The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 16-JAN 17

All Issues
DEC 16-JAN 17 Issue
Art In Conversation

Carolee Schneemann with Jarrett Earnest

Carolee Schneemann, Fresh Blood. 1981 - 86. Courtesy Galerie Lelong

If we truly loved freedom we’d designate Carolee Schneemannn a living national treasure. But seeing as we live in this culture, she remains a blinding light for those few artists and writers attempting to hold back the dark in dominant culture. Schneemannn is a visionary artist in the lineage of William Blake, and visionaries never sit nicely within their culture. Walking through her multi-projection installation Precarious (2009) I thought of these lines from the opening of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:” 

1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age. 2. Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. 3. Energy is Eternal Delight.

Schneemannn’s immersive works are extensions of those axioms more than they are illustrations of them—where matter is suffused with spirit, and words are interwoven with images. As a painter, filmmaker, performance artist, and writer, she’s emerged as our preeminent philosopher of embodiment.

In 2014, Schneemann spoke with Jarrett Earnest about these intersections of language, physicality, painting, and performance at her home upstate. A version of this conversation originally appeared in two parts as “Rigorous Ecstasy—Language & Performance” in the September 14th and 17th 2014 issues of Art Practical

Following concurrent exhibitions Further Evidence – Exhibit A at P.P.O.W. and Further Evidence – Exhibit B at Galerie Lelong this fall, the Rail found it more timely than ever to share this testament to her significance and evolution.

Jarrett Earnest (Rail): One thing that has been important for the deeper understanding of your work has been the publication of your letters and writing. When did you start writing, and how do you see it in relation to your visual art?

Carolee Schneemannn: I wish I could grasp the writing. When I write, I cannot remember what I wrote. Writing is so difficult; it’s like a terrible kind of sculpture. But I was writing from the time I was a kid. I had Bruderhof neighbors who had a little printing press, and one year for Christmas, they printed a book of my poems—probably about cats, water, and birds. I was nine or ten. In school I was always writing; when I had a good teacher, they were respectful of it.

Rail: The great thing about the publication of your letters is that it shows how important fiery missives are as part of your work: “This is not how you talk about my work. That is not what I was doing.” You are allowing people to have their own ideas; you are just insisting that they properly understand what’s actually going on. That means getting the words right.

Schneemann: It is especially difficult the more these enclosing terminologies establish themselves as irrefutable. You can’t even talk about what you do unless you go through this nightmare of linguistic intervention. I’m doing a lot of writing now about these deformations of language—for instance, references to studio process as “practice.” I wrote an enraged letter once saying: “Dentists have to practice. Ballerinas practice. Visionary artists do not practice! We enable. We enact. We realize.” Also, we do not have “careers.” What language-devils have evolved to substitute “unpacking” for “research?” I have a whole list of hateful language problems. I received a beautiful but bewildering essay this week from an English graduate student comparing Woolf’s The Waves and my Fuses (1965). It kept referring to the “film plate.” What? The sausage and eggs on a plate? It uses this expression over and over. I didn’t know what it was, so I wrote to her: “You are in the same coven—the moldering den of academics—destroying our ability to think straight with these deformed expressions!” I was very harsh, and she wrote back and said: “I’m only 22, and I’m at Oxford, and I don’t have anyone with imagination here, but I believe I’m a good thinker.” Bless her heart! She’s a very good thinker, and I can’t wait to meet her.

Rail: Your writing in More than Meat Joy (1979) is really powerful and captures what you were thinking about, charting references unrelated to how your work has been discussed art historically. For instance, there are threads coming out of Wilhelm Reich that have been obliterated from discussion.

Schneemann: Well, he’s been historicized out of the discussion by tampering with his theories, by reducing them to some clichéd aspect of his concerns.

Rail: What was interesting to you about Reich?

Schneemann: The late 1950s and early 60s was a time of profound erotic suppression—I’ve written about that ad nauseam—and here was this brave, challenging, and remarkable psychoanalytic delving into the forms of suppression that related to governance, to militarism, to patriarchy. Certainly, political oppression had a crazy sexualized slant to it then; you felt it in the culture wherever you went, and if you weren’t part of it, you were threatening to it. Jim Tenney and I would go into a diner and guys would look at him and threaten him with a knife because we looked like beatniks. The country was so polarized that they set our modest little co-op in Illinois on fire. It was just a building where we gathered grains and husks of corn and brought in our vegetables, but because it was “against America,” it was destroyed. This was even before it became commercially conventionalized to worship synthetic foods.

