Mary Beth Edelson
The depression in full swing. Hitler comes to power. Born in East Chicago, Indiana, a booming multiracial steel mill town of immigrants, Edelson was the first of three children to Mary Lou Young Johnson, salt of the earth from the Indiana farmlands, and Dr. Albert Melvin Johnson, son of Swedish immigrants. Both parents made significant contributions to the life of their community.
The post World War II world, the Iron Curtain, Marshall Plan. Dead Sea Scrolls discovered. Edelson, age 13, organized a Peace Cell group that sponsored a Rumanian D.P. (Displaced Person) family (who were forced to labor in a German work camp during the war) emigrate to the US. This was inspired by the teachings of a Rabbi that related his experiences in a German concentration camp, during a workshop at a Methodist Church camp that she attended. He also articulated issues that instigated Edelson’s lifelong involvement with race relations (later called the Civil Rights movement). That same year she enrolls in Saturday classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. Mother sets up a studio for her in the former coal cellar, lit by father’s old dental lights.
Gandhi murdered. Israel declares independence. Germany divided, Berlin airlift ’48. Start of the arms race ’49. Korean War ’50. During Edelson’s high school years she designs and paints the stage sets for school productions and stars in one (Stage Door). She also illustrates the high school yearbook, dates the best looking boy in high school from a crime family, and racially integrates the Methodist youth groups in the northeast region of Indiana. Continues Saturday classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, and works in her studio. Graduated from Washington High School ’51.
1951-1955 Churchill returns to office ’51. Apartheid increases. Kinsey report released. U.S. steel strike ends. Rock ‘n Roll popularized ‘52. Rosenbergs put to death ’53. On the Waterfront released. Matisse dies. McCarthyism looms as televised hearings begin ’54. NATO consolidated ’55. Edelson registers at DePauw University, majors in art, with speech and philosophy minors (51-55). Active in pacifist group, set designing for stage productions, travels and performs with modern dance troupe, is beauty queen, and agitator. A by-product of her senior-year exhibition was a campus wide censorship controversy resulting from the removal of her paintings by certain university faculty who considered her exhibition “degrading and an affront to ministers and small children”
Rosa Parks refuses to move to the back of the bus ’55. Space race begins. Beat Generation in full swing. Little Rock Arkansas erupts. First Civil Rights laws passed since the Civil War ’57. Upon graduating Edelson moves to Panama City, Florida with airforce SAC husband. After their short marriage she sows some wild oats. Teaches retarded children, and then high school, where she directs Watch on the Rhine, Joan of Arc and Gaslight before being asked to resign by the principal because of parent’s speculation that she is a NAACP operative.
Moroccan women gain right to choose own husband. John Birch Society founded. Cuban revolution ’58. Swiss referendum decides against giving women the vote. Brussels Worlds Fair. Nixon debates Khrushchev in kitchen. Guggenheim Museum opens amid artists’ controversy over the domination of the architecture over the artworks ’59. Edelson moves to New York City, lives in Greenwich Village, and declares that this is her soul city ’58. Receives an MA from New York University, where they exact abstract expressionist style painting, or else. Spends a summer traveling in Europe with friends, and delights in the easy flow of events and communications encountered. Becomes an assistant professor of art at Montclair State College, but is frustrated by the lack of opportunities for women artists ’59.
