Martha Edelheit

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Martha Edelheit
Born (1931-09-03) September 3, 1931 (age 88)
EducationUniversity of Chicago, New York University, Columbia University; Michael Loew, Meyer Schapiro
Known foroil painting, theatre
Spouse(s)Sam Nilsson

Martha Nilsson Edelheit (born September 3, 1931, in New York City),[1] also known as Martha Ross Edelheit, is an American-born artist currently living in Sweden who is known for her feminist art of the 1960s and 1970s, which focuses on erotic nudes.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Martha Ross was born September 3, 1931 in New York City.[1] Edelheit studied at the University of Chicago from 1949 to 1951, at New York University in 1954 while concurrently studying art with Michael Loew, and at Columbia University in 1955 and 1956, where she studied art history with Meyer Schapiro.[4][better source needed]


Since 1961, Edelheit has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including 11 from the Reuben (1965, Guggenheim Museum), Three Centuries of the American Nude (1975, New York Cultural Center), BLAM! (1984, Whitney Museum of American Art), and Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965 (2017, Grey Gallery, New York University).[4]

Throughout the 1970s, as the women's art movement flourished, Edelheit was an active participant in women-only group exhibitions, including Women Choose Women (1973, New York Cultural Center),[5] Works on Paper—Women Artists (1975, Brooklyn Museum), Sons and Others (1975, Queens Museum of Art), and the traveling collaborative feminist installation The Sister Chapel (1978–80).[4] Womanhero (1977), Edelheit's painting for The Sister Chapel, is a monumental female transmutation of Michelangelo's David, tattooed with images of Nut, Kali, Athena, Diana, and Guanyin to symbolize women's shared power over the course of many centuries.[6] Since 1998, Edelheit has regularly exhibited her work at the feminist gallery SOHO20 Gallery.[4]

Edelheit has had over 30 solo exhibitions at various venues in the United States, Sweden, Finland, and Austria.[4]

Edelheit has also done production design for smaller theaters in New York from 1971 to 1974, a number of own experimental art films in the 1970s, demonstrated in a number of contexts in the U.S. and Europe over the years, such as Hats, Bottles & Bones: A Portrait of Sari Dienes (1977) [7] an artist portrait on Sari Dienes, shown including the Museum of Modern Art and is included in collections at the Anthology Film Archives. She has taught in filmmaking 1976 to 1980 and has been invited as artist in residence at Wilson College located in Chambersburg, Philadelphia in 1973, Art Institute of Chicago in 1975, the University of Cincinnati in 1975 and the California Institute of the Arts.


Martha Edelheit was a member of Fight Censorship (est. 1973), founded by Anita Steckel.[8] Fight Censorship was composed of several women artists whose work focused on eroticism, including Joan Semmel, Judith Bernstein, Hannah Wilke, Juanita McNeely, Barbara Nessim, Eunice Golden, and Joan Glueckman.[8] They lectured and educated the public about erotic art and the negative effects of censorship.[8][9]

In 1977, Edelheit became an associate of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP).[10]

Edelheit was a member of Women/Artist/Filmmakers, Inc, the Women's Caucus for Art (WCA) and an associate member of Soho20 Chelsea Gallery.[2]


Since 1993 Martha Edelheit is a resident of Sweden on a farm in Svartsjölandet outside Stockholm after her marriage to her childhood sweetheart Sam Nilsson.[11]

Before moving to Sweden, she painted a lot of people and mysterious landscapes of quite own style, but after leaving New York and come to the Swedish nature-oriented way of life, her work has shifted towards painting animal motifs; something she sees as a manifestation of hope to a wounded world.[citation needed]

Theatre sets[edit]

  • The Wonderful Adventures of Tyl, Jonathan Levy] Triangle Theatre, 1971
  • Message from Garcia + Was I Good?, two-act play by Rosalyn Drexler, New Dramatists Workshop, 1971
  • The Whore and the Poet, by Sandra Hochman + Break A Leg, by Ira Levin, Urgent Theater, 1974


  1. ^ a b Burt, Eugene C. (2010). Dictionary of Erotic Art. London: McFarland and Company, Inc. p. 97. ISBN 978078644874-6.
  2. ^ a b Love, Barbara J. (2006). Feminists who Changed America, 1963-1975. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. pp. 130. ISBN 978-0252031892.
  3. ^ Middleman, Rachel (2014-04-08). "A Feminist Avant-Garde: Martha Edelheit's "Erotic Art" in the 1960s". Konsthistorisk Tidskrift. 83 (2): 129–147. doi:10.1080/00233609.2014.901413.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Martha Nilsson Edelheit, CV" (PDF). Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  5. ^ Lippard, Lucy R. (1973). "Women Choose Women". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ Hottle, Andrew D. (2014). The Art of the Sister Chapel: Exemplary Women, Visionary Creators, and Feminist Collaboration. Farnham, England: Ashgate Publishing Ltd. pp. 229–242.
  7. ^ Hats, Bottles and Bones: A Portrait of Sari Dienes Movie Review, date: 1977, collection: Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) circulating film & video library
  8. ^ a b c Richard Meyer, "Hard Targets: Male Bodies, Feminist Art, and the Force of Censorship in the 1970s," in WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2007), 362–383.
  9. ^ Carol Jacobsen, "Redefining Censorship: A Feminist View," Art Journal 50, no.4 (Winter 1991): 42–55.
  10. ^ "Associates | The Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press". Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  11. ^ "Aftonbladet, 'Wennman meets Sam Nilsson'". Dec 21, 1999. Retrieved Apr 5, 2014.

External links[edit]