Rail: I’ve talked with our mutual friend Peter Lamborn Wilson about the shifting legacy of what was once called “sexual liberation.” Sexuality has been totally instrumentalized by advanced capitalism. How do you see the potential of the erotic as having changed?

Schneemann: Sex has become a consumer item, along with everything else. Reich is impenetrable right now; there is no way to use his real knowledge and wisdom because we have no structure for resistance. Personally, internally, some of us still do, but we don’t have a community anymore. At least in our recent histories we belonged to a marginal and despised but very active and influential community. It was a community that involved race, gender, gay principles—just about everything that had been denied and ignored that was part of human experience and which the theories of Reich could put forward. Gay liberation was stupendous, but look where it is now. It is a joke on HBO.

Rail: Is that the problem with re-performing pieces from the mid-’60s now…the transgressive potential—that vital content—is completely missing? What do you think the drive to “re-perform” is about?

Schneemann: It is like poison gas has settled over risk, uncertainty, and imagination. It’s now often about predetermination. It’s about glamour. It’s about situating yourself safely toward renown and rewards, which we never considered previously. The culture has absorbed everything we can think of without radicalizing it. It is all floating around in this morass of permissions, and part of the permission is to imitate and regurgitate.

Rail: When did you first become aware of that process?

Schneemann: I’m still rocking in that boat. Once the ’80s happened, we knew we were in deep shit. All the ’60s people were saying “This is going backwards faster than a snake on its tail,” and it’s not releasing. By the ’90s, it was gone: The wars were synthetic; the militarism was self-enclosed; sexuality was a continuous bedroom joke; and our processes of the ’60s had become heroicized and glamorized. Just when we thought we were getting away from the great hero mythology, it was back again in full force, only with lots of feminism growling and chewing beside it. Women weren't invisible anymore—we’re still here, yes—every gallery had to have a “bad cunt” in the ’90s, but just one. And the major dominant aesthetic forces were idealized: He’s young, he’s strong, he’s handsome, he’s doing something unique—we’ll buy that! The homoerotic projection.

Rail: In feminism, or with gay rights, it seems like a lot of people struggle to envision new ways of being have in fact settled for a certain kind of visibility within the preexisting structures. Instead of dismantling the institution of marriage—as should be done—gay activists are just trying to make it accommodate them. However, all your research and lectures seem to envision new institutions. How did you get the idea to do Naked Action Lecture (1968)?

Schneemann: It probably came out of Fuses (1965) and the reactions and resistances to what Fuses was really about. It also came out of how I had been taught: The inanities that were acceptable in teaching for maintaining the position of the “hapless girl student” who could never amount to anything as an artist, but who could be the life model. Which I did to help pay my tuition. Naked Action Lecture also had a lot to do with the overalls I had worn when I was farming in Vermont; they were another misappropriation of what could represent an art ’istorian.(1)  An art ’istorian naked in her overalls, who was actually a visual artist lecturing on Cézanne—that seemed delightful. I was carrying oranges in my pockets to throw to the audience. I was fed up with the whole structure. The angrier I am about a social situation, the more I have to creep up on it, and, if possible, to be as funny as I can be. Then it’s disarming and it opens up another way of thinking.

Rail: Thinking of your artist book Cézanne, She Was a Great Painter (1974), how did Cézanne become important to you?

Schneemann: Cézanne began for me as confusion about the name. I thought it could be a girl’s name: “Cez-Annie.” I was twelve or thirteen. I couldn’t find any other women, and the paintings looked very odd with their elongated bodies. I thought, “Maybe that’s how a woman would paint,” because there is always a problem if a woman wants to paint. Much later, when my teachers weren’t being utterly discouraging, they were always directing me to Expressionists like Oskar Kokoschka. I said: “No, no, no—I need something really structured and formally tough,” and that is Cézanne for me. I studied the broken line, the distribution of plane, the fragment and fracture and reintegration into the landscape. I needed his architectural toughness. Later, when I found his early Expressionist work, I loved it so much. I came to the stampedes of paint exploding after I had already committed to the rigorous aspects of Cézanne. I would say that is where I first wanted to break through the surface, to increase the dimensionality of paint and surface, and where I began to understand what painting was really going to demand of me. I consider that you’re born an artist—a painter—but you don't know what that is for a very long time. When you are growing up, you aren’t ready to know, because the truth is it is very, very difficult. Oil painting is still the most intoxicating feeling to me, more than any drug I’ve ever had.

