Lesbian Art Project

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Lesbian Art Project (1977 – 1979) was a participatory art movement founded by Terry Wolverton and Arlene Raven at the Woman's Building in Los Angeles.[1] The pioneering project focused on giving a platform to lesbian and feminist perspectives of participants through performance, art making, salons, workshops and writing.[2] One significant piece of work created during the project was An Oral Herstory of Lesbianism, in 1979, which documented lesbian women and their feelings, views, experiences, and expression.[3]

The Lesbian Art Project was part of an ongoing effort by Arlene Raven, co-founder of the Woman's Building, to incorporate lesbian-oriented programming into the Feminist Studio Workshop, which had already launched the Los Angeles League for the Advancement of Lesbianism in the Arts (LALALA) in 1975.[4]

Critics and artists influenced by the tenets of postmodernism dismissed much of the art work made in the 1970s from a lesbian feminist perspective. This has resulted in very little being known or written about this pioneering work. The activities and events associated with the Lesbian Art Project at the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles have played a larger role in lesbian art history than is often acknowledged. The project began with six women (started by Terry Wolverton) working collectively with a common goal of increasing opportunity for lesbian artists and writing a chapter of lesbian art. This small group disbanded in less than a year but Wolverton and Raven continued in their pursuit of a Lesbian Art Movement. As they continued their project they became astonishingly productive, and they were able to integrate the Lesbian Art Project with the curriculum of the Feminist Studio Workshop at the Woman’s Building.

At the Woman's Building they were able to organize a major performance event based on lesbian identities: The Oral Herstory of Lesbianism (Oral). Advertised as "Storytelling, Theater and Magic for Women Only",[5] the project was directed by Wolverton and its stories generated through a workshop for the thirteen performers. The scenes addressed a wide range of issues, including butch and femme identities, incest and sexual abuse, and lesbian stereotypes. Another performance sponsored by the LAP was Terry Wolverton and Ann Shannon's FEMINA: An IntraSpace Voyage (1978), which was created as a response to popular, patriarchal science fiction and is considered to be an example of lesbian feminist camp.[6]

Along with the major performance events, a database for lesbian artists was now in existence. Wolverton and Raven went their separate ways before completing the book they had planned but both continued to individually promote feminist and lesbian art.

A partial successor to the LAP was the 1980 Great American Lesbian Art Show (GALAS), also at the Woman's Building.[7]


  1. ^ Klein, J (2010). "The Lesbian Art Project". J Lesbian Stud. 14 (2): 238–59. doi:10.1080/10894160903196541. PMID 20408013.
  2. ^ Jennie Kelin (2010). "The Lesbian Art Project". J Lesbian Stud. 14 (2): 238–59. doi:10.1080/10894160903196541. PMID 20408013.
  3. ^ "Wack! Audio Tour: Lesbian Art Project, Carolee Schneemann, Suzy Lake, Judith F. Baca". Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  4. ^ Bonnie Zimmerman, ed. (2013-08-21). Encyclopedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures. Routledge. p. 65. ISBN 9781136787515. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  5. ^ Broude, Norma, and Mary D. Garrard. "The power of feminist art: The American movement of the 1970s, history and impact." (1996).
  6. ^ Klein, Jennie (2011). "The Ghost of Desire: The Lesbian Art Project and the Woman's Building". Doin' It In Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman's Building. Otis College of Art and Design. pp. 126–157.
  7. ^ Thompson, Margo Hobbs (20 April 2010). "DIY Identity Kit: The Great American Lesbian Art Show". Journal of Lesbian Studies. 14 (2–3): 260–282. doi:10.1080/10894160903196558. PMID 20408014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hélène Cixous. Hillary Robinson (ed.). The Laugh of the Medusa. Blackwell, 2001.
  • Joanne Hollows and Rachel Moseley. Hollows and Moseley (ed.). The Meanings of Popular Feminism. Berg, 2006.
  • David E. James, ed. (2003). The Sons and Daughters of Los: Culture and Community in L.A. Temple University Press, 2003. ISBN 9781592130139.
  • "Once More, with Feeling. Feminist Art and Pop Culture Now". Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  • Woman's Art Journal Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring - Summer, 2003), pp. 42–46
  • Klein, Jennie. "Lesbian Art Movement." Journal of Lesbian Studies. N.p., 2010. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
  • Wolverton, Terry. "The Art of Lesbian Relationship: Arlene Raven and the Lesbian Art Project". In: Johanna Burton / Anne Swartz (eds.): Arlene Raven's Legacy (Critical Matrix - The Princeton Journal of Women, Gender and Culture, issue 17), 2008, pp. 66–71.

External links[edit]

2010 interview with Terry Wolverton