Freedom marches and lunch counter sit-ins begin ’60. UN Assembly condemns apartheid. Nelson Mandela arrested. Dalai Lama flees to India. Berlin wall constructed. Bay of Pigs ’61. Martin Luther King delivers “I have a dream…” to 200,000 in Washington D C. Kennedy assassinated ’63. Civil Rights act passed. PLO founded. The pill approved by FDA. Beatles tour US ’64. Tet offensive in Vietnam ’65. Anti-war demonstrations ’65. Colorado legalizes abortion ’67. Duchamp dies’68. King and Robert Kennedy assassinated ’68. Nixon wins ’68. Edelson marries for the second time to a lawyer, and moves from NYC to Indianapolis ’59 and has her first child, Martha Lynn ’62. Applies to teach at all college level schools in the area, but none are hiring (women). Gets a job teaching children at Park School. Active in the Civil Rights movement in Indianapolis: leafleting at night, sit-ins, pickets and protest marches. Raises money for two people to go to Selma, Alabama. Can’t go herself because pregnant with second child, Nick born in ’66, with third husband (married ’64,) who is a CEO, politically active, and has run for congress. Father dies in ’65. Works on the Eugene McCarthy campaign ’68. Exhibits paintings and drawings at the 1444 Gallery, Pace Gallery, Swope Gallery, Herron Art Museum, and the Talbot Gallery in Indiana. She is co- founder of the Talbot Gallery ’65, where she sells Robert Indiana Love painting to Indianapolis Museum. The painting becomes the museum’s logo. Still frustrated by blatant sexism, she discovers that when she has a body of work framed and ready to hang she can sometimes replace male artists who are not ready for their scheduled exhibitions. Makes her first feminist speech at the Herron Art Museum’68, Misses NYC.
Red Stocking Manifesto. Miss America pageant protested. My Lai slaughter of 347 villagers. Soviet tanks roll into Prague ’68. Ralph Nader’s Raiders form to ferret out suspect corporate practices. Man on the Moon. Woodstock. W.A.R. (Women Artists’ in Revolt) formed ’69. Published: Sisterhood is Powerful, Robin Morgan, Sexual Politics, Kate Millet, The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer. 50,000 women march down 5th Avenue to celebrate 50th anniversary of suffrage. Ohio National Guard opens fire on students at Kent State, killing four ’70. Linda Nochlin’s Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? published in Art News. WEB (West-East Bag) network of feminist artists is formed. Greenpeace founded. China joins UN. Attica prison riot. Bangladesh declares independence ’71. The first Conference for Women in the Visual Arts (CWVA) held at Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC ’72. Ms. Magazine publishes its Preview Issue with editor Gloria Steinem. COYOTE formed. Title IX passed. Terrorist and Israeli Olympic team killed in Munick. Superpower cooperation in space begins. J. Edgar Hoover dies. Watergate begins ’72. US war in Vietnam officially over. Abortion legalized by Supreme Court (Roe vs. Wade). LA Women’s Building opens. AIR Gallery founded NYC. First National Lesbian Feminist Conference, LA. Picasso dies. Native American AIM militants siege at Wounded Knee reservation. Allende killed in Chile. Yom Kippur war. OPEC oil embargo ’73. The Lily Tomlin show ’73. Nixon resigns. Successful test of atomic bomb by India. 32 die in terrorist bomb in Dublin. Turkey invades Cypress. Nuclear plant employee Karen Silkwood dies mysteriously. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, is released. Abortion legalized in France ’74. Edelson moves to Washington, DC ’68. Teaches at the Corcoran School of Art, and exhibits regularly at the Henri Gallery from ‘68 to ‘78. Participates in a five-year Jungian seminar researching goddesses, myth, the shamanic and the collective unconscious, and then devises ways to access this material for contemporary political and creative use. Part of a (sometimes) collaborative group of artists who hang out together (Cynthia Bickely-Greene, Don Corrigan, Tom Green and Robert Stackhouse). Invites Stackhouse to live with her (he stays 27 years). Organizes the first National Conference for Women in the Visual Arts (CWVA), held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art ’72. Steering co. includes Josephine Withers, Cynthia Bickely-Greene, Susan Sollins, Barbara Frank, Yvonne Wulf, and Enid Sanford. Panelist included: Lucy R. Lippard, Marcia Tucker, Miriam Schapiro, Linda Nocklin, Alice Neel (see page 42) and on and on. The follow-up six-week seminar conceived and organized by Edelson, and sponsored by the Smithsonian included participants: Yoko Ono, Faith Ringgold, Paula Cooper, Alma Thomas, and Lawrence Alloway. Edelson’s daughter is legally kidnapped from her. Their case study is included in Phillis Chesler’s Mother’s on Trial. She buries herself in the production of the exhibition 22 Others (see page 106) shown at Henri Gallery in early ’73, which generates her celebrated poster Some Living American Women Artists the Story Gathering Boxes and other breakthrough pieces as she officially abandons painting for conceptual art making. Other exhibits: Corcoran Gallery of Art, Contemporary Work, National Collection of Fine Art curated by Adelyn Breeskin ‘72, Contemporary Reflections, Aldrich Museum ‘74, DC Artists, AIR, NYC ‘73, Artists Making Art, Baltimore Museum ’72. Painting and Sculpture Today, Indianapolis Museum of Art ’74, and Women’s Art/ American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art at the Civic Center ’74, and major solo exhibitions, Watch the Serpent ’71, and Women Rising, ‘75, both at Henri Gallery. Edelson writes her manifesto of the 70’s, Speaking for Myself, and delivers it in a lecture at the Corcoran in ’71, later published in Womansphere ’73, Lady Unique Inclinations of the Night ’75 and translated into French for the magazine L’Humidite ‘77. Reviews: Washington Post, Arts Magazine, Art in America, Feminist Art Journal, and Off Our Backs. Edelson continues the photographic ritual performances begun in 1970. When Edelson’s neighbor sold their identical house for double the price she paid for the house, she sold it and bought a loft in SoHo.
Women’s Building, LA, relocates incorporating Woman Space and Feminist Studies Workshop ’75. Mao dies. 200th anniversary of American Declaration of Independence. International tribunal on crimes against women held in Brussels, Women earn 57c to every $1 earned by men, reports the U.S. Department of Labor. Women in Iceland hold day-long strikes to demonstrate their importance to the economy, virtually shutting down the country, Lucy R. Lippard writes From the Center, 2,000 attend first national gathering of women’s spirituality in Boston, Merlin Stone writes When God was a Woman, Pol Pot becomes Cambodian leader ’76, UN Decade of Women’s Equality, Development and Peace ‘76-’85. Back in NYC, at last, Edelson and Stackhouse renovate the loft space she has purchased in the historical Castiron Court Corp building in Soho, an artist building co-opted by Fluxus artist George Maciunas. Immediately invited to join AIR Gallery, the first feminist cooperative art gallery. Presents the exhibition, Giving Myself a Five Year Retrospective, three months later. Attends the first national conference on women’s spirituality, a three day gathering organized by a Boston collective. During the opening session held at the Unitarian Church, hundreds of women spontaneously dance bare breasted on the altar forming a snake line up and down the aisles. Architect, Mimi Lobell commented to Edelson “Just what the church fathers always feared would happen.” Exhibitions: Report from Soho, Grey Art Gallery, NYC ‘75, Style and Process* Fine Arts Building, NYC, ’76. Jack Burnham writes a feature article on Edelson’s work in Arts Magazine. Also reviewed in Artforum, Art News, and Art in America. 15 private ritual performances produced in 1975 include: Goddess Head, Calling Whale, Sticking My Tongue Out at the Patriarchy, Bride of the Fire, Sheela’s High, Dematerializing, and the Trance-Formation Series.