Rail: Did you ever have a good teacher?

Schneemann: Finally, after I got kicked out of Bard. They couldn’t eliminate my scholarship, so it was extended to The New School, where I studied with Heinrich Blücher and Hannah Arendt.

Rail: Blücher was supposed to have been an incredible teacher.

Schneemann: He was my main teacher, and he was amazing. It’s hard to describe because he didn’t write; it was all spoken and thought and intoxicating. I would come out of that class with my friend Mona, and we’d slide down the three flights of stairs because it was so wonderful. Well, actually after Bard, I was also at Columbia, where I could just take life drawing for six hours a day, which is what I wanted. I was always drawing, learning to see, but now I was drawing with someone behind me—a wonderful teacher named Andre Racz—saying: “Do it, do it, keep at it!”

Rail: I spend a lot of time trying to think about a school that would actually be good, because most art schools are not. What do you think is the best way to teach artists?

Schneemann: Beginning drawing, beginning drawing, beginning drawing. After that, beginning drawing again—drawing from life.

Rail: I think of drawing as a process of connecting your eye to your hand to the world.

Schneemann: Drawing is about how to see, how to enter the world of form and space. It’s not an obvious process. It is not about simply translating something you see through your hand to paper. It is about being permeated with the consequence of dimensionality that surrounds you. When I teach drawing, my students fall off their chairs at some point, they fall into space. But that doesn’t happen right away, that’s more advanced drawing! The perceiving is going into and through you, it’s not as if you’re doing it; that’s the difference. It’s a subtle process, subtle the way some kinds of psychoanalytic processes are. You can turn something completely inside out for a person and allow them to go there with their own rhythm and steps, with a dynamic they’ve never trusted themselves to use before. I love that, it’s very quickening for me.

Rail: What kind of assignments do you give?

Schneemann: Mostly they start off conventionally and then it’s important to constantly change. So if I bring in a vase with flowers one week, then the next week they might be blindfolded and given very big sticks with fuzzy bottoms and start moving around the room making gestural energy fictions. It depends on the class. I had a Marine at UT Austin—so uptight, everything he drew looked like it was in a cage. He was so tense. Because of him, I asked everyone in the class to make a very frightening, horrible kind of container that they could imagine something despicable inside of. “What would it look like?” That gave them a whole new range of materials to think of as a way of drawing and of dimensionality. He made a box out of barbed wire and tar; it was so scary. He couldn’t say what was in it, but the essence of it was demonic and militaristic and full of everything that had tried to kill his spirit. He ended up being blindfolded on the floor with lots of watercolors and Mozart pumped into his earphones. I had to get him to an ecstatic place, but if you bring that in too soon it creates a panic. You can’t just go there, you have to creep up on these things. If you can creep up on these things both together within the group and individually, it can become so enlivening it’s inspiring.

I’ve had serious psychological upsets in the drawing class, but usually they can be worked through, especially if gender issues come into the depiction of the body. That is where I lost one of my really good students because he was gay and in denial, from a Baptist family. He experienced so much trauma trying to draw the figure, that when he tried to depict certain physical forms, he just lost it. I couldn’t help at that time because he put himself into a clinic.

Rail: Is your sense one in which no matter what medium an artist works, drawing is the common language? Would you recommend someone who wanted to make films or performance also draw?

Schneemann: It’s not a prescription necessarily, but according to how I work, I’d say absolutely. If drawing is performative, then you have an enlarged dimension for space and action and aspects of musicality and duration. But that is because I need everything to come from painting. And I don’t want my students to be so crunched by theory that before they even show what they’ve made, they have these contentious descriptions of “the hierarchal imperatives” from which they finally set a snow castle on fire.

Rail: One thing that Peter Lamborn Wilson said to me is that the aim of the artist should be the liberation of the person they are communicating with. What do you think the role of the artist is?

Schneemann: That is paralysis for me. I’m not thinking about the audience or the people I aim to communicate with; they’re almost invisible. My motive is always to see something more clearly for myself—not for who is going to get it—because I’ve been shit on for everything from the beginning. Initially I was told, “You can't do this or that; you’re wasting our time.” I am still amazed when there are thoughtful appreciations, as there have always been and are increasingly.

