The last week I went to the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota and saw a really amazing documentary on the Feminist art movement. The title of the movie is !WAR Women Art Revolution and is directed by a feminist artist from the period Lynn Hershman Leeson. While Hershman Leeson is a practicing artist herself since the 1960s, she spent a large amount of time and effort documenting the art, the exhibitions, and the performances of her fellow women artists. The film is almost completely composed from archival footage and old and contemporary interviews with the major artists represented. Here’s a clip:
What if found most amazing was the fact that in my life Feminism is hardly ever discussed. To me it seems like it was something that occurred, as the movie accurately shows, but that might not need to be talked about in our contemporary lives. But this perspective was thrown into question after watching the film. Yes, we all know that because of certain efforts by feminist artists, as well as feminists in general, women have been able to achieve certain things they weren’t able to before. And yet if you think about it, it only seems that what was accomplished was that women were and continue to be slightly more equal to men, but not all the way. This is apparent to me in the field of art history where courses only begin to talk about women artists during the impressionist period, and in those cases it is difficult not to put them off as want-to-be-artists who were friends of the impressionists. After these what women artist can any person think of? I’d say most people could/might name Frida Khalo and/or Georgia O’Keefe. But what are these women known for other than their unique biographies and iconic to the point of cliche paintings? What all of this makes me wonder is how can we move forward? How do we give women artists equal treatment in the history of art if they don’t exist to begin with because it wasn’t allowed, and the result of that leaves us with only a few women artists to talk about?
What !WAR puts forward is an argument for more attention. Simply put, the art of this movement and the art that it has given rise to should be taught more, exhibited more, and talked about more. This way we won’t live our lives thinking that it wasn’t important because we’ve never heard about it. I was amazed by how much I did not know about the Women’s Art Revolution. I knew some of the artists and what their work was like but I had no clue where they were making their art, how the were exhibiting it, what the atmosphere was like at the time, who was talking about them or criticizing them, or even the fact that they didn’t all agree amongst themselves!
I think this film is really great and a must watch for anyone interested in art of the 1960s, 70s, 80s; any feminists; and most especially anyone who wonders what all the fuss about feminism was, because it was a big deal and it could be said that the fight really isn’t over. Check it out.