Success Has 1,000 Mothers

Art and Activism

Mary Beth Edelson

RE- printed from :Women’s Culture in a New Era: A Feminist Revolution Editor, Gayle Kimball, Scarecrow Press, 2005

First Coming 70s

A woman has no place as an artist unless she proves, over and over again, she won’t be eliminated- Louise Bourgeois

Dismantling the Master’s House with Women’s Tools: The 60s were zero hour before feminism and the ‘70s were feminism. Starting from scratch we sought to formulate the issues to frame the politics of feminism(s). The 70s were an exceptional time when studio practice, community activism, art history and criticism momentarily converged. Women came together giving their time and energy to a revolution that permeated every aspect of our daily lives, providing a future for woman artists that could previously only have been imagined.

In my case, as an artist and activist deeply implicated in all of this, two recurring themes were my body and creating the politics of feminist spirituality. I referred to my body as a “found art object” with the intention of morphing it into “the subject” that I could then use as a “starter” to set in motion building feminist issues as I saw them. In the past 30 years my work has focused on visual presentation of women with power, including addressing cultural assumptions about bodies, agency, sexuality, the sacred and human liberation on all counts.

Much of Edelson’s early work found roots in the dialogue she was instrumental in developing on the subject of the Goddess that concerns the implications of organized religion for women at the same time it invites direct female access to the divine. By not separating the politics of human rights from the spiritual or from contemporary creative ritual Edelson presents both an offer and a challenge . . .. Indeed, a critique of women’s subordinate status in the history and structure of religions and a concern for women’s spirituality constitutes one of her main contributions to feminist aesthetics.1.

Notes on This Goddess Thing: I used the construct of Goddess as a blank slate that could be written on, and this platform offered a framework for dismantling the master’s house with women’s tools. Within this context emerged a playful irreverent muse, who had many names, for presenting a strategic women’s spirituality while challenging the dogma of organized religion. If She were there at all, She would emerge as we constructed our ever-changing sense of ourselves.

Mary Sabbintino, Director of Galerie Lelong, recently asked me if I would like to be in an exhibition titled “Goddess” at Galerie Lelong. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry so charged was her suggestion that it was time to bring back the Goddess. But she was correct that the cycle had come around again.

I have been asked to define Goddess on various occasions- a dicey project at best. In 1989 I offered this groping personal definition that I continue to alter, “SHE is, for me, an internalized sacred metaphor for an expanded and generous wisdom that respects all peoples. SHE is alive and evolving in contemporary psyches as well as being an ancient, primal, creative energy in both women and men that embodies the balance of intellect-body-spirit. SHE sees clearly unacknowledged radical truths in accepting both the dark and light sides of the way it is and yet SHE does not forget to be playful. Dogma is an anathema to HER. HER presence is inconstant when SHE is scorned, but when embraced SHE manifests in dynamic, nonhierarchical networks of cooperative relationships that include actively working for human liberation.”

How many twists and turns this Goddess odyssey has taken over the years—and how utterly unforeseeable were the punishing and ecstatic events that knowing Her brought my way. Had enough time lapsed for an objective critical reconsideration of this Hot Mother who scares the living hell out of those who see her as a Monster, and has such power that, in the words of writers J.C. Smith and Carla J. Ferstman,“If SHE appeared what you felt about HER reflects who you are.”2 Suppositions about Goddess can be equivocated with attitudes in many cultures about women as being unclean, unholy and uncontrollable. Such assumptions are embedded in all patriarchal religions, and in the contemporary psyche of those who have not confronted them.

A Fast-Forward Evolution: What unfolded in a short period of time in the early 70s was a fast-forward evolutionary process that facilitated the feminist movement becoming an experimental laboratory. One of the enterprises was producing spirituality invented by women who fully understanding the political implications of this proposal, and then communicated it to others. This project was prompted at first by individual women already on this track with years of research behind them (i.e., Merlin Stones When God Was a Woman, 1976) and who were also active in their local feminist communities.3 It is generally agreed that this investigation into the sacred grew out of the feminist movement, and began synchronically on both the east and west coasts in the US around 1970, and by the mid ‘70s was recognized as a movement. Important collective events and publications in the early years included the first national women’s spirituality conference organized by Pomegranate Productions, a collaborative group in Boston, attended by 1,800 women from around the country. It was at this first spirituality conference that we realized, for the first time, how many of us there were, and that we already occupied some common ground. Where else would you find women spontaneously striping to the waist and dancing on a cathedral altar while the other women joined forming a bare breasted snake dance up and down the aisles? We already shared a tolerance for diverse points of view, that the plan was not to make one, we felt free to reference other religious practices if it suited us as well as Jung, Graves, Gimbutus and at least the books listed in the bibliography, and our common practice was ever changing ritual. Three other conferences followed: Staten Island, NYC, Santa Cruz and the conference organized by Gayle Kimball titled “ Feminist Visions for the Future” in Chico, California.

The early core Goddess Group in NYC that regularly met during this formative period were architect and professor, Mimi Lobel; artist and writer, Buffie Johnson; writer, Merlin Stone; teacher, Rosemary Dudly; folklorist, Kay Turner and myself. This group then instigated producing the influential Great Goddess issue of Heresies magazine 3 with each contributing an article to the issue. (Some of their other publications on goddess/spirituality related topics are listed at the end of this essay). By the time we moved into the ‘80s it could be claimed that bookstores were stocked with shelf after shelf on the topic as it went mainstream.

Holland Cotter observed in the New York Times: Most of the interesting America artists of the last 30 years are as interesting as they are in part because of the feminist art movement of the early 1970s. It changed everything. It gave a new content to painting, sculpture and photography. It pushed performance, video and installation art to the fore. It smashed the barrier between high art and low art, and it put folk art, outsider art, non-Western art, not to mention so-called women’s art (sewing, quilting, crafts of all kinds) center stage. What art in the next 30 years will look like I don’t know, but feminist influences will be at its source. All this should be obvious, but it needs to keep being re-said. Of the liberation movements for which the late 20th century will be remembered, few have been as disparaged as feminism, and that scorn extends to the women’s art movement. Even presumably well-intentioned art-worldlings seem incapable of talking about it without condescension, as if it were some indiscreet adolescent episode best forgotten. (October 11, 2002)

During workshops and conferences in the 70s, spirituality feminist who were also activist discussed the need for a less contentious and a more self-analytical way of interacting while mobilizing for political action. The importance of good working relationships was obvious when we became bogged down in miscommunications that consumed both energy and time, and therefore interfered with getting on with the task at hand. The sustained models to evolve from experimental spiritual processes included: performative creative ritual, going around the circle, and multi-stage consciousness that also provided a broader more inclusive view of the world, and its diverse cultures. These models were integrated into general feminist practices of non-hierarchical rotation, consciousness raising and regular critical analysis of group functions.

