In 1972, Mary Beth Edelson organized the Conference of Women in the Visual Arts along with Josephine Withers, Barbara Frank, Yvonne Wulf, Cynthia Bickley-Green, Susan Sollins, and Enid Sanford, pictured here at the Opening Session photographed by Ruth Silverman.
The women in Washington organized the event as a national forum to create connections, to exchange ideas, and to promote further engagement among the participants and beyond.
Held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., this first large-scale meeting of women in the visual arts met over three days with panels and lectures by artists and art historians including Elaine de Kooning, Alice Neel, Judy Chicago, Miriam Schapiro, and Linda Nochlin.
This Conference provided the opportunity for both formal presentations and informal discussion as in this photograph of participants that includes Liza Bear, Nochlin, Sanford, and Cindy Nemser.
In this post-conference report from January 1973, Edelson wrote on the purpose, issues, activities, and outcomes of this historic event. Edelson wrote that the artists spoke of their work and art world experiences while art historians, critics, and museum professionals addressed criticism and how women artists are evaluated. This reflection noted some of the challenges in organizing such a ground-breaking conference and that “when it was time to end we were just beginning.” Her reflections at the end of the report describe the struggles and enthusiasm that many participants felt. Edelson’s early activist spirit resonates throughout as she concludes, “With our new self-awareness and constant re-evaluation we are transformed.”
Written by Dr. Kathleen Wentrack
(c) 2019 Kathleen Wentrack
Kathleen Wentrack, PhD, is a Professor of Art History at The City University of New York, Queensborough CC and the editor of the forthcoming book "Collaboration, Empowerment, Change: Women’s Art Collectives." She recently published “1970s Feminist Practice as Heterotopian: The Stichting Vrouwen in de Beeldende Kunst and the Schule für kreativen Feminismus,” in "All Women Art Spaces in the Long 1970s" edited by Agata Jakubowska and Katy Deepwell (Liverpool University Press, 2018). She is a contributing editor to Art History Teaching Resources and Art History Pedagogy and Practice and a co-coordinator of The Feminist Art Project in New York City.
Produced by Erica Galluscio
Photography of studio space provided by Kolin Mendez Photography
Accola Griefen Fine Art exhibition photos courtesy of Accola Griefen Fine Art: Rob van Erve
Images of "Goddess Tribe" installation courtesy of David Lewis New York
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