Rail: Peter was relating it to Giordano Bruno’s image magic, and the way it can be used to bind people, like in advertising and propaganda. Fine art also works that way, but the goal should be liberation, not enslavement. I think your word for liberation is ecstasy.

Schneemann: Ecstasy or fury—but it has to be rigorous. It has to be tough. It has to be hard to do. It has to be a problem, a set of formal challenges: “How should it look?” or, “How should it move?” or, “How should it read in someone else's perception?” Although, I'm not trying to predict or control that. It’s very hard work to get to my ecstatic vision of something; Fuses was arduously editing frame by frame by frame. The ecstatic aspect has to be explored through the rhythms, intercuts, and saturation of color, so that I’m immersed.

Rail: Your recent installation Flange 6rpm (2011 – 13) seems to be a tongue-like form, but also a flame-like limb. How did you develop that shape?

Schneemann: I was walking on Seventh Ave last spring when I saw something like a limb, but not a limb—it could have been a frond or a vulvic sensation, which is where so much of my work originates. I spent several weeks asking my friends if they’ve seen anybody’s sculpture made up of this kind of unit, multiplied and varied? They said “No, it’s probably your idea.” I often check; for Video Rocks (1987–88), for example, I wasn’t sure I hadn’t seen an infinity of handmade cow-poop-like rocks somewhere before. I was teaching then in Los Angeles, and I went around to all the galleries to make sure they didn’t have any work like that; they didn't. With Flange 6rpm, I wanted to work with the lost wax process because I could individuate every unit and then burn it up. Through the process I saw the dimension I needed: It had to be substantial in its permutation and illustrative of its own principles; it had to be complex. Certainly, there is a vast oral vocabulary of visual effects of the mouth-to-mouth as interior body surface. Vulvic sensation is constant in my imagery.

Rail: You talk about having envisioned it, then checking to see if it had come from somewhere out in the world. What does that say about how ideas come to you? How does a piece come into your consciousness?

Schneemann: Take Vulva’s Morphia (1995), where I’m researching and collecting the disturbances and disruptions regarding female sexuality. That is ongoing research that starts, I don’t know, maybe with my childhood drawings of cats. Vulva’s Morphia is photos and text in a continuous morphology, a very enriching morphology because it’s angry and fierce and funny—it can do all these things at once. But the “Angry Man” instigated the development of Vulva’s Morphia by appearing in a dream. He always sounds very aggrieved, he’s never pleasant; I can never invite him, he just shows up. He said: “You have that pile of research up there and all those photographs with it—you'll never be a proper artist again! Why don't you let Vulva do the talking?” When I woke, I ran upstairs with a pen and paper and showed “Vulva” the pile on Lacan, the pile on the Pope, on the Abstract Expressionists, all these different conflations and resistances, and I received one sentence for each pile! Then I could compose the visual grid with the “sentences.”

I had a dream for Mortal Coils (1994 – 95) where the Angry Man appears and says: “You’re not realizing this work, you’re stuck, nothing is happening here.” Then he showed me these three-quarter-inch ropes, and said, “Motorize the ropes at 6 rpm,” and disappeared. I was having so much trouble with the individuations in Mortal Coils. Hannah Wilke appeared in a dream and said, “Don't you dare put my image next to Paul Sharits!” I was getting all these bossy people from beyond—the dead bosses.

Rail: When was your first encounter with a dead boss?

Schneemann: That would go so far back. Probably some child event. But I only have the one dead boss—the Angry Man—aside from friends protesting about my organizing images with them in it. He appeared for this home in 1965, he gave instructions to properly understand that this was a stone house and that there were chestnut floors. He was working with Jim Tenney and me when we were first here in the house. He told Jim to go outside and smash the cement that covered the walls, that the cement would fall down and that we would see a piece of golden stone.

Rail: The Angry Man is not necessarily a negative force?

Schneemann: Oh, no, he’s terrific! He’s positive, but he’s not friendly. I don’t know where he comes from. Psychoanalysis reminds us that everything you dream is connected to some lived experience in your unconscious, but I don’t know who this man is, and he knows things that I couldn’t possibly know, like the specific wood that was beneath the linoleum in the house.

Rail: What was your process of trusting those kinds of visions?

Schneemann: I welcome them. I always want to be as permeable as possible and for them to be able to approach me.

Rail: For Vulva’s Morphia and the other iconological research that you’ve done, I wonder about the representation of other erogenous zones, like the oral—all your work that relates to mouths and kisses. How do you see those relating to each other as types of images?

