Feminist art

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Mary Schepisi, Beauty Interrupted, 2011

Feminist art, which grew out of the feminist art movement of the late 1960's and 1970s, criticized the archaic ideals of the early 20th century as well as the art history canon, through the use of art, to create a dialogue between the viewer and the artwork following a feminist perspective. Rather than creating artwork for the visual pleasure of the viewer, feminist art aimed to make the viewer question the societal and political norms in the hopes that it would incite inspire change towards what feminism is all about; equality. The media used range from traditional art forms, such as painting, to non-traditional media, such as performance art, conceptual art, body art, craftivism, video, and film, as well as incorporating fabrics and fiber art. They embraced media that did not hold the same paradigm of male-dominance we have come to associate with painting and sculpture. It could also combine aspects of different media or movements, such as combining of photo and text. It is an art practice not born from classical art forms, but one that is open to the freedom to experiment, representing a shift to postmodernism from modernism. Feminist art served as an innovative driving force towards expanding the definition of art through the incorporation of new media and a new perspective.[1][2]


Women artists, motivated by feminist theory and the feminist movement, began the feminist art movement in the 1970s. Feminist art represent a shift to postmodernism from modernism, when art made by women was put in an "other" or different class than works made by men.[1] Until the movement, it was often difficult for women to have their work represented by galleries and included in exhibitions. During the feminist art movement women created their own opportunities by creating galleries, promoting women artist's works in the established art world and to change institutional policies.[2]

Feminist artists had expansive perspectives regarding what they wished to achieve through art. Art could be used to offer viewers a woman's viewpoints about politics and societal dynamics, with the goal of creating change.[2] They have used non-traditional and alternative media to create a broader range of artistic possibilities, and thereby changing the definition of fine arts. Performance art, video pieces and the integration of fiber and fabric into their works are a few ways they broadened creative expression.[2]

Lucy R. Lippard stated in 1980 that feminist art was "neither a style nor a movement but instead a value system, a revolutionary strategy, a way of life."[3]


During the early 1960's the majority of female artwork did not portray feminist content in the sense that it did not address nor criticize the conditions women had to face historically. In order to gain recognition, there was a struggle for female artists to "de-gener" their work to compete in a historically male-dominated art world. If a work did not "look" like it was made by a woman, then the stigma associated with women would not cling on to the work itself, thus giving it its own integrity. Towards the end of the decade, progressive ideas criticizing social values began to spring up in which the mainstream ideology that had come to be accepted was denounced as not being neutral. It was also suggested that the art world as a whole had managed to institutionalize within itself the notion of sexism. During this time there was a rebirth of various media that had been placed at the bottom of the aesthetic hierarchy by art history, such as quilting.[4]

Promoting feminist art[edit]

In the 1970s, society started to become open to change and people started to realize that there was a problem with the stereotypes of each gender. Feminist art became a popular way of addressing the social concerns of feminism that surfaced in the late 1960s to 70s. The creation and publication of the first feminist magazine was published in 1972. Ms. Magazine was the first national magazine to make feminist voices prominent, and make feminist ideas/beliefs available to the public and supported the works of feminist artists. Like the art world, the magazine used the media to spread the messages of feminism and draw attention to the lack of total gender equality in society. The co-founder of the magazine Gloria Steinem coined the famous quote, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” which demonstrates the power of independent women; this slogan was frequently used by activists.[3]

Effect of Feminist Art on Society[edit]

Lucy R. Lippard argued in 1980 that feminist art was “neither a style nor a movement but instead a value system, a revolutionary strategy, a way of life.” This quote supports that feminist art effected all aspects of life. The women of the nation were determined to have their voices heard above the din of discontent, and equality would enable them to obtain jobs equal to men.[5] Art was a form of media that was used to get the message across; this was their platform. Feminist art would support this claim because the art began to challenge previously conceived notions of the roles of women. The message of gender equality in feminist artworks resonates with the viewers because the challenging of the social norms made people question, should it be socially acceptable for women to wear men’s clothing?[6]

Example of feminist art[edit]

The magazine and the rise of feminism occurred during the same time feminist artists became more popular, and an example of a feminist artist is Judy Dater. Starting her artistic career in San Francisco, a cultural hub of different kinds of art and creative works, Dater displayed feminist photographs in museums and gained a fair amount of publicity for her work.[7] Dater displayed art that focused on women challenging stereotypical gender roles, such as the expected way women would dress or pose for a photograph. To see a woman dressed in men’s clothing was rare and made the statement of supporting the feminist movement, and many people knew of Dater’s passionate belief of equal rights. Dater also photographed nude women, which was intended to show women’s bodies as strong, powerful, and as a celebration. The photographs grabbed the viewers attention because of the unusualness and never-before-seen images that do not necessarily fit into society.[8]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ On Saturday, October 19, 2013, Creative Time and the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum presented Between the Door and the Street, a major work by the internationally celebrated artist Suzanne Lacy, perhaps the most important socially-engaged artist working today. Some 400 women and a few men–all selected to represent a cross-section of ages, backgrounds, and perspectives–gathered on the stoops along Park Place, a residential block in Brooklyn, where they engaged in unscripted conversations about a variety of issues related to gender politics today. Thousands of members of the public came out to wander among the groups, listen to what they were saying, and form their own opinions.


  1. ^ a b Cheris Kramarae; Dale Spender (1 December 2000). Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women's Issues and Knowledge. Taylor & Francis. pp. 92–93. ISBN 978-0-415-92088-9. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Feminist art movement". The Art Story Foundation. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock (1987). Framing Feminism: Art and the Women’s Movement 1970-85. New York: Pandora Press. 
  4. ^ Battersby, Christine (1989). Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetic. Indiana UP: Bloomington. 
  5. ^ Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, Framing Feminism: Art and the Women’s Movement 1970-85 (New York Pandora Press 1987).
  6. ^ Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, Framing Feminism: Art and the Women’s Movement 1970-85 (New York Pandora Press 1987).
  7. ^ Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, Framing Feminism: Art and the Women’s Movement 1970-85 (New York Pandora Press 1987).
  8. ^ Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard, The Power of Feminist Art The American Movement of the 1970s: History and Impact (Harry N. Abrams Publishers Inc. New York 1994).

Further reading[edit]

  • Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard (1994). The Power of Feminist Art The American Movement of the 1970s: History and Impact. New York: Harry N. Abrams Publishers Inc.