"Because we are denied knowledge of our history, we are deprived of standing upon each other's shoulders and building upon each other's hard earned accomplishments. Instead we are condemned to repeat what others have done before us and thus we continually reinvent the wheel."
1 of 10
Judy Chicago Signature
"...women's experiences are very different from men's. As we grow up socially, psychologically and every other way, our experiences are just different. Therefore, our art is going to be different."
2 of 10
Joan Snyder
"For me, now, Feminist Art must show a consciousness of women's social and economic position in the world. I also believe it demonstrates forms and perceptions that are drawn from a sense of spiritual kinship between women."
3 of 10
Suzanne Lacy
"A developed feminist consciousness brings with it an altered concept of reality that is crucial to the art being made and to the lives lived with that art."
4 of 10
Lucy Lippard
"Men relate to sexuality a lot more visually than women. Women turn the lights out, and men turn them on."
5 of 10
Joan Semmel
"My images speak of vulnerability that is wedded to strength, not weakness."
6 of 10
Judy Chicago Signature
"Feminist art is not some tiny creek running off the great river of real art. It is not some crack in an otherwise flawless stone. It is, quite spectacularly I think, art which is not based on the subjugation of one half of the species. It is art which will take the great human themes -love, death, heroism, suffering, history itself -and render them fully human."
7 of 10
Andrea Dworkin
"I’ve always wondered, like, what is so masculine about abstraction? How did men get the ownership over this?"
8 of 10
Cecily Brown
"I don’t think about feminism when I’m in the studio. When I’m in the studio I’m thinking about my painting, and I’m thinking about what that painting means to me and how it resonates…When I go to take it out into the world, that world has to be ready to receive it. And that’s when I need my feminism."
9 of 10
Joan Semmel
"There are many great women artists. And we shouldn’t still be talking about why there are no great women artists. If there are no great, celebrated women artists, that’s because the powers that be have not been celebrating them, but not because they are not there."
10 of 10
Joan Semmel

Summary of Feminist Art

The Feminist Art movement in the West emerged in the late 1960s amidst the fervor of American anti-war demonstrations and burgeoning gender, civil, and queer rights movements around the world. Harkening back to the utopian ideals of early-20th-century modernist movements, Feminist artists sought to rewrite a falsely male-dominated art history, change the contemporary world around them through their art, intervene in the established art world, and challenge the existing art canon. Feminist Art created opportunities and spaces that previously did not exist for women and minority artists, as well as paved the path for the Identity and Activist Art genres of the 1980s. However, the contributions and influences of women artists from a number of countries should not be overlooked, such as German Dadaist Hannah Höch and Mexican Surrealist Frida Kahlo, whose powerful works have served as a source of inspiration for Feminist artists around the world since the early twentieth century.

Key Ideas & Accomplishments

  • Feminist artists sought to create a dialogue between the viewer and the artwork through the inclusion of women's perspective. Art was not merely an object for aesthetic admiration, but could also incite the viewer to question the social and political landscape, and through this questioning, possibly affect the world and bring change toward equality. As artist Suzanne Lacy declared, the goal of Feminist Art was to "influence cultural attitudes and transform stereotypes."
  • Before feminism, the majority of women artists were invisible to the public eye. They were oftentimes denied exhibitions and gallery representation based on the sole fact of their gender. The art world was largely known, or promoted as, a boy's club, of which sects like the hard drinking, womanizing members of Abstract Expressionism were glamorized. To combat this, Feminist artists created alternative venues as well as worked to change established institutions' policies to promote women artists' visibility within the market.
  • Feminist artists often embraced alternative materials that were connected to the female gender to create their work, such as textiles, or other media previously little used by men such as performance and video, which did not have the same historically male-dominated precedent that painting and sculpture carried. By expressing themselves through these non-traditional means, women sought to expand the definition of fine art, and to incorporate a wider variety of artistic perspectives.
  • Feminist Art does not geographically discriminate but rather connects female voices worldwide. Notable Feminist artists over the movement’s decades-long lifespan have spanned the globe representing a diverse array of countries including America, Britain, Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and more as women continue to fight for equal rights and visibility within their distinct cultural landscapes.
  • Since the 1990s, Feminist Art and discourse has taken on an “intersectional” approach, as many Feminist artists explore not only their gender identity through their art, but also their racial, queer, (dis)-abled, and other aspects of identity that inform who they are in the world.

Overview of Feminist Art

Detail of <i>The Dinner Party</i> (1974–79) by Judy Chicago

In 1971 at the California Institute of the Arts, Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro founded the first Feminist Art program. Chicago said she was "scared to death of what I'd unleashed," but, at the same time, "I had watched a lot of young women come up with me through graduate school only to disappear, and I wanted to do something about it." They did do something: she and Schapiro founded Womanhouse, a space for collaborative Feminist Art projects, that became a foundational model for the movement.

