This classic text of the feminist art movement, first published in the magazine Heresies: Women’s Traditional Arts: The Politics of Aesthetics (Winter, 1978) and much anthologized since, is offered here in facsimile from its original publication in homage to Miriam Schapiro, who died June 20, aged 91. The Canadian-born artist, who first came to attention in the late 1950s and ’60s with hard edge abstract geometric paintings, was a pioneering force in the Pattern & Decoration movement that emerged around the time of this essay. Its co-author, Melissa Meyer, recalls their collaboration.
In 1977 Nina Yankowitz suggested I attend a meeting at Joyce Kozloff’s loft for a preliminary discussion about the fourth issue of the Heresies Collective entitled Heresies: Women’s Traditional Arts: The Politics of Aesthetics. We sat around in a circle and each of us was asked to speak about what she was interested in. When it came time for me to speak, I said nervously with my little, low voice, “I’m interested in why so many women made collages.” At the end of the meeting Miriam Schapiro came up to me and said, “I want to work with you on that.” I thought, “Oh my God she is going to swallow me up — this strong, forceful woman!” But actually at some later point in our collaboration, she said to me “Melissa, do you think you could keep quiet for a minute so I could get a word in?” During one of our meetings, Mimi had a phone call with Grace Glueck and they came up with the name, “Femmage.”
I feel lucky to have met Mimi. At the time, collaborating with an older artist was important for me, while she also appreciated and benefitted from my perspective. We had a lot of fun as we worked on our research and writing, and her energy and committed work ethic was contagious. It was a wonderful moment for both of us, personally and professionally. I am happy that I could participate in conceptualizing and developing ideas that would remain valuable to Mimi and to myself. That “Femmage” has been anthologized and is still relevant to students and artists is a testimony and lasting memory to the art and character of Miriam Schapiro, as it is to the groundbreaking and exciting context in which we wrote it. MELISSA MEYER