Schneemann: The main transposition has been to visualize what I can feel intensely, that doesn't have literal description or ideation. “How do you describe what a kiss feels like?” It’s impossible. So I had to collect hundreds of them to begin to satisfy my own sense of an appropriate sensory representation. For Infinity Kisses (1981–88), in which people see strange things—that the cat is aggressive, that the kiss will be hurtful—I cannot shift all these weird projections that are already embedded and cannot be transduced. That takes us into the realms of the determinations of censorship: They cannot be dislodged directly, maybe accumulatively over time. As the regard for my work deepens and allows itself to become more sensualized, my meanings are released.

Rail: What are your thoughts on “performance art” today?

Schneemann: There is an aspect of it that I am very critical of because I don’t see it as coming from a living resource that resembles the uncertainty or intensity that were the origins of what has become “performance art.” But it is self-fulfilling, inventive, and restorative. It does everything; it goes everywhere, like some kind of mushrooms. I’m in favor of it, really.

Rail: But your move into performance as a painter was prompted by a certain necessity that came from your ideas about space and embodiment. Is your feeling that younger artists now enter into this thing called performance art, with its history, without the same kind of concerns or urgency?

Schneemann: Well, it can’t be replicated—it was unoccupied territory. It was a wild land provoked by Artaud, by Dada, deeply in revulsion towards its own immediate inheritance of the cultural conservativeness of the ’50s. These initiating artists were doing something incredible, bringing in affinities to Zen, to Noh, to other kinds of Indian dance, and with thoughtfulness about it. The original happenings by Oldenburg, Dine, Whitman, and Kaprow—these were painters activating space and taking space as time. It was unprecedented; it had no script or predictable characterization. It was an adventure to be a part of. For Store Days, Oldenburg found a purple spangled dress for me and gave me a knife and told me to stand on a plank over a radiator. I was not comfortable, it was a vertiginous feeling, but my job was to stab the wall for as long as we were in that space while everybody else did something else. It was a wild harmonics, a vision. My difficulty with performance art now is that it’s been codified as a thing, a movement; it’s taught as an academic discipline—I’ve taught it—but now the language around it enters a realm of predictable forms, a “practice.” The assumptions of career and strategy—I get questions from students like, “What was your strategy? How would you define your career?”

Rail: I’m interested in Artaud and his relevance to performance art, and the distinctions between theater and performance art.

Schneemann: Well, we hated theater—it was “practice:” rehearsals, predictable form, perfection, and emotional direction in which you had to fulfill a characterization. We were like elements of shredded paper, flowing and fluid. In the discrepancies, extra energies would come, as with collage, when you tear a piece of paper apart and an unexpected dynamic emerges between the two sections. It’s rather hard to describe because the language that is appropriate to the origins of performance art didn’t exist and is still elusive. Go back to Artaud and read his visions and rantings, and yes, that is closer to it. For me, it was all the energies in the body being given a live articulation, but not as a definitive form, not as something perfected.

Rail: What is incredible about a lot of your performances are the intersections between the projected image, the body, and the spoken text. In the way you’ve approached and laid out More Than Meat Joy, you replicate the overlapping edges of those elements.

Schneemann: I designed that book with Bruce McPherson, the independent, brave publisher. The visual design principles relate to the weights and energies of my paintings.

Rail: I feel like a lot of the early writing about your performances uses the language of dance, which is problematic because what you were trying to do with performance art was not dance.

Schneemann: Yes, but...! Of course even modern dance evolves from a “practice”—you better be physically attuned to what the movement scores are going to demand of you. Dance also comes with the old approval of male culture. Everything about traditional dance refers to beautiful motions, and the culture approves of this predictably. The music drives it and establishes an exciting safety zone; it’s not going to suddenly fly out of those possibilities. Even modern dance had that formulation around it. When I do works such as Eye-Body or Meat Joy, it disrupts that threshold: “Here are some really beautiful erotic bodies, but what are they doing? They are distorting their appeal!” Of course with Judson dancers, the dynamic of their movement was completely contradictory to classical performance, yet you could see they were really dancers—they were trained. That was another early arena apart from the early happenings.

Rail: Another tributary flowing into performance art, which is never discussed in art history, has to do with poetry and the things that were happening in poetry at the time. I’m thinking of the anthology Jerome Rothenberg put together, Technicians of the Sacred, which had so much to do with chanting, performative, and oral poetics from across time and around the world.

