The Artist Perspective: Winter ’10

The Artist Perspective: Winter ’10

On The Issues Magazine provides an Online forum for artists to exhibit their art, including moving images and audio, as well as stills. This art section presents exciting responses to major themes of our day.

This edition of On the Issues Magazine presents a mini-retrospective of the art of Miriam Schapiro. Click on play to hear the audio text and see a slide presentation. A further discussion of Schapiro’s work is below. I welcome feedback from online viewers with emails to [email protected]

In keeping with the topic of Passion, Freedom & Women, Miriam Schapiro is a groundbreaking artist who, in her 60-year career, stepped out of the mold to fight for women’s artistic freedom and the democratization of art. She was a key visionary in starting a new movement in art, Pattern and Decoration.

Schapiro challenged the male art system from within and without. Since the 1960s, she risked her artistic reputation to bring women to the fore and erase the line between high art and craft, flaunting uses of the previously taboo materials like organdy and lace.

Schapiro explained: “I bring to my paintings all the elements of craft because I believe that craft belongs to women. That’s how it’s been designated by the patriarchal art system. Our culture also insists that ornamentation and decoration are innately female. But, unfortunately, it then follows that what is female is considered inferior. It doesn’t have to be that way. Eastern and Islamic cultures don’t feminize their decorative arts. What the male patriarchal art world does here is sexist as well as racist. The binary concept of fine art being above craft is false.”

This mini-retrospective shows how these concepts evolved in Schapiro’s work in each decade. Following her abstract expressionist painting of the 1950s (image 2), her female-centered art emerged in a continuing revolt against the male art establishment. In the 1960s, her painting (image 3) shows a prison/house with symbols of both the artist and woman filling two of the rooms. Her painting in the 1970s (image 4) shows a break from her past work as she collaged feminine-associated lace and fabric onto her canvas. In the following years (images 5, 6, 7), Schapiro celebrated pattern, decoration and female imagery and solidified her signature style.

In addition to her painting, Schapiro fought for women’s artistic freedom, traveling across the country to deliver speeches that were filled with the work of ignored women artists. In 1971, she and Judy Chicago formed the Feminist Art Program, which, for the first time, addressed how the self-esteem of women had been damaged by male-dominated culture. With students, they created a collaborative environment, Womanhouse, that attracted national attention.

Courageously challenging the patriarchal art system, Miriam Schapiro succeeded in opening doors to a new democratized art, influencing generations of woman and artists throughout the world.


Merle Hoffman's Choices: A Post-Roe Abortion Rights Manifesto

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“Merle Hoffman has always known that in a democracy, we each have decision-making power over the fate of our own bodies. She is a national hero for us all.” —Gloria Steinem

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe V. Wade and a country divided, Merle Hoffman, a pioneer in the pro-choice movement and women’s healthcare, offers an unapologetic and authoritative take on abortion calling it “the front line and the bottom line of women’s freedom and liberty.” 

Merle Hoffman has been at the forefront of the reproductive freedom movement since the 1970s. Three years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion through Roe v. Wade, she helped to establish one of the United States’ first abortion centers in Flushing, Queens, and later went on to found Choices, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive women’s medical facilities. For the last five decades, Hoffman has been a steadfast warrior and fierce advocate for every woman’s right to choose when and whether or not to be a mother.