Artists ,

Carolee Schneemann Responds

The following is a response to Maura Reilly’s article “Taking the Measure of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Fixes” about the current statistics of Women in the Art World. Our coverage begins with our Editor’s Letter.

Carolee Schneeman, Flange 6RPM, 2011–12. SUSAN ALZNER, PPOW GALLERY 2013/COURTESY THE ARTIST

Carolee Schneemann, Flange 6RPM, 2011–12.


Born in 1939, lives in Springtown, New York

What an amazement that the lost, buried, denied, deflected history of women artists has been irrevocably brought forward. This hard-won integration of feminist anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, religious studies, and our suppressed inheritance has vivified this great creative realm formerly identified as exclusively male. Complex electronic measurements have confirmed that the patterns of handprints in Paleolithic caves were made by women (probably using menstrual blood). Women artists had already recognized our marks from Paleolithic, Cycladic, up to and including certain Eurocentric artworks and the reluctant recognition of non-European aesthetics.

This richness was seized by feminist determinations in the 1970s when we founded independent galleries, activist journals, and public protests against our exclusion. These achievements took on unexpected power and relevance. Nevertheless, they remain fragile, precarious, subject to societal upheavals. We who have the most functional aesthetic freedoms must extend our capabilities to aid and abet women and all artists whose lives are constrained, controlled, and often in danger.

In 1972, when I self-printed my feminist notes “Women in the Year 2000,” I could only hope that most of the creative intentions I described for our future might become possible, and they have now come to fruition in our culture. I am experiencing retroactive cautions given the degree of glamour, economic reward, and current cultural embrace of many things feminist which lack rigor, radicalization, and resistance. It brings to mind our feminist precedents, radical artists who died in poverty and hunger, such as Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. She might be considered the first body artist, an inspiration for Dada, Happenings. The immensity of her achievements was so shocking that they remain buried in some addendum on eccentric art.

A version of this story originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 55.

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