Beirut in shambles. Steve Biko dead in South African prison. First Women’s National Conference: From Seneca Falls to Houston. Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf produced on Broadway. Anita Bryant gets pie in face. Feminist journals on art and politics, Chrysalis on the West Coast (‘77-’80) and Heresies on the East Coast (‘77-97) begin circulating, (see pages 38-41). A founding member of Heresies Collective, Edelson also collaborated on the centerfold for the first issue of Chrysalis, magazine with Arlene Raven. In March of 1977, at the Mandeville Gallery, UCSD in LaJolla, California, presented the exhibition Your 5,000 Years are Up! curated by Raven in conjunction with Edelson’s first scripted public ritual performance, Mourning Our Lost Herstory. Performers in Mourning were from the LA Women’s Building. The same year on Halloween Edelson presents Proposals for: Memorials to the 9,000,000 Women Burned as Witches in the Christian Era at AIR Gallery with performers from the Goddess issue of Heresies magazine. Travels to Europe for further research on witch burnings and to perform in Neolithic sites in Yugoslavia, resulting in the photographic performance piece, Grapceva Neolithic Cave Series: See for Yourself, centerpiece of the Memorial exhibition. She began her covered body performances with a turn away from the exposed nudes that called attention to the physicality of the body to presenting the body as a carrier of metaphysical information. The first series of covered works included: Fire Flights in Deep Space, Turning into Stone, The Burned One Prays for Light Feet, and the partially covered body piece, Shamanic Trance, performed in Europe and California. Exhibitions include: Women Artists: Consciousness and Content, Brooklyn Museum, In Honor of Oyvind Fahlstrom, An Exposition of His Friends, Galerie Buchholz, Munchen, and Nothing but Nudes, Whitney Museum of Art Downtown. Edelson begins lecturing at various museums and universities throughout North America.
Abortion Clinics harassed and vandalized. National Lesbian Feminist Organization formed in LA. Police in two states agree to arrest husbands who beat their wives, even if wife brings no charges. National Coalition against Domestic Violence is formed. Mass suicide in Jonestown by cult. World’s first test tube baby is born. As artist-in-residence at University of Iowa, installs exhibition and performs public rituals: Firelights in Deep Space/The Last Round, an indoor performance within her installation at the Coroboree, and Cornstalk Spiral, an outdoor performance and earthwork. Performers were students from the University of Iowa, including Ana Mendieta. Exhibits at LAICI, Ginza Kaigakan, Toyko, Franklin Furnace, NYC and N.A.M.E., Chicago. In Maine that summer produces private rituals: The Sacred Manic Goddess Makes Tracks, Raising Firebird Energy, Breaking Ground, Crossing Over, and Speaking Stone, and on Montauck, LI, Cliff Hanger and Walking into the Earth. On the frontline of the Goddess Issue of Heresies magazine for two years and contributes an article. Photographs published in Insights: Self-Portraits, Joyce Tennyson Cohen, and Whitney catalogue, Art About Art.
Three Mile Island anti-nuclear demonstration. The West discovers Pol Pot killing fields. Shah of Iran deposed. Ayatollah Khomeni takes power. China and US establish full diplomatic relations. Egypt and Israel sign peace treaty. Feminist Art Institute formed in NYC. Margaret Thatcher becomes first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain. Mother Theresa awarded Nobel Peace Prize. US weather begins naming storms for men alternating with women’s names. Supreme Court rules employers and unions can establish affirmative action programs, including quotas. The Nature of Balancing exhibition and performance presented at AIR Gallery NYC includes Toothless, ’78, a life-size sculpture that refers to the Irish Sheela-na-gig, and features her open vagina as vagina dentata denied. Toothless was both a prop for the performance and a component of the exhibition. Men were especially invited to sit inside her and contemplate the irrationality of fear-fantasies about castrating women (see photo in border). Edelson honors Louise Bourgeois in her loft with a costume party, titled “Come as your favorite artist”. Ana Mendieta co-hosted this event which was her introduction to many NYC women artists (see page photo page 43). Private rituals include: Up from the Earth, and Frozen Moment, Iceland, Spirit of Rock, Early Morning Traveler, and The Nature of Balancing, Maine. Exhibitions: Bronx Museum, Montclair Art Museum, Visual and Sculptural Bookworks, Seibu Museum, Tokyo, Round Trip, Galleri Sudurgata, Reykjavik, Iceland, Art on Paper*, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Fine Arts Building, NYC, The Presence of Nature, Whitney Museum Downtown. International Feministiche Kunst*, Stedelijk Museum, De Appel, Amsterdam, toured European museums.