Workshops and retreats in particular offered the opportunity to engineer and practice these models. The hypothesis put to the test was; might it be possible to construct a culture that included a feminist spiritual practice, that could stand a chance of simultaneously producing a more harmonious working process that could then be applied to activism? Placing a bet on a feminist utopian–like aspiration was conceivable because we periodically experienced a cooperative community that was so intellectually vibrant, spontaneous and magically ecstatic that it left you longing for it again.

In using experiments like tapping into the unconscious, dreams and psychodrama, plus hard research, it was possible to produce a functioning culture in a short period of time. As Carey Lovelace, play writer and art writer, noted, "that particular mix of psychological inquiry, politics, and art is only one of the gifts that first-generation feminism has left behind. ” 4. Even as the cultural, political, and social circumstances converged for a rapid evolution of female spirituality, never in our wildest dreams in those early years did we expect this investigation to go beyond its underground roots.

This feminist practice wasn’t at ease above ground where it might be susceptible to a stable, repeatable, canonized format that could take itself too seriously. We weren’t interested in becoming a dogma that in the time of its perfection comes to believe it is the one and only true religion, starts wars, crusades and goddess knows what else. What we were proposing was not another organized religion but a participatory paradigmatic sweep that would impact our collective vision(s) for women’s rights and human liberation. For example, we challenged assumptions held across the globe within organized religions that place women into an inferior, service-oriented positions without control over their own lives, status, bodies or the agency to fulfill their potential. These religious assumptions and traditions about women spill over into legal systems, and become the law of the land providing official sanction for discrimination.

Part of the mix was to teach ourselves how to recognize the early warning signs of efforts to control women, for example by limiting their social contacts and identifying propaganda whether in advertising, film, TV, printed media, church or state. Their strategy of control was aimed at instructing women on how they should and should not behave to the benefit of patriarchy. My research on domestic violence and organized religion’s chronic subordination of women, often based on patriarchal rule books, was accompanied by a clear-eyed understanding of our just cause, power, and historical circumstances, as well as that our future prospects are inextricably intertwined with feminist and human rights movements.

To conceive of a practiced spirituality grounded in sacred femaleness without the baggage of centuries of sexist and fossilized theology was electrifying. We were making it up as we went along, experimenting with direct access to the sacred while applying research and inspiration on everything from ancient Goddesses, to film and folklore studies, to psychoanalytical feminist interpretations of culture and mythology. We posed questions the patriarchy could not remedy without ceasing to be, such as, “Why are there no female priests?”

This project was as liberating as rejecting organized religion’s excessive fascination with romantic mythical beliefs in a single mystical male, who imparted infallible fixed wisdom direct from God, to a chosen people, for all time.

When exposed to a wider population, the chutzpa to present homemade spiritual practice by females was threatening and disquieting. The enterprising heretic was at best viewed as inhabiting the twilight zone.

Second Coming: Backlash Nation 1980s

The 80s were a difficult decade for the feminist pioneers. The Reagan backlash permeated the culture, art world prices for a few spiraled out of control and them plummeted, and art galleries closed and exhibition opportunities were few. Feminist art theory flourished, but here too was a backlash that affected many of the feminists pioneers—it would seem that feminist theorist had zero tolerance for the complexities and context of the 70s and the debt they owned to their ground-breaking activist Mothers.

I retreated from the explicit subject of Goddess in the beginning of the 80s because the project became codified, imitative, and trivial. I was flattered to influence other artists, but I was annoyed by second-rate knock-off art that cheapened the project. The 80s lack of innovation and community flattened the project, as marketing and promotion supplanted it in the art world. The processes of continuously examining priorities and issues that are the hallmark for being relevant vanished into individual projects on career tracks, along with the community that sustained the movement.

Lamentations: I felt like I had been swept into a vortex resembling a black hole. My community was going through a crisis. I tried to remedy what I had no control over and slipped deeper inside a creative block where I found little satisfaction in the artwork I was producing. I missed my community and the works that we created together. The 80s as a decade of greed and mean spiritedness seemed to overwhelm the times in much the same way as the current zeitgeist.

Strategic Essentialism (risky business): The either /or choices offered by feminist academics divided artists into camps of essentialists, those judged to be constantly using biological givens as their reference, or constructionist, judged to be employing constructed social meanings for making art. Furthermore, it was applied to women artists without their voices and intentions having a part in formulating these disturbingly pervasive theories, which spread from academia to art critics. Artists who explored the female body and experience were labeled “essentialist,” although we never saw ourselves this way or denied the influence of social construction on gender roles. It’s ironic that feminist theory was used to attack feminist artists.

If you accepted the application of their definition of essentialism, then it could be claimed that women were not capable of change, and therefore not responsible if they were naturally emotional creatures closer to nature. It would then follow that they could not, for example, be trusted with being a head of state, CEO or any position other than the primal state as baby-producing nurturers.

Censorship and exclusion of many artists followed in the wake of the anti-essentialist massacres of the 80s. As it was applied in the art field by many academics, essentialism was extended beyond the classic interpretations of being the true essence of things (and therefore fixed and unchangeable), to a wider range of theorizing and surgical deployment. For example, as I wrote in 1989,“This construct [anti-essentialism] advanced the idea that women artists working with nature accepted their bodies and intuition at the expense of their cognitive minds, and that constructualist artists accepted their intellects at the expense of their sensual bodies.” 5. These additions or subtends stretched thin their suppositions, and resulted in a hierarchy of inclusion and exclusion of what was allowed or disallowed. “The reasons for the development of anti-essentialist positions in feminist theory become clear because if women are thought of as culturally influenced, then change is possible, and therefore strategies for progressive or revolutionary political change can be developed, implemented and tested.” 6.

When applied to women artists, however, this theory of essentialism reinstated an obsolete masculinist dichotomy of prioritizing culture over nature that was both forced and removed from the reality of the studio. Theorists ignored the real life circumstances of the creative process in which working artists slide between, under and around formulaic models, to avoid strictures that negatively encourage self-censorship, staleness, or shutting down creative juices.

In the art world the purveyors of anti-essentialism avoided matters of race and difference by simply not linking women of color to their analysis, despite often providing the best examples of their definition of an essentialist. Were these women judged too inessential for consideration or perhaps too untouchable when positioned in the context of their desire to aggressively preserve essence within a black analysis? Some people of color were intentionally exploring and defining their identity as people of color and this would, according to anti-essentialist analysis, be an essentialist position. Men were also exempt from being labeled as essentialist, as were dead artists.