Schneemann: That is grasping the sacred aspect—the reverence—that is involved in the most interesting performance art; it’s sacral. There is worship in it, not a self-worship but to a larger aspect that we see across cultures that Rothenberg put all together. It is so important. Of course, it’s deeply neglected because materialist culture wants to insist on that material preeminence. If you introduce the sacral or spirit, that feminizes everything, it becomes fluffy and imprecise, it’s probably not worthy because it’s trying to escape all the validating cultural traditions, even the radicalizing ones that have been accepted.

Rail: I’m so interested in More Than Meat Joy as a book because of how performance art is taught in schools or discussed in scholarship. It is usually reduced to a single image, which becomes an iconic representation of the entirety of the performance. What you do in the book is always show multiple images that unfold as a process in time from multiple vantages, and at the same time lay them right next to two types of text: One is a transcript of the spoken text of the performance, and the other is a retrospective description of the parameters of the actions. When you talk about performance as reduced to a single image, without all the texts, it completely bleaches the complexity of the thing as art, which is one reason the vital connection to poetry has been lost in performance art history.

Schneemann: Those poets had such severe magic. My work was first properly accepted by poets. Rothenberg and Antin published the introductory text of Meat Joy in some/thing, their poetry magazine. At that time the poets didn’t have a very respected platform themselves but were very energizing together. There is Hanna Wiener using her amazing signage that became performance art because people didn’t know what else to call it. Then there is ridiculous theater that always had a lot of language in it, but it was still in the shaping of theater. There was a spillover into Jack Smith and Barbara Rubin and aesthetics that have no definition but “experimental.”

Rail: Of course, Vito Acconci was a poet.

Schneemann: And he began performing after a program that we were on together, in which I symbolically hung myself. After that, he began to do physical actions.

Rail: Upstairs in your library, you have several shelves dedicated to Virginia Woolf. I’m very interested in your engagement with her.

Schneemann: It started when I was fourteen years old and at The Putney School in Vermont. We had a wonderful book wagon; you could crawl in and take one or two and sign them out. I, of course, had never heard about Virginia Woolf, but I liked the double letters of the name, and the cover was painterly, so I took that out. I went to the barn and sat on a windowsill and just wept for the next two hours. I thought, “I don't know what this is, but this is what I need to do.” I was reading The Waves—it was the fragmentation, the breaking, the cohesion, the intense rhythms. I just loved it so much—the way you can as a kid and you don’t know why—it was talismanic for me. At Bard, when I said I wanted to write a paper on Woolf, my professor said, “You can't do that; she is trivial. That is not serious literature. You can write about Mann, Proust, or Kafka.” And then I got the same parallel from a philosophy teacher when I said, “I’d like to write my term paper on Simone de Beauvoir,” and he said, “Honey, why do you want to write about the mistress when you can write about the master?”

Rail: When did you first start reading de Beauvoir?

Schneemann: As soon as it came out in the ’50s. It was electrifying. I was working in a pottery shop engraving things on the edges and I saved my money to buy The Second Sex. I sent it to Stan and Jane Brakhage for Christmas. They burnt it. That is how much convention had to be defended there, and how invisible it was between friends because there was such a fluid, excited, smart, aesthetic exchange all the time.

Rail: But you’ve continued reading Woolf. How did her work evolve for you in significance or understanding?

Schneemann: It was like falling in love. That first vision was illuminating, and the rest of my study confirmed it. If you’re lucky, that is what happens. Woolf engaged every aspect of what I would look at as a painter—the domestic, the landscape, the light, the formulations of material, transitory configurations—everything that you’re looking at is going to change, and yet you struggle to grasp some essence of it, which is what she does. Her gift is in the harmonic integration of things. I don’t know that I ever achieved that as much as I perceived it in her work. And the tremendous struggle in her work, that has only been looked at recently, of the gender paralysis—the exclusion, the sexual abuse—it takes fifty years to clarify these facts of life. That is inspiring to other generations to see the residual repression and marginalization and sexual threat. It’s modified but it hasn’t gone away.

(1) “Art ‘istorian” was Carolee Schneemannn’s preferred feminist term for what is commonly called an "art historian" and it appears frequently in her writings of the ’70s. See Correspondence Course (2010) and More than Meat Joy(1979).


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 16-JAN 17

All Issues