Iran takes U.S. hostages. Polish Solidarity movement begins. John Lennon murdered. Iran-Iraq war. The Reagan era begins. Backlash against feminism in full swing. Gang of Four put on trial in China. Mae West dies. The film Gloria is released ’80. Beulah Mae Donald sues the Klan after son murdered, and the 7 million she is awarded bankrupts the Klan. Sandra Day O’Connor becomes first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. China limits families to one child ’81, AIDS officially recognized. Spain legalized divorce. Assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. Cagney and Lacey debut on American TV. Gro Brundtland first woman Prime Minister of Norway. President Sadat assassinated in Egypt, IRA hunger strikes and protests in Northern Ireland. Mitterand elected in France ‘81, ERA dies in Congress. Moonies marry 2,075 couples in mass ceremony. Unemployment high in UK and US. Falklands War ’82. Reagan Star Wars fantasy ’83. Albright-Knox Gallery presents Mary Beth Edelson: Recent Work, which includes photographs, related drawings and workbooks, an installation of a large scale tent sculpture with neon lights, as well as the public performance, Open Workshop, curated by Susan Krane. The exhibition is the first museum exhibition for both Edelson and Krane. Other exhibitions: Contemporary Performance, New Orleans Art Center, curated by Mary Jane Jacobs, Museo De Arte Contemporane, San Paulo ’80,The American Landscape: Recent Developments*, Whitney Museum of Art, Fairfield County, The Archaeology of Trickster Rabbit (in re-cycled time), AIR Gallery, Max Hutchinson Gallery, The Immodest Trickster, NYC, Schemes: Installation Drawings*, Elise Meyer, NYC, Three Eastcoast and Three Westcoast Artists: Feminist Art of the 80’s, Center for the Arts Muhlenberg College, curated by Linda Weintraub, catalogue essays Arlene Raven and Shelley Rice, New Dimensions in Drawing, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Lunds Konsthal, Sweden, Unfinished Plans for Utopia, Elise Meyer Gallery, NYC ’81, Visual Forces for Survival, Kenkeleba House Gallery, NYC ’82. Exhibition of Edelson’s photo based work titled, Private Rituals, travels to: N.A.M.E. Gallery, Chicago, Wright State University, OH, and Herron Museum of Art, IN ‘81-82. Terminal New York, curated by Ted Castle, A Path Without Shores, organized by Ulrike Rosenbach, Koln, Art Couples, P.S.#1 curated by Donald Kuspit, NYC, New Work: The Art of Mary Beth Edelson* Carnegie-Mellon University of Fine Art, Hewlett Gallery, catalog essays by Kuspit and King, New Painting Art Today*, Pittsburgh, curated by Donald Kuspit, Pollyanna Perverse, AIR Gallery, NYC, Spare Parts, NYC, Cultural Affairs, curated by Henry Geldzahler. NYC ’83, Edelson self-publishes her first catalogue, Seven Cycles: Public Rituals, with introduction by Lucy R. Lippard ’80. Books featured in: Art in the Seventies, Smith ’80, Women’s Cultural Renaissance of the ‘70’s, Kimball ‘81, Die Tanzende Gottin, Göttner-Abendroth, ’82, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, Spretnak ’82, Overlay: Ancient Images and Contemporary Art, Lippard, The Amazing Decade, Jacobs and Roth, The Art of Performance: A Critical Anthology, Battcock & Nickas ’83. Periodicals reviewed in: Art in America ‘80, Soho News, Heresies: Ecology Issue, Dialog, Art News, High Performance ‘81, N.Y. Times Magazine, File, Flash Art ’82, Artforum ’83.
