The Feminine Art Revolution: How Feminist Art Redefined the Art World

As an expert in the art world, I have witnessed the power of feminine art forms and how they have challenged traditional notions of what is considered “fine art.” These forms, often referred to as decorative arts, have been historically excluded from the list of traditional fine arts due to their association with femininity and manual labor. However, the emergence of feminist art in the late 1960s and 1970s brought attention to these forgotten art forms and paved the way for a new era of artistic expression. Decorative arts, such as crockery, furniture, textiles, crochet, and porcelain painting, require a high level of manual skill and are often seen as “women's work.” On the other hand, fine art is defined as having no use value and is meant to be experienced purely on an aesthetic, emotional, or conceptual level. Traditional forms of fine art include sculpture, drawing, and painting, while contemporary expressions include video art, installation, and performance. The feminist art movement aimed to highlight the social and political differences that women experience in their lives. Its goal was to bring about positive and comprehensive change in the world, leading to equality and liberation for women.

Feminist artists used a range of media, from traditional forms such as painting to more unconventional methods like performance art, conceptual art, body art, video, film, and fiber art. One of the key contributions of feminist art was expanding the definition of art by incorporating new media and perspectives. It also brought attention to abandoned art forms that were previously considered inferior. For example, feminist artists challenged the hierarchy between “higher” and “lower” art forms by giving attention to techniques such as sewing, quilting, and ceramics – forms that were historically seen as “women's work” and were often looked down upon in comparison to painting and sculpture. Two feminist authors, Griselda Pollock and Rozsika Parker, have written extensively about the division between “higher” and “lower” art forms. They analyzed the reputation of craftsmanship, describing it as inferior due to its place of origin (the domestic environment) and its mostly female creators.

In 1970, women protested at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) during an exhibition called Art and Technology, which featured no women artists. Another characteristic of the feminist art movement was the frequent use of vaginal imagery, sometimes referred to as “slut art.”In 1971, artist Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro created the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts. Other artists such as Faith Wilding and Harmony Hammond also used fabrics in their work to challenge the exclusion of female craftsmanship from the art world. Sylvia Sleigh addressed this issue by specifically addressing gender-based spaces in art history. During this time, video art also emerged as a new medium that had no established historical precedent by male artists.

Later, Chicago and Shapiro created the Feminist Art Program (FAP) at the California Institute of the Arts. The sixties saw an increase in women's liberation groups that focused on issues related to women, which also influenced the social landscape for a movement like feminist art to thrive. Dadaist performances inspired the birth of performance art, which became a frequently used medium in feminist art. In 1985, the Museum of Modern Art in New York opened a gallery dedicated to exhibiting contemporary works of art. Feminist art supports this statement because it began to challenge previously held notions about women's roles.

As a result, an anonymous group of women researched the most influential art museums and discovered that they barely exhibited any women's art. Feminist art created opportunities and spaces for women and minority artists that didn't exist before, paving the way for identity and activist art genres in the 1980s. Traditionally, there has been a cultural hierarchy in which decorative arts are considered subordinate and of lower artistic value than fine arts. However, Chicago's famous feminist artwork teaches us about the history of forgotten women and introduces us to forms of art that were not previously considered feminine.