In her 1971 landmark essay, “Why Have there Been No Great Women Artists,” art historian Linda Nochlin concisely outlined the long-held patriarchal power structures that have allowed the contributions of female artists to be eclipsed from history. “The fault lies not in our stars, our hormones, our menstrual cycles, or our empty internal spaces,” she wrote, “but in our institutions and education…”
Nearly 40 years have passed since this seminal work of feminist art history was published, and while there’s certainly been a social push to raise awareness of gender equity in the arts and promote working women artists, many brick-and-mortar institutions have been slow in righting the balance. But digital platforms are increasingly proving instrumental where traditional institutions can’t get up to speed fast enough.
Consider a recent initiative started by The Feminist Institute (T.F.I.), a nascent online repository for work from well-known feminist-identified individuals hailing from multiple disciplines launching at New York’s Hunter College. In March, the institute digitally archived every last inch of legendary artist Mary Beth Edelson’s Soho studio. The founder of the Guerilla Girls art collective (started in the 1980s and infamous for their revelatory ads that showcased the shocking discrimination stats of women in the arts and interventionist performances at museums staged in gorilla masks), Edelson, now 85, is considered a pioneer of feminist art. Her studio, filled with over 25,000 protest posters, wall drawings, correspondence, artworks and other ephemera was about to be dismantled when T.F.I. stepped in.
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