It may be more interesting to note who was not included in this essentialist round up and why, rather than who was.

Essentialism also did not work to the advantage of women artists when we were merged as a group under the rubric of Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party.” Chicago’s interpretation of how to visualize feminism, interpret womanliness and her hierarchical working processes were problematic for many practicing woman artists. For a time, her positions were assumed by the general public to be one and the same with all feminist artists and this contributed to some artists wishing not to be identified as feminist. All this provided yet another example of a cultural view of women, and especially feminists, as interchangeable with one another, and not as separate distinct individuals, but as a category.

That some of this binary reasoning and its conclusions left no room for a continuum or balance and seemed outside the realm of ‘common sense’--with neither data to back it up nor sustained dialogues with the accused--did not seem, to the anti-essentialists, to be a cause for alarm. But logic tells us that “Essentialism and constructivism are interdependent…[and] essence itself can be seen as constructed; and the constructivists, in their efforts to identify different factors, in fact build webs of essences.” 7.

Essentialism was a pervasive polarizing construct that pronounced a lesser status on women critics judged to be essentialist. By the early 90s, anti-essentialism was critiqued as a false construct, but not before doing considerable damage to some women artists. “It is important in looking at the history of Western philosophy to ask whether women had any part in the formulation of accounts of women’s nature” or of “human nature” 8 … and to compare that history with feminist academics who formulated anti-essentialism without those so labeled having any part in their formulation. I know no woman artist who claimed to be an essentialist.

Visceral Disgust: A sizable number of men and women who reacted with visceral disgust toward Goddess and body artists dished out heavy-handed, condescending, trivializing and blaming as their rallying cry for identification in the inner circle of anti-essentialism in the art world. This disgust was akin to the repulsion expressed by some people today for women body builders who have “bodies like men” and are “going against the grain of nature.” These rejections, in my view, are fueled by a bias against the female and her body, and are embedded in all patriarchal religions, as well as in the contemporary psyches of these who have not confronted them. Especially if the woman breaks out of the patriarchal, essentialist mold of what is traditionally acceptable for women, that is, she should be giving, cheerful, clean in body and mind and above all controllable.

Two Nail Coffin: Writer Whitney Chadwick, noting the absurd polarizing groups in feminism in the arts, pointed out the following examples: feminism/post-feminism, essentialism/constructivism, and feminist practice/post-structural theory and the political divide between theory and practice. As a method post-structuralism is used to confirm or disrupt visual images and unravel meaning even as it often prioritizes text over image and theory over practice. It opens the door to “taking the risk of essentialism” and the possibility of a negotiated “strategic essentialism” that does not fear contradictory outcomes, (like visual artists writing theory). “Post-structuralism [also] remains centered in the university, answerable neither to the realities of studio practice nor to women’s need to transform patriarchy through political action often viewed as denying the authenticity of individual experience, while reinforcing the goals of academic feminist intellectuals. “9

To date no dialogue or comprehensive theoretical renovation of the artists who were felled by this false essentialist construct have been carried out. Indeed, even as essentialism has been deconstructed, rather than moving beyond an unrealistic orthodoxy it seems to keep the ball in play. As writer Diana Fuss noted, it still exists “in an increasingly more sophisticated level and yet ever removed from actual studio practice.”

Killing off the Real McCoy: Whether intentional or an unforeseen consequence, feminist theory in the 80s appeared to serve to kill off Founding Mothers of the 70s, the very source material on which this theory was based. Without the mothers of invention there was no model, no paradigm, no pipeline from which to build feminist theory, and yet the focus, for a time, appeared to be on denying the debt to their source by discrediting pioneering feminist.

The political voices of activists in the movement, as well as the critiquing of art production, were subordinated under the orthodoxy of feminist theory. It was wielded like a weapon for establishing pecking order within the ranks of feminism. You could count on one hand the number of women artists selected for approval by the theorists whose elitism supported yet another star system. It should be noted that these selected artists were not involved in feminist activist groups, and were mostly from the generation after the 70s when theory came in vogue. The double whammy of the Reagan backlash against feminism and the 80s theoretical anti-essentialism proselytizing undermined a number of feminist artists.

Realities of Studio Practice: Several realities of studio practice to take into consideration are: • Creativity flows from a quasi-magical state of mind that might come in a flash, might be non-logical out-of-the-box thoughts that are eccentric, obsessional, and personal. •Thinking-in-the box can contradict the creative process while being at cross purposes with accessing it. • Artwork may not reveal all it has to say at any given time or to every viewer. • The urgency of art making that drives artists to say that “they produce art because they must.” •That art making is a risk taking and subversive activity that presents, the as yet underrepresented of our culture, when it goes beyond just tinkering with the same ideas.

When critiqued and translated into text, visual work becomes something else altogether. The critique may fall more in the category of being the writer’s own creation than a desire to understand the artwork being critiqued. The writing, then crosses-over and displaces the visual artwork with itself. Is it possible, in the 80s that this cross-over occurred in theoretical writing, that is, the writer privileged her critique over the artwork by twisting it into a reconstructed creation of her theoretical project.

Binary, Balance and Beyond: Moving beyond binarisms by rethinking both positions and taking what you need and leaving the rest might lead to an intervention in which essentialist/anti-essentialist negotiate their way to a strategic essentialism that both positions would agree is worth the risk. Feminist theorists and writers Diana Fuss, 10 Hillary Robinson, 11 Belinda Edmonson 12 , and myself provide some workable suggestions:

The possibility of a balanced critique that deconstructs both essentialism and anti-essentialism without privileging one over the other is suggested by Diana Fuss who emphasizes avoiding solidification and facilitating fluidity during the process. Occupying a position of continuation between essentialism and anti-essentialism also provides a more realistic critique for studio practice where striving for totalizing systematic thinking is seldom comfortable.

The key, according to Hilary Robinson, is “privileging ‘positionality’ that is, whose voice is using the tool of ‘strategic essentialism’ determines whether or not it is ‘strategic’ or ‘regressive essentialism’.“ For example, a feminist might call another feminist a crone, cunt or babe as a term of endearment, but for a man to address a woman accordingly would be retrograde.

