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In our Winter '10 edition, On The Issues Magazine contributors train their eyes on women who fight for freedom, even at their own peril.   Banner art ©Christine Peloquin

On The Issues Magazine provides an Online forum for artists to exhibit their art, including moving images and audio, as well as stills. This art section presents exciting responses to major themes of our day.

This edition of On the Issues Magazine presents a mini-retrospective of the art of Miriam Schapiro. Click on play to hear the audio text and see a slide presentation. A further discussion of Schapiro’s work is below. I welcome feedback from online viewers with emails to [email protected]

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In keeping with the topic of Passion, Freedom & Women, Miriam Schapiro is a groundbreaking artist who, in her 60-year career, stepped out of the mold to fight for women’s artistic freedom and the democratization of art. She was a key visionary in starting a new movement in art, Pattern and Decoration.

Schapiro challenged the male art system from within and without. Since the 1960s, she risked her artistic reputation to bring women to the fore and erase the line between high art and craft, flaunting uses of the previously taboo materials like organdy and lace.

Schapiro explained: “I bring to my paintings all the elements of craft because I believe that craft belongs to women. That’s how it’s been designated by the patriarchal art system. Our culture also insists that ornamentation and decoration are innately female. But, unfortunately, it then follows that what is female is considered inferior. It doesn’t have to be that way. Eastern and Islamic cultures don’t feminize their decorative arts. What the male patriarchal art world does here is sexist as well as racist. The binary concept of fine art being above craft is false.”

This mini-retrospective shows how these concepts evolved in Schapiro’s work in each decade. Following her abstract expressionist painting of the 1950s (image 2), her female-centered art emerged in a continuing revolt against the male art establishment. In the 1960s, her painting (image 3) shows a prison/house with symbols of both the artist and woman filling two of the rooms. Her painting in the 1970s (image 4) shows a break from her past work as she collaged feminine-associated lace and fabric onto her canvas. In the following years (images 5, 6, 7), Schapiro celebrated pattern, decoration and female imagery and solidified her signature style.

In addition to her painting, Schapiro fought for women’s artistic freedom, traveling across the country to deliver speeches that were filled with the work of ignored women artists. In 1971, she and Judy Chicago formed the Feminist Art Program, which, for the first time, addressed how the self-esteem of women had been damaged by male-dominated culture. With students, they created a collaborative environment, Womanhouse, that attracted national attention.

Courageously challenging the patriarchal art system, Miriam Schapiro succeeded in opening doors to a new democratized art, influencing generations of woman and artists throughout the world.

Linda Stein is the Art Editor of On The Issues Magazine.

Also visit our catalog of Art Perspectives featuring:

Ursula O’Farrell is a California-based artist whose oil paintings explore themes of womanhood. Her work offers expressions of the feminine in large-scale paintings known for their bold colors, gestural strokes, thick textures and highly-charged emotional content.

The Guerrilla Girls is a group of artists – not always the same -- who work together. They are feminist masked avengers in the tradition of anonymous do-gooders like Robin Hood, Wonder Woman and Batman, but their "cover" is the mask of a gorilla -- itself a play on the word "guerrilla" as a radical, underground fighter and street theater performance style. Each participant takes the name of a dead artist.

For years, Frances Jetter has made linocuts with political subject matter, focusing on disarmament, labor rights and human rights, about which she is passionate. Weapons seem especially horrific and intriguing to her. The artist believes that no armor can make people safe, and the fragility and mortality of human beings is at the center or her work.

Mary Miss, who has founded the City as Living Lab, which provides a framework for making issues of social and environmental sustainability tangible through collaboration and the arts.

Judy Chicago (born 1939) is a feminist artist, educator and author whose career spans almost half a century. She is known as one of the founders of the Feminist Art Movement, creating in the early 1970s the pioneering Feminist Art Program at Fresno State College (now California State University), which became a vehicle for intellectual stimulation and social change, influencing generations of women.

The art of Regina Frank incorporates textiles, computers, the Internet, solar and LED technology to investigate fields of tension, such as those between the rich and poor, virtual and real, analog and digital, masculine and feminine.

Michelle Stuart seeks to educate with her art. She is in search of a visual language to express nature’s more elusive aspects, along with the fragility of existence. Over her 50-year career, Stuart has drawn upon aspects from the natural world -- cycles, forms, colors -- while studying myriad cultures and histories. View our mini-retrospective in the Spring 2010 edition of On The Issues Magazine.

In keeping with the topic of Passion, Freedom & Women, Miriam Schapiro is a groundbreaking artist who, in her 60-year career, stepped out of the mold to fight for women’s artistic freedom and the democratization of art in the Winter 2010 edition of On The Issues Magazine.

Faith Ringgold’s illustrated story, How the People Became Color Blind, with Ringgold herself reading the text that accompanies the drawings in the Fall 2009 edition of On The Issues Magazine.

Tammy Rae Carland: An artist tests identity by performing her father and mother in the Summer 2009 edition of On The Issues Magazine.

Judith K. Brodsky addresses discrimination against women in male arenas in the Spring 2009 edition of On The Issues Magazine.

New York artist Joyce Kozloff, an originating figure of the Pattern and Decorative movement, in the Winter 2009 edition of On The Issues Magazine.

Martha Rosler, known for placing unsettling images in familiar places, in the Fall 2008 edition of On The Issues Magazine.

Suzanne Lacy's 1974 Project on Prostitution in the Summer 2008 edition of On The Issues Magazine.

Linda Stein’s sculpture envisions empowerment for women with HIV-AIDS in the May 2008 edition of On The Issues Magazine.

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