, Mary Beth Edelson and more.

Katherine B. Cone, director of Subliminal Projects Gallery, has put together its newest exhibition, "Eve." From July 23 through Aug. 20, the gallery, created by renowned street artist Shepard Fairey in 1995, will show a diverse collection of works by nine revolutionary female artists, including pioneers of the feminist art movement such as Chicago and Mary Beth Edelson, and others expanding the legacy today, such as Alex Prager and Swoon.

Shirin Neshat

Posted by Suzanne MacNevin.

Shirin Neshat شیرین نشاط (born March 26, 1957 in Qazvin, Iran) is an Iranian feminist artist who lives in New York. She is known primarily for her work in film, video and photography.


Feminist Art Books

Carrie Mae Weems


"My responsibility as an artist is to work, to sing for my supper, to make art, beautiful and powerful, that adds and reveals; to beautify the mess of a messy world, to heal the sick and feed the helpless; to shout bravely from the rooftops and storm barricaded doors and voice the specificity of our historical moment." --Carrie Mae Weems

In 1981 Weems was graduating from California Institute of the Arts and moving on to an MFA from the University of California-San Diego.

She was part of a political artist group that was pairing text with photographs. The above piece is a great example of that form.

Below is a sample from The Kitchen Table Series (1990):

When you look at these photos you might be reminded of the complex relationships among women; the different roles we play-mother, daughter, sister, friend. The emotions we inflict on our loved ones and even when we try to love sometimes it comes across as shame. We think about the desire to please those we care about. The bonds that don't break dispite immense tension.

The documentary style is raw and beautiful.

Carolee Schneemann

FEMINIST ART - Artist Carolee Schneemann gives new meaning to feminist art. She's more of a punk artist than anything else.

She is probably most known for her performance art piece entitled Interior Scroll (1975). From the accounts others have written it seems she would peel off her clothing, cover herself in mud (or paint?), and then extract a scroll from her vagina and read it. The image I have posted to the right is from the Tate website and apparently the writing on the side is from the vaginal scroll. How daring is that?! Love it or hate it.

She says of this piece: "I thought of the vagina in many ways-- physically, conceptually: as a sculptural form, an architectural referent, the sources of sacred knowledge, ecstasy, birth passage, transformation. I saw the vagina as a translucent chamber of which the serpent was an outward model: enlivened by it's passage from the visible to the invisible, a spiraled coil ringed with the shape of desire and generative mysteries, attributes of both female and male sexual power. This source of interior knowledge would be symbolized as the primary index unifying spirit and flesh in Goddess worship."

Among many in your face installations/performances/films (she was also a painter among other things) another one of note is Eye Body: 36 Transformative Actions (1963). Here Schneemann covers herself in her environment while Icelandic artist Erró photographs. She says:

"I wanted my actual body to be combined with the work as an integral material-- a further dimension of the construction... I am both image-maker and image. The body may remain erotic, sexual, desired, desiring, but it is as well votive: marked, written over in a text of stroke and gesture discovered by my creative female will."

Unfortunately she was "pigeon holed" and typecasted as an "erotic artist". She was unhappy with this because she wanted not to be this delicate female erotic image but hardcore, ugly, in your face, I don't fuck around sexuality: a quality that more die hard feminists appreciate

Carolee Schneemann's collaborative art includes the performance piece Meat Joy (1964). In her words:  

"Meat Joy has the character of an erotic rite: excessive, indulgent, a celebration of flesh as material: raw fish, chickens, sausages, wet paint, transparent plastic, rope brushes, paper scrap. It's propulsion is toward the ecstatic-- shifting and turning between tenderness, wilderness, precision, abandon: qualities which could at any moment be sensual, comic, joyous, repellent."

Womanhouse (1973)

Between the dates of January 3oth and February 28th an amazing installation was created by a group of women at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in the Feminist Art Program. Judy Chicago & Miriam Schapiro both co-founders of the program worked with their students and the community to create the unflinching and under appriatiated art experience called WOMANHOUSE.

Together they took over a building and each artist constructed a room that showed without apology there interpretation of the (middle class white) female experience. The bathroom was done by Judy Chicago and titled Menstruation Bathroom. A waste basket overflows with dirty bloody pads and feminine hygiene products scattered about.

Sandra Orgel created Linen Closet which shows a women trapped inside a linen closet with neatly folded towels and her head in what appears almost like a guillotine. One leg is outside as if she is free but not free from the female experience we are taught to embrace and feel stuck inside.

Sadly it is hard to come by images of all the rooms in the house. According to Wikipidia these were the rooms:

Beth Bachenheimer (Shoe Closet)
Sherry Brody (Lingerie Pillows)
Faith Wilding (Womb Room)
Kathy Huberland (Bridal Staircase)
Sandra Orgel (Linen Closet)
Camille Grey (Lipstick Bathroom)
Robin Weltsch and Vicki Hodgetts (Nurturant Kitchen)
Miriam Schapiro (Doll’s House)
Judy Chicago (Menstruation Bathroom).