Robinson explains, “If patriarchy – and modernism – marginalizes women, as women, then one of the starting-points for countering this has to be as women, while at the same time working to undo that particular category. This is a complex position to adopt, both intellectually and emotionally. One of the main debates in feminist theory has concerned how this can be achieved, how feminism can identify the category ‘woman,’ work to undo it, maintain difference from men, and inhabit a female body all at once, without revalidating notions that women will behave a certain way, make particular art, because it is biologically inevitable.” 13 As noted by Belinda Edmondson, all sides of the debate make the same mistake of treating ‘essentialism’ as if it has ‘essence’ in and of itself, when the only real essence of feminism is politics. 14


I’ll look next at specific themes in my art works that give examples of issues presented here prefaced by a comment on humor and how it is used in my art production. Basic themes in my work are the status of women, participation, and trickerishness. The most current projects include the recently published book, The Art of Mary Beth Edelson, and installations on the subject of forgiving as it relates not only to individuals, but also to armed global conflicts.

Humor is a mode of speech that is indirect and ambiguous and therefore can have multiple interpretations. It can potentially disrupt dominant meanings and the social order while protecting the joker from consequences that might occur if the same message were delivered in a serious mode. Humor sabotages critics, for unlike language, laughter does not belong to the patriarchy and therefore has the possibility of breaking that hold while taking advantage of humor's natural attraction. After all, humor gives the pleasure of laughter as well as being in an inner circle of "getting it,” and therefore people are more apt to accept what you have to say--or at least go along with it if you give them a good laugh. My attraction to including humor in art making began when I was in junior high school. Political humor came later, and was put to use in drawings, photographic body works, installations, and story boxes, but most obviously in my posters.

POSTERS: In 1971, I began collecting headshot photos of women for the poster “Some Living American Women Artists/Last Supper,” and then collaging these heads over the disciples in a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” This poster, printed in 1972, embodied the inclusive spirit of 70s feminism, and was widely reproduced in underground feminist publications as well as the mainstream press, as the iconic image of that period. (Recently shown at the Tate, London in the exhibition “Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis, 1905-2001.”)

The “Last Supper” poster presumes to present women in positions of power that were not in reality available to them, as well as challenge organized religion’s historical oppression of women. Those who judged this artwork as an effrontery sought to censor the poster, and while they failed to appreciate the humor, they did grasp the paradigmatic implications of high jacking sacred power for the purpose of placing it in female hands. The intention of the poster was to identify and commemorate women artists who had received little recognition, as well as to tweak the nose of patriarchal religion for cutting women out of positions of power and authority.

The poster raises multiple issues and challenges the consequential ways in which men and women are symbolized and controlled in patriarchal religions from the story of Eve to withholding ordination of women as priests, ministers, rabbis and mullahs. Denying property rights and women’s civil rights, reproductive choice, access to education, enforced veiling, and even a driver’s license are all perpetuated on women in some cultures--in the name of religion. Even though the Last Supper is a Christian image, the point is to challenge organized religions across-the-board.

Celebrated in the “Death of the Patriarchy” poster series are both Heresies, a feminist collective that published Heresies magazine on art and politics, and A.I.R., the first feminist art gallery in NYC (still operating in a prime location in Chelsea). The posters pay tribute to the women who took the initial power, agency and action necessary to provide sustainable community groups that were the backbone for building the feminist movement in the artworld. 15

PHOTOGRAPHIC BODY WORKS: The pioneer performance artists used their bodies as construction sites, experimenting with them in advance of feminist theoretical writings on the subject, and this meant that we were both uninformed and unrestrained by those theories. Consequently, these artists were in the unique position of creating a new genre while being at once vulnerable, unpretentiously direct and speculative. I used my body with tongue in check as a “found object“ with the intention of morphing into “the subject.” My photographic performance works provided an inventory of self-constructed and ever-evolving issues as well as portraits of non-interchangeable women. While the moment has passed when women’s bodies can be viewed as “found objects” with the intention of setting in motion unexplored “female subjects,” at last this ground-breaking process can be pronounced as “strategical” and not just labeled with the dismissive “essentialist!” Once theoretical writings were digested, the dialogue and art works shifted away from invention to evaluation and ironic commentary as this unique creative moment passed away, along with the acute vulnerability.

Specifically, the way I produced my body works included concentrating on a particular intention by drawing script-like storyboards, and then going out into the field or studio, setting up the camera on a tripod and photographing. A proviso I gave myself limited each photographic piece to a single roll of 12 shots which enhanced my focus and the incisiveness of the end product. It also removed the hit and miss aspect of taking a number of photo shots, and hoping something will come of it.

Because the first nude series of photographs taken in the summer of 1973 at Outer Banks, N.C., lent themselves to multiple readings, I decided to print editions of each photograph for the purpose of drawing or collaging different images or configurations on each print. This process presented not only diverse artworks, but also a challenging conundrum --how far could I extend the specificity of the same photographic edition while using incongruous and disparate identity subjects?

Photographic works from my body performance series employ collage and handwork using oil paint, ink, gouging tools and china marker. For example, “Nobody Messes with Her” suggests the abyss of rage that resides in the depths of the unconscious that is a portal for releasing female potency and agency. She is a female who is nude, but there is no mistaking her for one who excites male desire. (1973, oil, ink)

BAUBO AND SHEELA-NA-GIG AND KALI: The ancient figures Baubo and Sheela-na-gig first captured my imagination in the early 70s, and have been a continuous research subject and theme in a variety of mediums and installations through the years. Baubo is a pre-Greco consort of the Goddess Demeter whose body is presented as a sexual riddle. Is she all head or headless, and what is the nature of her puzzling sexuality? “ Baubo’s exhibitionism is interpreted as a potential alternative to the castrating display of the Medusa: Her display is to another woman and its effect is to provoke laughter and to end grief and morning. “16

The Irish Sheel-na-gigs were carved into stone blocks and found around Irish church sites. Sheela makes a bizarre display of her genitalia that appears irreverent and comically “in your face.” I have used both of these figures to by-pass the “morality of patriarchy that robs the female of her will to power. “ 17

These two figures were also intriguing because they are so out of their original context as to be unknowable. They fall outside of contemporary sexual categories and are therefore unverifiable on both accounts. The two suggest irreverent, playful, trickster antics, and their “...truth is not shameful, but just a joke... The laugh, [exists] outside the semantic and ‘on the edge of language,’ [and] breaks the hold of a phallocentric grammar... Baubo [is] a figure who resides outside the regime of [this] phallocentrism, undermining its logic, including the inscription of Dionysus’s face on Baubo’s body.”18 My interpretation of both Baubo and Sheela-na-gig in art works uses humor to reinforce independence and uncontrollability.

“Kali/Bobbitt,” 1994-2001, is an installation consisting of a full-sized mannequin wearing a black wig, girdle of knives and kitsch phallic jewelry. She is a contemporary Kali, the Goddess who transforms life with her dance of death, merged with Lorna Bobbitt of the sensational castration court case. I wrote the following immediately after 9/11 about the essence of Kali/Bobbitt.

