Gender Bender

They came a long way, and ARTnews was there.

The story of the famous cover of the October 1980 issue began in January 1971. That month, ARTnews published a special issue, “Women’s Liberation, Woman Artists and Art History,” which featured Linda Nochlin’s groundbreaking, passionate, and rigorous essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” The fault, she said, was with the institutions of art history and art education, which offered few provisions for the training or recognition of women artists.

Twenty women artists: 1. Barbara Zucker 2. Faith Ringgold 3. Barbara Schwartz 4. Rosemarie Castoro 5. Charmion von Wiegand 6. Louise Bourgeois 7. Miriam Schapiro 8. May Stevens 9. Hannah Wilke 10. Joyce Kozloff 11. Nancy Holt 12. Elaine de Kooning 13. Dorothea Rockburne 14. Isabel Bishop 15. Jackie Ferrara 16. Nancy Graves 17. Colette 18. Audrey Flack 19. Rachel bas-Cohain 20. Laurie Anderson ©1980 by Neal Slavin

In the following decade, women artists, reflecting the feminist movement in the culture around them, explored new ways of art making as they also employed increasingly militant methods for making their presence known. The magazine chronicled those efforts in another special issue devoted to women, in October 1980. It included articles by Grace Glueck, Kay Larson, and Avis Berman on the evolution of women’s art—and the status of women in the art world—during the 1970s, as well as a provocative essay by Richard Whelan titled “Are Women Better Photographers than Men?”

For the cover, ARTnews invited 20 top women artists to the studio of photographer Neal Slavin. The group was diverse—from the eminent Isabel Bishop to the up-and-coming performance artist Laurie Anderson. Sculptor Nancy Graves was there, and so were painter Elaine de Kooning and Miriam Schapiro, whose assemblages called “femmages” were discussed in the issue. Some of the artists met there for the first time. But Faith Ringgold already knew Louise Bourgeois. “‘Louise,’ I said, ‘You look so pretty,’” Ringgold recalls. “She didn’t usually pay attention to things like that. She looked at me and grumbled and picked that fisherman’s hat out of her bag and put it on.”

At first the shoot was tense. “We did several formal poses,” says Nancy Holt. “We had a kind of conscious look. Then the photographer said we were going to take a break. We started talking, and he caught us unawares. It was a more vital picture.”

That shot, the last in the session, was the one the magazine used—with that classic cover line, which played off Nochlin’s title to show how much women had, in that turbulent decade, achieved: “Where Are the Great Men Artists?”

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