Johanna Demetrakas filmed the performance pieces: Faith Wilding (Waiting), Sandra Orgel (Ironing), Judy Chicago (Cock and Cunt Play, performed by Faith Wilding and Janice Lester), Karen LeCocq (Leah's Room).

It is amazing that a group of women came together and formed a community and through art shared their female experience. It is visceral and yet sad. There was a film made about this installation that can be purchased for an expensive price ($250 for a DVD).

Info from the Women Make Movies site:
A film by Johanna Demetrakas
1974, 47 minutes, Color, VHS/DVD

There needs to be more collaborative work among women!

Feminism in American Comic Books

ENTERTAINMENT - Like She-Hulk and Wonder Woman?

Check out the following video montage, its basically a history of women in American comic books. True, it shows a lot of skin, but latex tights is par for the course for superheroes... Spider-Man's suit for example seems to be 'extra tight'.

The Role of Feminist Art in Marketing

FEMINIST ART - I found the following image below on a website for IT staff in Toronto.

And it got me thinking...

Thinking about the role feminism plays in marketing and advertising.

Let me put it this way... approx. 70% of all new cars in North America and Europe are purchased by women. (If only the same was true of truck sales.)

Automakers have learned from this and when designing cars and marketing cars, they are now primarily designed with women in mind... and its done so often in a duality.

#1. To appeal to women.

#2. To appeal to men trying to attract women.

The BMW Z3 is a good historical example of this. Normally BMW cars are boxy and boring, appealing to Toronto accountants, lawyers and businessmen... very stale. But in the BMW Z3's case what happened was BMW did a lot of marketing research and decided to market the car more to women when they realized women are more likely to buy new cars and more importantly women have specific tastes when picking a car... namely women prefer cars with curves. So says the market research.

And to take care of both items #1 and #2 above, they paid big bucks to have the car featured in the first James Bond movie starring Pierce Brosnan... who, small surprise, stars opposite a Russian amazon hacker with beauty and brains.

But I think the most important part of that film was not the hacker femme fatale... it was the introduction of the new M, played by Dame Judy Dench. A class act and a smart move on part of the whole James Bond franchise. This was no doubt deliberate and an attempt by the producers to make the new James Bond more friendly to women and feminists alike (as opposed the ol' Sean Connery James Bond who frequently slapped women around and twisted their arms behind their backs, threatening to break them).

Next lets talk about another cultural phenomenon... women buying shoes. Its true, women do buy a lot of shoes. We just do. Just do it. Don't blame Nike, they only clued in on this a long time and Nike has been marketing heavily to women ever since. The ad below of a woman doing yoga whilst wearing Nike shoes (and other Nike clothing) is an excellent example of Nike using feminist art to get their message across.

Next lets talk about the mother of all marketing campaigns... the TOBACCO INDUSTRY. You know, those horrible bastards who tricked people into starting smoking because it helps "keep you thin".

The example on the right is just that, an example. One of MANY cigarette advertisements marketed towards women using feminism and freedom as a ploy to sell cancer.

The image below from Virginia Slims is another prime example... you've come along way baby is just sleazy and condescending.

Can I have more patriarchy in my advertising please? *sarcasm*

The point I am trying to make here is that feminism (as opposed to the classic "sex sells") is also used to sell products to women. Marketing is often a blunt tool.

We don't mind it so much when feminism is used to sell us plain things like Nike shoes and what not... but when we're being sold cigarettes and breast implants its annoying and we get the itch to throw rocks at the advertising industry.

Take the photo below from a website which sells sunrooms. No big deal. Who WOULDN'T want a sunroom? (I think conceptually sunrooms appeal more to women. Men probably wouldn't see the purpose in having a room you can relax and enjoy the sun in, without pesky insects buzzing around.) The woman in the photo looks athletic. Determined. As if she is looking at the sun and getting ready to go running around like an amazon doing all sorts of exercises.

Next on my list is an image from an Ottawa windows manufacturer. No feminism here. Just a smiling blonde apparently overjoyed by her new windows. Huzzah for capitalism. So which is better? Feminist looking out the window, or happy homemaker enjoying her new windows? I think the feminist image is more provocative. That image makes me think there is an exciting story behind it. The happy homemaker in contrast looks like she is about to go bake cookies and maybe tickle a toddler (no offense to mothers out there, you go girls, but I hope you are getting my point here).

So yeah, don't mind a little feminism in the regular advertising. Nike, you go girl. Just do it.

But I'd argue the best use of feminist art is promoting something with an actual purpose beyond capitalism and commercialism. Like the "Because I Am A Girl" campaign. Women doing athletic and intelligent things for a good cause. More of that please.