Her nature is liberation; She dances mad with freedom’s joy. Sometimes She is the “Smokey One” who reduces the universe to ashes. She manifests Herself for the annihilation of demonic power, to restore peace and to make visible the unacknowledged radical truth revealed in the smoking ashes. This warrior woman is one-in-herself and She can move around with the flexibility of a Bandit Queen. The vulnerable and the abused look to her for protection, She raises their spirits and money while She organizes and lobbies for change. No one assumes that they are superior to Her. 19

THE STORY GATHERING BOXES: When I began collecting personal stories in the “Story Gathering Boxes” from gallery-goers in 1972 I was interested in breaking down traditional barriers set up between the public and art works. “The problem with the ‘story of man’ was that women could not recognize themselves in it. So those who produce the ‘story of women’ want to make sure they appear in it. The best way to ensure that is to be the storyteller.”—Elizabeth V. Spellman 20

Sacred ancient Egyptian canopic chests that held the organs of the pharaoh inspired the configuration of the wood boxes that house the stories. Divided into four equal sections, the boxes contain jute paper tablets with ever changing topics rubber stamped at the top of the cards. The public was invited to write stories about these topics and then replace them in the box for others to read. Selected stories from the boxes have been reprinted in women’s studies and psychology books, and have been of special interest as fresh raw material to fiction writers.

By inviting viewers to actively participate, their position changed from passive viewer to producer. The boxes were presented on a table with stools, which provides a place within the gallery to sit, and resonate with the art or have a conversation. It was a small “rebellion against the implied message of art galleries that you are to look but not touch, you are welcome to breeze through the exhibition but not linger, you are to stand but not sit, and that the exhibiting artist is the know-it-all and you are the know-nothing.”21

Film theorist E. Ann Kaplan said that the femme fatale figure, “… is ripe for reinterpretation” 22 Traditionally not associated with feminism the femme fatale was represented as irresistibly attractive and dangerous to men, especially in noir films from the 40s-70s, however she was a woman with a plan. Even if she was cut down by the end of the film, not very nice to her sisters and far too obsessed with the male in her life, the femme fatale presented the possibility of a women having agency and her own strategies, and it did not hurt that she looked good doing it.

The Hollywood film series also includes issues about domestic violence. For example, "Get It?" (1992) is a full-sized double bed with sheets and pillowcases silk-screened with the image of Gena Rowlands, from the film “Gloria” pointing a gun directly at the viewer. By representing this female shooter on domestic sheets and pillowcases, a threat is implied to anyone who would abuse this bed while removing the woman from the realm of victimization.

THE BOOK: The Art of Mary Beth Edelson: I dedicated myself for four years to producing The Art of Mary Beth Edelson (2002), an ambitious 200-page, full-color book. It surveys 30 years of my work, examines major issues in the feminist art movement and includes conversations with other artists. 23 The personal gifts of such an undertaking are not only the end product of the book, but the time spent to step back and reflect which then provides a clearer focus for new projects. One focus to emerge was the current lack of community, and physical eye-to-eye contact between friends, as well as the shrinking public space, especially in my city, New York. Future plans include living to be 93 in good health, producing more interactive projects, continuing with my traveling exhibition tour in Europe, and spending some time in Egypt producing four “Story Gathering Boxes” carved from Egyptian translucent alabaster. I’ll continue with activism, as that’s who I am.

Today I view myself as an active participant in international groups of artists who travel and carry the spirit of that nomadic community with them. The dialogues that circulate from this community are often expanded on the internet through organic networks and actualized around the globe in individual or collaboration projects. Interdisciplinary and fluid by nature these public discussions, symposium, group projects as well as casual conversations with friends articulate and give shape to a vision that has no name, but which is utopian and cross-cultural to the core.

Constructing Public Social Space: This art project responds in part to the disappearance of allocated indoor and outdoor public space in many parts of the globe, and our individual communities. For example, it has been difficult for current political groups to find space to meet; even the tax-free churches won’t offer available space in Downtown Manhattan. This project produces temporary social spaces and uses architecture, urban planning as well as artist’s installation, as points of reference for the structures. The designed fabrication is planned keeping in mind that each project accommodates a central focus such as political action, spontaneous social interaction, public forum, and states of mind--including serenity. When the project is intended to be collaborative or participatory particular activities are scheduled or space is made available for selected proposals, that are consistent with the theme at hand.

The construction materials depend on the site selected--whether it is indoors or outdoors--as well as available materials. Making use of all manners of recyclable materials, when possible, encourages an open-ended organic assemblage especially suitable to a collaborative environment because everyone can bring something to add to the mix. All of the following terms have something to offer in speaking about spaces constructed for these projects: forum, refuge, club house, squat, haunt, safe house, base, cloister, nest, lean-to, encampment, shelter, perch, hub, enclosure, nook and habitat (habitat in the sense of feeling at home, but not your permanent residence).

Also considered are short term projects like social potluck dinners in which the participants are both host and guest at fair weather picnics or indoors where reciprocal exchanges include food and result in discussion groups, support for activist projects, singing and drumming circles, planning flash mobs, performance and mobile installations. Whether short or long term these sites are intervention for re-claiming public space by all creative means possible.

Vienna Project: “Interactive Performative Habitat”, 1979-2003: International Collaborative Feminist Group (IFCG)

Nil Yalter, Paris Miriam Sharon, Tel Aviv Mary Beth Edelson, New York City Suzanne Lacy, Los Angles Ulrike Rosenback, Köln

A group of five artists from four different countries proposed an installation and performance for the Centre Georges Pompidou, Beauborg, Paris, during the summer of 1979. The group viewed themselves as a metaphor for the nomadic experience given that feminist artists travel within the community of feminist artists from one city or country to another a “tribal” feminist network.

What we had in mind is a discreet area set aside for this project, but exposed to the public view, in which museum-goers might observe the processes that evolve from our physical and social presence in the Beauborg. Each artist designs and installs her habitat, while living continuously in the museum with the other artists and presenting daily performances that are either pre-planned or spontaneous group collaborations.

Social interactions are of interest to us, and will be considered as our primary art form. The individual habitats installed by each artist facilitate differing forms of communication through the architectural design, and test the receptivity or non-receptivity of each habitat to this social experiment. The traces left behind of our movements and communications with each other are diaristic residue of our temporary community along with our photographic and video documentation. However, our behavior, social patterns and interactions are the primary art form. The proposal was not accepted.

