Miriam Schapiro, a leader of the feminist art movement, has passed away at age 91. Schapiro began her art career as an abstract painter in the 1950s before shifting her focus towards feminist art. In the 1970s, she moved to California to teach at the University of California, San Diego. Along with fellow artist Judy Chicago, she established the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts. In 1972, the two women started an art course called Womanhouse, which resulted in an installation. In a 2006 interview with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Schapiro described the point of “Womanhouse” was to “make women understand that in order to be artists they had to find their identity as well as working hard in order to create images that came from their belief system.” Schapiro said, “They didn’t even know what a belief system was. There was so much to teach. Ultimately they were creating their own autobiographies.”

According to the New York Times, “Womanhouse” ended up as a landmark installation, drawing thousands of visitors. The exhibit was built in an abandoned Hollywood mansion, each room containing an installation or a performance art piece. Schapiro’s contribution was a dollhouse that depicted different rooms such as a kitchen, a parlor, a kitchen and a movie star’s bedroom. Schapiro would use items in her work that pertained to a conventionally feminine theme, such as decorative scraps of fabric, ribbon, fans and the color pink. She described these works as “femmages.” She was also considered a leader of the Pattern and Decoration art movement.

Image via Smithsonian American Art Museum/screengrab.


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