!WAR: Women Art Revolution


Lynn Hershman Leeson’s new documentary about feminist art of the 1960s, "!Women Art Revolution", will make its theatrical debut tomorrow (June 1st) at NYC’s IFC Center, followed by showings across the USA via Zeitgeist Films. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2010, and also screened at Sundance and Berlin.

Lynn Hershman Leeson says the film “exposes the previously obscured and often indiscernible limits of access and voice that were imposed on a selected group of artists,” and shows “how presumed restrictions to freedom of expression were triumphantly surmounted.”

“Comprehensive and vibrant…a must for university arts archives and other artistic institutions. !Women Art Revolution smartly mixes the dynamics of the emerging feminist movement of the late ‘60s with the prevailing male chauvinism of the arts world at the time.” - THR.

According to Lynn Hershman Leeson:

"This film has had the very rare honor of being included in the official selections of Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, Human Rights Watch, S.F. International and several other major festivals. It has had sold out screenings with standing ovations at nearly every screening. I was heartened and amazed by the remarkable response, from both women and men, many of whom were moved to tears to discover this history and others who remembered when. There has been no prior platform to disclose the embedded issues."

"It is a complicated issue. Why does discrimination exist? Who benefits from it? What has been the historical trajectory of power and how does that affect how history is constructed? Who survives into legacy? In the 1960s, when the Feminist Art Movement emerged, it was fueled by the rhetoric and power of the Black Panther Movement. Female artists needed to become politicized in order to understand the nuanced complexities of gender, race, class and sexuality, and to make art that was uniquely their own. These artists made groundbreaking contributions and insisted on exposing inequality. The Guerilla Girls, became the conscience of the art world and held galleries and museums accountable for discrimination. Female artists, critics, and curators, struggled to re invent themselves and introduced the first concepts of social protest, collaboration and public art, which addressed directly the political imperatives of social justice and civil rights."

"There is a growing community of enlightened philanthropists, many of whom are female, who are insisting on change. It is a mandate essential for their support. This is evidenced in the number of women being hired as curators, and the growing insertion of important women artists to collections and a correction to the policies of omission that formerly dominated selection processes. It is rather thrilling to see this happen in such a cohesive, proactive and concrete way…[However] There are many examples of subtle resistance which is reflected in how and where work is seen, who is exhibited, how work is reviewed, collected, or placed and what future creative opportunities are available. Having a strong, original voice can be personally exhilarating but often treacherous in its’ uniqueness when it does not fit into a pre existing expectation."

"Of course I think it has positive connotations for intelligent women and men. But there is still an existing fear of the word itself, as well as miscommunicated baggage of what it represents. This needs revision. Feminism is about cultural values and equality. The young women I am in contact with are grateful to learn about this history. They devour the information. It is, after all, their legacy."

"Women have been, very often, the out takes of history, so very little information exists. This is why I wanted to make a film that had NO out takes and worked with Stanford University to put the entire footage that was shot, along with the transcriptions and information about the artists online. It is an extended history that expands the narrative. The partnership with Stanford University Libraries (SULAIR) houses the !Women Art Revolution Collection in a publicly accessible online archive for study and research. The retrievability of this information subverts traditional notions of filmmaking. In the 60’s, women used slides sent around the country as a kind of underground railway. Now, we have the internet. I think the next generation has access to very exciting technologies that will extend even more the reach into new communities."

"As Marcia Tucker reminds us,“humor is the single most important weapon we have!” I think audiences will be inspired by the courage, sense of humor and tenaciousness of the artists who courageously and constantly reinvented themselves and in doing so dynamically revised existing exclusionary policies of their culture."

"We invented RAW/WAR* as an extension of the film into the future. It is an interactive, community-curated media archive and an accompanying installation that provides a forum for users to collaboratively contribute to the history. The site is a democratic community space where users can post links to images and video. RAW/WAR opens up this dialogue to a global audience, using geotags to connect histories worldwide."

NOTE: RAWWAR is a collaboration between Lynn Hershman Leeson, Alexandra Chowaniec, Brian Chrils, Gian Pablo Villamil, Paul Paradiso and Stacey Duda.

Women Artists in Britain during WWII

Please check out: British Women Artists during WWII.

'The Queue at the Fish-Shop' (1944) by Evelyn Dunbar

'The Nuremberg Trial' (1946) by Dame Laura Knight

'Christmas Day in the London Bridge YMCA Canteen' (1920) by Clare Atwood

'Human Laundry' (1945) by Doris Zinkeisen

Feminist Posters + Photography


Boycott Nestle by Rachael Romero, 1978

Poster by the Guerrilla Girls

Untitled Image by Carrie Mae Weems

Seduction by Lynn Hershman

Feminist Art at Villanova UAG

Women Collared for Work: Anecdotal Art

For over two decades Judith Schwab wanted to do a feminist art exhibit about “20th century women and the obstacles they had to overcome.” Such a solo exhibit would take a lot of time to accomplish. Now the exhibit is finally here, and its on tour.