Twenty-five years later in 2003-04 Austrian feminist artists, Carola Dertnig and Stefanie Seibold, curate an exhibition at the Mumok Museum of Modern Art ,Vienna that exhibits the correspondence, photographs and proposal from the project. Perhaps one day we will have the opportunity to give new meaning to long live the revolution by actually producing “Interactive Performative Habitat”, and its temporary community and dwellings in some satisfying form.

Other Public Site Projects by international artists also re-claim public space. For example, Lara Almarcegui, from the Netherlands, builds structures in community gardens that are both functional, for the gardeners, and a meeting place for conversation. Lyn Lowenstein, London, constructs tent-like structures from re-cycled materials including protest posters and banners. Sabine Hornig, Berlin, produces thick walled concrete structures with a strong presence that you can not quite enter to inhabit, but inspire interjection. Paula Hayes, NYC, creates site-specific walk-in environments with only living plants for both outdoor and indoor sites.

The Project of Forgiving: The inspiration for “Forgiving” comes from contemplating global conflicts, in particular those that are like civil wars: Palestine/Israel; Serbs/Croats; India/Pakistan; Blacks/Whites in South Africa, Protestant/Catholic in Northern Ireland. Forgiving may be the most constructive course to embark on to arrive at reconciliation. What appeals to me about forgiving, as a focal point, is that it can take place in a global and community arena as well as between individuals.

Recently I installed a structure in Zurich at the Shedhalle space, which I designated for contemplating forgiveness, within an exhibition whose central theme was “Making Peace.” The structure consisted of a wood frame with a muslin fabric stretched tightly over the frame like a skin and with thin fluorescent tubing running around the lower perimeter. On the exterior the light appeared to levitate the structure, and in the interior provided a soft glow through the fabric. Intimacy was created inside the space, in part, by contrasting a large open space with a smaller honker-down installation that implies being to the side of-or behind the scene. The interior is made comfortable and welcoming with rock-shaped pillows to sit on. An ‘altar’ of real rocks encourages writing notes of or about forgiveness. Pen and paper are provided for writing the note, which is then rolled up and inserted between the rocks. I also presented the “Scream Out” performance in Zurich, described later under WAC, during the opening.

Another interpretation of “Forgiving,” (a habitat installation for writing notes on forgiveness), was erected in Lofoten in 2004 at the International Art Festival, Norway, located just inside the Arctic Circle, during the late spring and summer when the sun never sets. The play of constant light is emphasized in “Forgiving,” to correspond with the midnight sun of the arctic atmosphere.

In collaboration with the art academy students in Lofoten, we designed an outdoor space tailored to serve precise purposes at selected sites, for example, establishing a meeting place within the art festival, articulating the bus and train station locations, and a performance site. The goal was to conceptualize the space to facilitate social interactions, and claim public space while making use of all manner of recyclable materials to build the structures.


Like Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens,” the Goddess has been napping for a while, or in exile, or just inconstant and she awakes to a radically transformed world where goddesses are everywhere, but she hardly recognizes herself in 2004. In this new psychological landscape she is a teenager again taking on the demons of the underworld in TV land’s “Buffie the Vampire Slayer.” Fully matured she is TV’s “Xena” riding her horse through the forest, and a staple in every mythological, sci-fi, fantasy film dressed in phantasmagoric outfits that outshine the hapless mortals. Shelves of books full of scholarly research include recent archeological evidence, the meaning of women’s altars, the Goddess and Her beasts, the psychoanalytic meaning of Goddess, and a full range of investigations on Her every aspect, ( see bibliography at the end of essay) , Also drug store books like: How to Be a Goddess by Valerie Khoo advise listening to your inner goddess with inspirational messages from Artemis, Athena, Demeter, etc, depicted as young blondes. Farther afield, Bollywood films with contemporary Indian goddesses are popular manifestations in Southeastern Asia, and Hong Kong films’ whirling females of supernatural power and strength are always ready for the action. So there it is, she has awakened into being a really cool international pop culture icon, an undeniable symbol of accepted female power.

Meanwhile, in the everyday world, following the Goddess exhibition at Galerie LeLong, (NYC, 2002), a symposium on “Goddesses, Wonder Women and Riot Girls”24 was held at the School of Visual Arts with an international panel of artists, writers and a girl rapper. Their largest auditorium was packed to standing room in 2003. After the symposium an on-line zine was created to broadcast responses to a question that we posed at the symposium through a Story Gathering Box, “How do you visualize female power?” (See

In the planning stages is an international exhibition to be held in Brazil, curated by writer and entrepreneur Shelley Rice. Her intention is to reexamine essentialism and anti-essentialism. She explains, "My idea for this project grew out of the multiple perspectives provided by globalization, which have made it imperative that we take another look at the lessons inherent in work like Maya Deren’s and Ana Mendieta’s. The Goddess quest, which grew out of American feminists’ need to provide “divine” role models for women in the 1970s might now provide us with an inroad to profoundly explore the many different cultural traditions impacting on our collective lives today. Whereas Edelson and [Carole]) Scheenmann were profoundly aware that their goddess was an alternative view of spirituality, a subjective bolster to women denied power in a man’s world, the contemporary scene is filled with images of powerful women: in body art by the ex-super model Veruschka and the French artists Orlan and Annette Messager; in ritual icons by the African-American Renée Cox, the Australian aborigine Tracy Moffat, the Japanese Mariko Mori, the Iranian Shirin Neshat and the Brazilian Janaina Tschape: animated cartoons from Japan and Hollywood like Powerpuff Girls, have influenced youth cultures all over the world. In other words, the landscape has radically changed since the 1970s. The Goddess “rules” these days, as kids would say: and this project will attempt to examine, in a large and global way, her hegemony, influences and impact." The exhibition will attempt to visualize the ideas discussed with research beginning in Brazil, and later branching out in New York City. Plans are underway to present the exhibition in both places.

Contemporary Feminist Groups

WAC (Women’s Action Coalition, NYC) is committed to direct action on issues affecting the rights of women. Formed in 1991 and recently reactivated, WAC is known as a lively, smart, irreverent and risk-taking group of activists. In the early 1990s it wasn’t uncommon to have 500 people attending meetings. WAC went into hiatus until 2003, but then as a result of the war, economy and forthcoming presidential election it was reactivated. Two recent actions included handing out copies of US tax forms on April 15th at the main post office in NYC filled out with the actual amount of money that goes to the military vs. the amount that goes for domestic programs. Another WAC action (conceived by Karen Finley in collaboration with WAC and presented in NYC and Zurich, 2003), demonstrates the frustrations Americans are feeling because their voices are not being heard. “Scream Out” consists of reading forty statements by 40 different women about topics such as the USA PATRIOT Act, manipulation of direct democracy and public interest, the Iraqi war, etc. Forty different women individually scream out after each reading, and then a collective scream from performers and audience ends the action. (See for the script of the performance, as well as visuals and sound presentation from other actions.)

