Some Living American Women Artists/Last Supper
Mary Beth Edelson
SOC 310/WMST 310
The feminist movement of the second wave constitutes one of the most profound social movements in American history. As women challenged patriarchal institutions of all kinds, art was both an important target and medium of feminist activism. While more than forty years have passed since Linda Nochlin famously posed the question, “Why have there been no great women artists?” (1971), the content and significance of the answer remains grossly underappreciated. This line of feminist interrogation challenged naïve understandings of “artistic genius,” politicized the institutional exclusion and subjugation of women in the canon of Western Art, and forever altered the analytical direction of the field of art history. Despite this, women artists continue to be ignored, silenced and derided in the art world (as part and parcel of a larger cultural and political exclusion) at the same time that women’s bodies are the ubiquitous image of our ambient visual culture. From Botticelli to Maxim, perhaps nothing has been more favored as an artistic subject— more glorified, nor more reviled– than the female body. The “canon” of Western art as well as much contemporary visual culture systematically casts women as muses and objects, rather than as artists, creators, and agents themselves. In the current context of “postfeminism”—which dangerously mythologizes gender equality in the midst of a violent and egregiously gendered (misogynistic) reality—this course focuses on and derives its spirit from the Feminist Art Movement of the 1970s in the US and utilizes feminist theory to rupture the “canon,” to interrogate contemporary visual culture, and to explore social activism and the revolutionary power of art and feminism.