Schwab asked seven “tremendously creative and inspiring artists” she knew to collaborate with her. It took 10 years to do but their tour de force traveling art exhibit is now hitting the road.

The next stop on that road is the Villanova University Art Gallery (depending on when you read this we recommend researching when the exhibit is coming to a gallery near you). The free public reception is on Friday, January 14th, from 5 to 7 pm in the Villanova UAG (so take your Valentine date with you!), which is located in the Connelly Center on the Villanova campus.

The show continues to February 17.

Margo Allman

Allman's calligraphic paintings honor the unsung Japanese-American women who without trial were forcibly taken from their homes by the U.S. Government during World War II and interred in guarded military compounds. A painter, sculptor and printmaker for more than 55 years, Allman is a distinguished alumni of The Moore College of Art and Design and is listed in Who's Who in American Art and Who's Who in America. Her work is held in museums and private collections worldwide.

Bernice Davidson

A leader in international art exchanges for peace and environmental stewardship, Davidson brings to the exhibit life-sized figurative weavings in reed of early 20th century suffragettes jailed for their non-violent campaign to gain the right to vote for American women. Her life-sized Native American figure speaks to Native children forcibly removed from family and culture to attend distant government boarding schools, and to one child who successfully escaped and returned home.

Maria Keane

Mixed media monoprint collages by artist/professor Maria Keane pay tribute to the professional women illustrators of the Howard Pyle School, such as Olive Rush, Elenore Abbott, and Anna Whelan Betts and Ethel Franklin Betts, whose work lit up the Golden Age of American Illustration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and expanded career opportunities for women in art. Keane has been adjunct professor of fine arts at Wilmington (Del.) University since 1986.

Rosemary Lane

Working with cast paper over wood, Rosemary Lane presents three-dimensional human-form relief pieces honoring artists who inspired her and a new generation of artists in the 1980s. Her role models include leading American feminist artist Judy Chicago and abstract expressionist Louise Nevelson, a pioneer of environmental sculpture. A retired University of Delaware art professor, Lane's work has been exhibited in over 150 national invitational and juried shows.

Judith Schwab

Schwab offers 1940s' images hearkening to “Rosie the Riveter”, wartime food rationing, and the bib collar, and 1950s' art, fashion (e.g., the Peter Pan collar), and the deepening civil rights struggle. She has been a leader in international art exchange for the promotion of peace. In 2009 Schwab was awarded a Broward Cultural Council Award from the Broward County Board of County Commissioners, Florida, and a Delaware Division of the Arts Emerging Artist Fellowship in 1986-'87, and an Established Artist Fellowship 1993-'94.

Wilma B. Siegel, MD

The costumed soft sculptures created by Siegel represent “Flower Children Grown Up”, women who have made significant contributions to their communities. An award-winning artist, Siegel's psychological portraits of AIDS victims and survivors, the changing faces of AIDS, breast cancer survivors, the homeless, and the elderly have gained national recognition. A distinguished oncologist, she was a pioneer in the hospice movement, opening one of the first hospices to accept AIDS patients.

Ann Stein

Stein presents a rich visual appreciation of the accomplishments of Frances Perkins, America's first woman Cabinet member. Each of Stein's period items and drawings stands as a symbol of Perkins and the ground-breaking labor laws and other social advances she championed as Franklin D. Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor. A sculptor, Stein's work is archived in the National Museum of Women in the Arts and exhibited in the Corcoran Gallery and the Art Museum of the Americas.

Deborah Stelling

Incorporating photographs, metal, and wood stitched to an acrylic background, the five mixed media paintings by Stelling pay tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt and Georgia O'Keeffe, including some pithy quotes by them. Stelling has won fellowships and grants from the University of Delaware, the Delaware Division of the Arts and the MacDowell Colony, the oldest artists' colony in the United States. She is founder of SYNE, a group of artists who have exhibited in Europe and Scandinavia.

The Villanova University Art Gallery is open weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm.

Telephone the Art Gallery at (610) 519-4612 or visit their website at

Model's Revenge by Alexis Hunter

"Dear friends

I am showing the 1974-77 series the Model's Revenge at the London Art Fair at the Richard Saltoun Gallery, along with the feminist photographer Jo Spence's work. We both showed together at the Hayward Gallery in 1979, and I am delighted to tell you that both Jo's and my work has been well received.

Alexis Hunter"

Stand 34
The London Art Fair
19 - 23 January at Islington's Business Design Centre (map)
52 Upper St | City of London | N1 0QH
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