Geraldine Ferraro nominated as Democratic party vice-presidential candidate. Madonna releases Like a Virgin. Greenham Common Women and others pave the way for anti-nuclear and environmental protests. Ethiopian famine. CIA mines Nicaraguan ports. Union Carbide factory in India, scene of the worst-ever industrial accident ’84. US imposes economic sanctions on South Africa. Rock Hudson announces he has AIDS. Reagan era backlash continues. Guerrilla Girls form and begin notorious poster campaigns ’85. Ouch, feel that backlash, and it’s back to Indiana. Exhibitions include: To Dance: Painting and Drawings* by Mary Beth Edelson with Performance in Mind. Patrick King Galleries, IN, travels to three sites,’84-85, Indiana Influence*, Fort Wayne Museum, IN, inaugural exhibition, Art Against Apartheid, NYC, Beauties and Beasts, Pratt Manhattan Center ’84. Lee Krasner dies ’84. A portfolio of limited edition woodcuts and an edition of bronzes sponsored by New Harmony Gallery, IN with ISUE, Feminist and Misogynist Together at Last, Ave B Gallery, NYC. Ana Mendieta dies. Mother dies ’85.
Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Joseph Beuys and Georgia O’Keefe die. Special prosecutor investigates Reagan’s Iran-Contra affair ‘86-’87. Gorbachev announces Perestroika. Andy Warhol dies ’87. ACT-UP protests lack of medication for AIDS which has already infected 1.4 million Americans. Iraq uses poison gas against Kurds. Olympian Florence Griffith-Joyner wins three Gold medals ’88. The bad, bad 80’s continues. The artworld is caught up in marketing itself out of existence; the upshot is that creativity is out, and drugs, power and money are in. Next stop AA. Edelson begins researching women in film, reads E. Ann Kaplan’s ground breaking book, Women in Film Noir, which hones in on films that depict women who empower themselves. Installation at Danforth Museum, Boston, titled, Fish in the Sky*, consists of a surround of murals by Edelson in a square room. ’86, Shape Shifters*, Edelson’s retrospective covering 15 year of her work, debuts at University of Tennessee, travels to Hillwood Art Museum, Kenyan College, DePauw University and Fort Wayne Museum, ’88-90. Edelson paints a site-specific large scale mural for each venue. Resistance or Submission*: travel to: Mendel Gallery, Sashatoon, Musee du Quebec, London Regional Gallery and Phillips Gallery, Banff. Paints a site-specific mural for each Canadian gallery ‘86-88. Queens Museum, wall painting. Four Artists Who Showed with Henri*: Martin Puryear, Italo Scanga, Robert Stackhouse and Edelson, Corcoran Gallery of Art, ’88. Committed to Print*, curated by Deborah Wye, national tour, MOMA, NYC,’88-89. Seven Sites: Painting on the Wall is the third catalogue published by Edelson, documenting her ‘80’s wall paintings. Edelson is included in article by Mark Levy, The Shaman is a Gifted Artist, along with Joseph Beuys, Yves Klein and Karen Finley, in High Performance ’88.
Tiananmen Square student uprising in China. Berlin Wall comes tumbling down. Poland, Hungary, Romania and Lithuania wave goodbye to Communist domination and go their own ways. NEA attack by Jesse Helms. Ted Bundy, serial murderer of women is executed. Exxon Valdez ecological disaster on Alaskan coastline. It all catches up with the mainstream artworld, while the Berlin Wall crumbles; the only thriving business is art truckers helping the galleries close down. After researching women in films for the last 5 years, she focuses on women who take the ultimate American symbol of power, the gun, into their own hands, and launches into her Shooters Series. Dream On…* a labyrinthine environmental installation on the theme of Exxon Valdez oil spill consists of wall painting, sculpture and a performance at WPA in DC. Contributes to Vanishing Presence, Walker Art Center, an exhibition, book, and symposium that historically documents the blurred photographic image. Other artists include: Duane Michals, Lucus Samaras, Dieter Appelt and Francesco Woodman. Travels to Detroit Art Museum, High Museum, Atlanta, and Johnson Museum, Cornell. Photography and Performance*, Boston Resource Center, with Cindy Sherman, Ulay and Marina Abramovic, and Arnulf Rainer. Universal Pictures /Drawings at Dolan/Maxwell, Philadelphia, and Universal Pictures/Paintings at Dolan/Maxwell, NYC. Discussant at Storefront How does the nature/culture split effect our environment? New Art Examiner publishes Edelson’s essay An Open Letter to Thomas McEvilley, her 80’s manifesto. Lecture, Metaphysical Paradigms, presented at the National Women‘s Museum of the Arts, DC.