Unfortunately too many young women take feminism for granted, some create hyper feminized art work, playing it both ways by claiming to be ironic, while pleasing the powers that be. The young lesbian women seem to me to be the most directed. Some of the young women artists in WAC, are still students, and the young women just starting their careers must work so hard to earn a living these days that they have little time. However as we get closer to the presidential election women of all ages jump in and find the time to work on the campaign-- it is too important not to-- our democracy as we have know it is at stake including those hard earned women’s rights that get taken for granted.

Campaign Headquarters against Domestic Violence, (PostWAC, 1994) I began focusing on Domestic Violence, and with the help of the non-profit organization, Creative Time, and artist, Janet Henry we produced a three-month long storefront project. Our most far-reaching contribution was the introduction of self-defense workshops, tailored for women in shelters. This precedent setting experimental self-defense project for abused women was then picked up and repeated by domestic violence agencies around the country. We also provided an information table on Broadway, a street with heavy pedestrian traffic ,that gave assistance to battered women seeking shelters as well as information to batterers about where to receive help.

Guerrilla Girls were known originally for their provocative posters plastered on the streets of Soho in NYC attacking sexism in the art world. They then branched out to publications, exhibitions and touring. The Guerrilla Girls are recognizable by their trademark--a guerrilla mask that they wear to conceal their identities.

In 1985, a band of feminist artists founded the Guerrilla Girls in the wake of Kynaston McShine's remark that any artist who wasn't in his International Survey show at the Museum of Modern Art should ‘rethink HIS career.’ Dubbing ourselves "The Conscience of the Artworld," we began making posters that bluntly stated the facts of discrimination, and used humor to convey information, provoke discussion and to show that feminists can be funny… In the ensuing 15 years, we produced over 80 posters, billboards, postcards, books, and magazine projects, examining discrimination in the art world and our culture at large. We travel the world over, daring to speak out against discrimination and inequity wherever it rears its ugly head…In 1995 we published our first book,” Confessions of the Guerrilla Girls”, and our second book,” The Guerrilla Girl’s Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art” was published in 1998. Toward the end of the 20th century, the Guerrilla Girls sought out new frontiers in their fight for truth, justice and the feminist way, forming three wings to accommodate their broadening interests. Guerrilla Girls web site,, 7/4/03).

Political grass roots groups are well structured with the help of the internet to be mobilize for: unfettered direct democracy, pro-environmental initiatives, re-claiming and designing urban public space, reproductive choice, freedom to exercise our constitutional right to free speech and free assembly, political dissent. And against the double–speak of the Bush administration’s blatant self-interest, their unilateralism, their illegal arrests, multiple lies including about weapons of mass destruction in Iraqi, cost of the war and conditions in Afghanistan. Preemptive war with an underdeveloped plan for handling post-war, wide spread wire tapping, erosion of civil liberties, and rising national debt to feed the war while starving domestic programs, rising unemployment, inaction on corporate scandals and corporate maneuvers of public interest, add to a long list of outrageous blatant manipulations. Grass roots groups are prepared for the 2004 national presidential election. Web sites include: The Not In Our Name (A.N.S.W.E.R.) Operation Homeland Resistance

Third Coming in the 21st Century: Success Has a 1,000 Mothers

Let me suggest that the First Coming for the international 70s were the goddess girls, the test pilots who took the heat and presented the hypothetical framework, practice and the activism that began that cultural movement. The Second Coming in the 80s, were the marketers trafficking in the Goddess. I don’t think I can give the Third Coming a name as it is too pivotal a moment to call, but here is how I would like it to play out.

The First Coming test pilots are promoted to historical status and aggressively archived by universities, libraries and colleges across the country that compete for our personal archives. This process has already begun at New York University, Rutgers University and several Midwest college. WAC archives from 1993 are at the New York Public Library on 42nd St. and A.I.R. archives are in that gallery in NYC. Heresies Magazine existed from 1977 until 1996, an amazing feat for an all-volunteer collective publishing project. The Goddess Issue of Heresies immediately sold out, was re-issued, and is now a collector’s item fetching high prices on the internet, when you can find it at all. Heresies collective needs an archive.

Recently a committee wrote a proposal for a major survey exhibition of feminist art that has been submitted to a prominent museum in NYC, and signed by 25 actively working feminist artists. 25. The proposal, presents a radical departure from business as usual museum exhibitions by taking a cue from the brilliantly curated Picasso/ Matisse exhibition in 2002 during which similar works by these two giants were placed in proximity to each other, and in the chronological time frame that they were created. Their mutual dependence was highlighted as well as the on-going dialogue that takes place in their work, at the same time it also becomes clear to the viewer that acknowledging this exchange takes nothing away from either artists. In addition to adopting this process for presenting feminist art works, it was also proposed that during the run of the exhibition, current feminist projects would unfold, not like it was in 1973, but with fresh prototypes for configuring publications, video productions, community, performance, and other enterprises. Will the museum accept it?

Mary Beth Edelson © Success Has a 1,000 Mothers,2003.


Selected Early Goddess/ Feminist Spirituality/ Body Performance/ Related Publications Daly, Mary, Gyn/Ecology, Beacon Press, 1978 Davis, Elizabeth Gould, The First Sex, Penguin, 1971 De Beauvior, Simone, The Second Sex, Knopf, 1953 Eisler, Riane, the Chalice and The Blade, Harper and Row, 1987 Gimbutas, Marija, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, University of California Press, 1982 Graves, Robert, The White Goddess, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1948 The Great Godess, Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics, Heresies Collective, 1982 Griffen, Susan, Woman and Nature, Harper and Row, 1978 Halifax, Joan, Shamanic Voices, E.P. Dutten, 1979 Kimball, Gayle, Women’s Culture, Scarecrow Press, 1981 Lippard, Lucy R., Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory, Pantheon Books, 1983 Neumann, Erich, The Great Mother, Princeton University Press, 1955 Pagels, Elaine, Adam, Eve, and The Serpent, Random House, 1988 Pagels, Elaine, The Gnostic Gospels, Random House, 1979 Roth, Moira, The Amaxing Decade, Astro Artz, 1983 Spretnak, Charlene, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, Anchor Press, 1982 Stone, Merlin, When God Was A Woman, Dial Press, 1976 Whitmont, Edward C., Return of the Goddess, Crossroad, 1982

