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arts

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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American Art: Lesbian, Post-Stonewall  
 
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One exception was Corinne, whose close-cropped imagery of women's genitalia combined the erotic and the clinical and both reclaimed desire and demystified the female body.

In 1970 New-York based artist Kate Millett (b. 1934) published Sexual Politics and overnight became the spokeswoman for the women's movement. The book sold half a million copies in paperback and landed its author on the cover of Time magazine. The bisexual Millett was not only a writer, however, but also a sculptor and mixed media installation artist whose work featured found objects. From the beginning Millett's work was political, addressing United States policy in Vietnam as well as domestic issues such as violence against women.

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Although Millett saw sales of her publications fall dramatically after she came out as a lesbian, the relationship between the feminist movement and the lesbian movement remained strong. Many lesbians, for instance, participated in Womanhouse (1972), an installation and performances that were part of the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), directed by feminist artists Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro.

Womanspace, which was founded in 1973 at the new Woman's Building in Los Angeles, hosted a Lesbian Week. The third issue of the New York-based journal Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics (1977-1993), was entitled Heresies: Lesbian Art and Artists. It was the first non-lesbian journal issue to focus on lesbian work exclusively. Not surprisingly, the editor found it difficult to secure work from lesbian artists, who were reluctant to be identified and segregated.

Lesbian critic and historian Arlene Raven was cofounder of the Feminist Studio Workshop, the educational division of the Los Angeles Woman's Building, which published Chrysalis: A Magazine of Women's Culture (1977-1980). She also sponsored the Natalie Barney Collective, which researched and documented lesbian artists.

Through the Collective Raven also founded The Lesbian Art Project (1977-1979), which hosted art and writing groups and regular salons. In 1979 the Project produced The Oral Herstory of Lesbianism, directed by Terry Wolverton, a performance for women only which explored the hidden history of lesbianism and called for lesbians to record their stories.

In 1978 New York-based Harmony Hammond (b. 1944), whose abstract work referenced women's histories, bodies, and emotions, curated "A Lesbian Show" at 112 Greene Street Workshop in New York. Including the work of eighteen artists--Hammond, Louise Fishman, Kate Millett, Fran Winant, Barbara Asch, Suzanne Bevier, Betsy Damon, Maxine Fine, Jessie Falstein, Mary Ann King, Gloria Klein, Dona Nelson, Flavia Rando, Sandra de Sando, Amy Sillman, Ellen Turner, Janey Washburn, and Ann Wilson (with Amy Scarola, Etana Dreamer, and Yvonne Lindsay adding their work to the walls during the exhibition)--"A Lesbian Show" is generally considered to be the first important lesbian art exhibition.

While it included readings, videos, films, performances, and discussions organized by Damon (b. 1940), it did not include photographs or erotic art. It focused mainly on abstract work like Hammond's. As with the lesbian issue of Heresies the previous year, which Hammond co-founded and on which she had also worked, there was some difficulty in getting artists to be "out" in a "ghettoized" context.

The 1980s: Presence and Recognition

Just two years later, in 1980, "The Great American Lesbian Art Show" (GALAS), organized by six lesbian artists, along with the members of the Feminist Studio Workshop, opened. Its purpose was to highlight the state of lesbian art at the beginning of the new decade. In addition to an invitational exhibition at the Woman's Building in Los Angeles, the exhibition included more than two hundred regional "sister" events and exhibitions in fifty communities and the establishment of the GALAS Archives. GALAS was a rousing success, receiving coverage in the Los Angeles mainstream art press.

The exhibition also marked the first time that work by lesbians of color--African-American Lula Mae Blockton and Cuban-American Gloria Longval--were included in a lesbian art exhibition. Lesbians of color had previously either been overlooked by the majority white, middle-class lesbians, or declined to participate because of particular within their communities; even Blockton had turned down the invitation to participate in 1978's "A Lesbian Show."

Other significant exhibitions of the time included "The Third Wave," mounted as an anniversary exhibition of "A Lesbian Show," featuring about half of the artists who participated in the earlier show.

In 1982 "Extended Sensibilities: Homosexual Presence in Contemporary Art," featuring works of painting, drawing, and sculpture, took place at the New Museum in New York. It was the first exhibition to address homosexuality as a subject in art. Eight of the eighteen artists were lesbians: Betsy Damon, Nancy Fried, Janet Cooling, Lili Lakich, Jody Pinto, Carla Tardi, Fran Winant, and Harmony Hammond.

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