Key Artists

  • Judy Chicago is an American feminist artist and author. Originally associated with the Minimalist movement of the 1960s, Chicago soon abandoned this in favor of creating content-based art. Her most famous work to date is the installation piece The Dinner Party (1974-79), an homage to women's history.
  • Miriam Schapiro is a leading figure in the feminist art movement. Often tied to the 1970s era Pattern and Decoration movement, Schapiro creating a path forward for herself and her colleagues as she worked to resurrect the reputations of women artists who had been forgotten or dismissed by art historians. She is perhaps best known for co-founding, along with colleague Judy Chicago, the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute for the Arts.
  • Barbara Kruger is an American conceptual artist. Much of Kruger's work merges found photographs taken from existing sources with pithy and aggressive text. Her captions engage the viewer in the work's greater struggle for power and control.
  • Carolee Schneemann is an American visual artist, known for her discourses on the body, sexuality and gender. Her work is primarily characterized by research into visual traditions, taboos, and the body of the individual in relationship to social bodies. Schneemann's works have been associated with a variety of art classifications including Fluxus, Neo-Dada, the Beat Generation, and happenings.
  • Now seen as an iconic and path-breaking Feminist artist, Wilke's performances and photography are a crucial component of the Feminist movement in their use of the artist's own body in ways that addressed issues of female objectification, the male gaze, and female agency.
View all

Do Not Miss

  • Many Performance artists used their bodies as the subjects, and the objects of their art and thereby expressed their distinctive views in the newly liberated social, political, and sexual climate of the 1960s. From different actions involving the body, to acts of physical endurance, tattoos, and even extreme forms of bodily mutilation are all included in the loose movement of Body art.
  • Performance is a genre in which art is presented "live," usually by the artist but sometimes with collaborators or performers. It has had a role in avant-garde art throughout the twentieth century, playing an important part in anarchic movements such as Futurism and Dada. It particularly flourished in the 1960s, when Performance artists became preoccupied with the body, but it continues to be an important aspect of art practice.
  • Beginning in the 1960s, artists of color, LGBTQ+ artists, and women have used their art to stage and display experiences of identity and community.
  • "Queer Art" became a powerful political and celebratory term to describe the art and experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.

Important Art and Artists of Feminist Art

Some Living Women Artists/Last Supper (1972)

Artist: Mary Beth Edelson

Mary Beth Edelson used an image of Leonardo da Vinci's famous mural as the base of this collage to which she affixed the heads of notable female artists in place of the original's men. Christ was covered with a photo of Georgia O'Keeffe. Aside from challenging the painting's male-only club, it also confronted the subordination of women often found in religion. The piece quickly became one of those most iconic images of Feminist Art and reinforced the movement's desire to negate women's absence from much historical documentation.

Womanhouse (1972)

Artist: Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro

The installation Womanhouse encompassed an entire house in residential Hollywood organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro as the culmination of the Feminist Art Program (FAP) at California Institute for the Arts in 1972. The twenty-one all-female students first renovated the house, which had been previously marked for demolition, then installed site-specific art environments within the interior spaces that ranged from the sculptural figure of a woman trapped within a linen closet to the kitchen where walls and ceiling were covered with fried eggs that morphed into breasts. Many of the artists also created performances that took place within Womanhouse to further address the relationship between women and the home.

The entire collaborative piece was about a woman's reclaiming of domestic space from one in which she was positioned as merely a wife and mother to one in which she was seen as a fully expressive being unconfined by gender assignment. This challenged traditional female roles and gave women a new realm to present their views within a thoroughly integrated context of art and life.

ArtForum Advertisement (1974)

Artist: Lynda Benglis

In 1974, when artist Lynda Benglis was feeling underrepresented in the male-heavy art community, she reacted by creating a series of advertisements placed in magazines that took critical stabs at traditional depictions of women in the media. Her most famous ad was run in ArtForum in which she promoted her upcoming show at Paula Cooper Gallery by posing nude, holding a double-headed dildo, with sunglasses covering her eyes. She paid $3,000 for the ad, a small price for something that would establish her as a major player in Feminist Art history. Also, by paying for the ad, Benglis was able to assure her voice would be heard without editing or censorship. She later cast a series of sculptures of the dildo, bent into a smile, a cheeky "f*** you" to the male-dominated art institutions.

Useful Resources on Feminist Art

Artist Videos:
Performance Pieces:
Art History Lectures:
View more videos
Do more

Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Feminist Art Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
First published on 01 Feb 2017. Updated and modified regularly
[Accessed ]