Book Review: Feminist Collage: Educating Women in the Visual Arts
Feminist Collage: Educating Women in the Visual Arts. Judy Loeb, Editor. (1979). Teachers College Press. New York: Teachers Collage, Columbia University. ISBN 978-0-807-72561-0.
Preface by Judy Loeb. Introduction by Joan Mondale. Essays contributed by: Linda Nochlin, Gordon S. Plummer, Elsa Honig Fine, Gloria Feman Orenstein, Lawrence Alloway, Rachel Maines, J.J. Wilson, Karen Petersen, Jean Gillies, Lucy R. Lippard, Ruth E. Iskin, June Wayne, Mary D. Garrard, Cindy Nemser, Margaret Mead, Barbara White Kazanis, Sylvia Gruber Feinberg, Margaret Mary Majewski, June King McFee, Dorothy Gilespie, Betty Chamberlain, Bette Acuff, Jean Zaleski, Miriam Shapiro, Arlene Raven, Judith Stoughton, Ellen Perry Berkeley, Helen Collie, Jessie Lovano-Kerr, Judith K. Brodsky
Feminist Collage: Educating Women in the Visual Arts is, as editor Judy Loeb writes, a book "examining the changing world of visual arts education" (p. ix) written at a time in the late 1970s when women studies programs were being initiated on college campuses and the role of women in the arts was under some scrutiny. Loeb uses "collage" to mean a collection of essays. Some of the essays in the book discuss women who are (or were) artists in the traditional sense of painting or sculpting, and also in the non-traditional sense of weavers, quilters, and embroiderers. This book is an historical look at issues surrounding women in art during that time period--and well worth the read--but it is not actually about cut-and-paste collage art.
Many of the discussions in the book seemed to come from a burgeoning awareness that women artists had, essentially, been left out of the history books. It is difficult to define "women's art" or recognize their contribution to it when women's experiences with art and as artists had not been well documented. How, for example, had social expectations, social roles, economics and education affected the women who had become artists (or been kept from pursuing their artwork)? How did this compare with the experiences of men? Were there beliefs around women and, specifically women and girls as artists, that held them back from pursuing their creative talents? Were there programs, meant to educate all visual artists, that were ineffective or even detrimental to the needs of the women who participated in them? The book, largely, takes a binary view of sexuality (males and females), but one chapter does mention transgendered people and notes that much is to be learned about this group of artists as well.
Feminist Collage is divided into four main categories: Feminist Reappraisals of Art and Art History; Feminist Reexaminations of Art, Artists, and Society; Feminist Restructuring of Art Education; and Feminist Mandates for Institutional Change. The overriding message I took away from the essayists was that women need encouragement and support in order to step outside the views and opinions of others (critics--familial and those from the art world alike--, politicians, and educators) and learn to identify for themselves what is important and vital to their art making: the symbolism, the materials and tools, the educational process, the venues through which to show and publicize their work, and, especially, their desire to become artists. These efforts need to be documented to challenge stereotypical beliefs, change cultural views, and ensure that women's stories and their contributions to the art world are accurately told.
Have you read this book? Let me know what I've gotten wrong (or right!).
P.S. Come on, people. If it is a library book and not in your personal collection, do not write in it--even with pencil.
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