Selection of Books and Essays by ‘70s Goddess Group in NYC Dudley, Rosemary She Who Bleeds, Yet Does Not Die, Heresies magazine Goddess Issue, 1977. Edelson, Mary Beth, Seven Cycles: Public Rituals,1980, The Art of Mary Beth Edelson, 2002 Lobell, Mimi Temples of the Great Goddess, Heresies, Goddess Issue, 1977 Johnson, Buffie, Lady of the Beasts: Ancient Images of Goddess, Her Sacred Animals, Harper Row, 1988. Stone, Merlin, When God Was A Woman, Dial Press, 1976 Turner, Kay, publisher of the periodical Lady Unique Inclinations of the Night, 1976-1980; Beautiful Necessity: The Art and Meaning of Women’s Altars, Thames and Hudson, 1999

Feminist Theoretical Books All About Love: New Visions, hooks, bell, William Morrow and Company, Inc., 2000 Bodies That Matter, Butler, Judith, Routledge, 1993 The Castration of Oedipus: Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Will to Power, Smith, J.C. and Ferstman, Carla New York University Press, NY, 1996. Descent to the Goddess, Perera, Sylvia Brinton, Inner City Books, 1981 Essentially Speaking, Fuss, Diana, Routledge, 1989 Evil Sisters; The Threat of Female Sexuality, the Cult of Manhood, Dijkstra, Bram, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1996. The Explicit Body in Performance, Schneider, Rebecca, Routledge, 1997 The Female Body in Western Culture: Contemporary Perspectives, Suleiman,Susan, Harvard Univ. Press 1986. The Female Gaze, Lorraine Gamman and Margaret Marshment, The Real Comet Press, 1989 Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory & Psychoanalysis, Doane, Mary Ann, Routledge, 1991. Inessential Woman, Spelman, Elizabeth V., Beacon Press, 1988 Looking For the Other: Feminism, Film and the Imperial Gaze, Kaplan, E. Ann, Routledge, NY, 1997. Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture, Ortner, Sherry, B., Beacon Press, 1996. The Masque of Femininity: The Presentation of Woman In Everyday Life, Tseelon, Efrat, Sage Publications, 1995. Subversive Intent Gender: Politics and the Avant-Garde, Suleiman Susan, Harvard university Press, 1990. Talking Difference: On Gender and Language, Crawford, Mary, Sage Publications, 1995. The Threshold of the Visible World, Silverman, Kaja, Routledge, 1996. Women in Film Noir, Kaplan, E. Ann, British Film Institute, 1998. Woman & Film: Both Sides of the Camera, Kaplan, E. Ann, Routledge, 1983 Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, Mary Pipher, Ballantine Books, New York, 1994 Yearning, hooks, bell, South End Press, 1990


1. Griselda Steiner, Book Profile: The Art of Mary Beth Edelson, Organica/Winter, 2003.
2. J.C. Smith and Carla J. Ferstman, The Castration of Oedipus: Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Will to Power, p. 27, New York University Press, 1996.
3. Heresies Magazine Working Collective members for the Great Goddess Issue were as follows: Mary Albanese, Martha Alsup, Tracy Boyd, Janet Culbertson, Rosemary, Dudley, Mary Beth Edelson, Gail Feinstein, Deborah Freedman, Gina Foglia, Donna Henes, Anne Healy, Buffie Johnson, Diane Levin, Grace Shinell, Merlin Stone, Carolee Thea, Mierle Laderman Ukeles.
4. Carey Lovelace, Art and Politics: Feminism at 40, Art in America, May 2003. P. 73
5. Mary Beth Edelson, “Male Grazing: Open Letter to Thomas McEvilley,” 1989. Hilary Robinson ed., Feminism-Art-Theory,Blackwell Pub. 2001.
6. Hilary Robinson, “Reframing Women” (1995), ed. Hilary Robinson, Feminism-Art-Theory, p. 535-536, Blackwell Publishers, 2001
7.Ibid. .443-444
8. Elizabeth V.Spellman Inessential Women: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought, p.9, Beacon Press, Boston, 1988
9. Whitney Chadwick, “Negotiating the Feminist Divide,” 1989, ed. Hilary Robinson, Feminism- Art-Theory, Blackwell Pub. p. 526, 2001
10. Diana Fuss, “Essentially Speaking”, Routledge, p. 118, 1989
11. Hilary Robinson, “Reframing Women” (1995), ed. Hilary Robinson, Feminism- Art-Theory, p. 536, Blackwell Publishers, 2001
12. Belinda Edmondson, “Black Aesthetics, Feminist Aesthetics, and the Problems of Oppositional Discourse,” 1992, ed. Hilary Robinson, Feminism- Art-Theory, Blackwell, 2001
13. Hilary Robinson, “Theorizing Representation,” ed. Hilary Robinson, Feminism- Art-Theory, Blackwell Publishers, 2001p. 443
14. Belinda Edmondson, “Black Aesthetics, Feminist Aesthetics, and the Problems of Oppositional Discourse,” 1992, ed. Hilary Robinson, Feminism- Art-Theory, Blackwell Pub. p. 337, 2001
15. Mary Beth Edelson, The Art of Mary Beth Edelson, Seven Cycles pub. Peter Wollen p.73
16. J.C. Smith and Carla J. Ferstman, The Castration of Oedipus: Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Will to Power, New York University Press, p 40, 1996
17. Mary Ann Doane “Femme Fatales”, Sarah Kofman quote, Routledge, p.66, 1991
18. Mary Beth Edelson, The Art of Mary Beth Edelson, Seven Cycles pub. pp. 4-5, 2002
19. Ibid.
20. Elizabeth V. Spellman, Inessential Women: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought.
21. Mary Beth Edelson, The Art of Mary Beth Edelson, Seven Cycles pub. P. 82 2002 Beacon Press. p159
22.E. Ann Kaplan in a conversation with Edelson “ the femmes fatale figure, “… is ripe for reinterpretation” Also see: Mary Beth Edelson, The Art of Mary Beth Edelson, “Trickster and Gunslinger ”, pp. 120-123, Seven Cycles pub. 2001
23. See for more on the book The Art of Mary Beth Edelson as well as information on ordering, the book. Funders for the book include: Andy Warhol Foundation, Pollack-Krasner Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts,conversations are with artists: Nancy Spero, Miriam Schapiro, Yvette Brachman, Janet Henry and Carolee Schneemann.
24. Panelist Kathleen Hanna, Caroleee Scheemann, Janaina Tschapre, Deb Willis, Edelson, Moderator Shelley Rice.
25. Committee members are Debra Wacks, Kathleen Wentrack and Edelson