Nelson Mandela is free and Winnie is looking good. Yeltsin elected president. Iraq invades Kuwait resulting in Desert Storm. Germany reunited. Mary Robinson becomes Ireland’s first women president. Yugoslavia falls apart, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia declare independence from USSR, as State repression of religion ends ’90. Warsaw Pact dissolved. USSR becomes the former Soviet Union. Rodney King beating by police caught on video, Anita Hill testifies to all-white-male senate panel of Clarence Thomas’s sexual harassment. Thelma and Louise released. Susan Faludi’s Backlash published ‘91. The women are stirring again in NYC egged on by blatant injustices demonstrated by the likes of Clarence Thomas, William Kennedy Smith and Mike Tyson to say nothing of the local St. John and Glen Ridge gang rape trials. A feminist panel held at Cooper Union in the fall of ’91, organized by Deb Kass, turned into a speakout that evolved into the ground swell that later became WAC (Women’s Action Coalition). Edelson’s passion for cinematic female shooters becomes her central focus with the release of the film Thelma and Louise, and continues through the 90’s. She invents a method of printing the stars on chiffon fabric that enables both a softer and grander scale than permitted by earlier silk screening. Body Language, a mural size painting produced on site during the Shape Shifters traveling exhibition is permanently installed at DePauw University in their media center. It is titled Multi-Cultural Body and includes a neon component ’90. Two versions of the mural Love Story were produced, one for Fort Wayne Museum, the another for Guilford College, the latter is a permanent installation ‘90 and’92. Exhibits in Salvage Utopia, and Shooter’s Hill, curated by Paul Bloodgood, at A/C Project Room, where she begins to participate in the community created by A/C, Reviews: Art in America, N.Y. Times, and Village Voice. The Dancing Goddess, Gottner-Aberdroth is translated into English from German; Edelson is still on the cover ’91.
War in Bosnia. Serbs begin grabbing territory. US imposes sanctions. Milosovic re-elected president of Serbia. Tyson sentenced to ten years for rape. Noriega imprisoned for 40 years for drug trafficking. Clinton elected president. Hillary most active First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt. WAC founded. Anglican church approves women priests. UN arrives in Somalia with humanitarian aid ’92. WAC became a “visible and remarkable” resistance for human rights, forms a drum core, coalitions with other organizations, and chapters in other cities (see pages 45-47). Edelson’s exhibitions include Object Choice, Hallwalls, and Shape Shifters. Amy Lipton, Between the Sheets, PPOW, Paper, curated by Kiki Smith for Joe Fawbush Gallery, Galerie Rizzo, Paris ’92. New photographic series produced in upstate New York, Springing Traps: Diversity Replacing Duality, Caught in the Act, Table Talk, and Safe Sex, Widow Jane’s Cave, Rosendale, and Critical Bifurcation Point and Staged Exit, High Falls, NYC ’92.
NAFTA agreement between US, Mexico and Canada. Medellin drug cartel leader shot by police. Janet Reno first woman US Attorney General. War Crimes tribunal to investigate former Yugoslavia. Siege at Waco. Middle East peace agreement signed between Israel and Palestine, with limitations. World Trade Center bombing in NYC. “ Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy inaugurated in military. Nobel Peace Prize for Mandela and DeKlerk ’93. Genocide in Rwanda 500,000 killed, Nelson Mandela becomes president of South Africa. OJ Simpson stands trial. Lorena Bobbit acquitted, Tailgate scandal. Channel tunnel between Britain and France completed. Anti-abortion extremist kills doctor. Tobacco CEO’s swear to Congress no personal knowledge of cigarette risks. Chechnya conflict ’94. WAC Actions and Zaps: Edelson heads the Action Planning committee; Pace Gallery action. Nicole Brown Simpson Vigil, and active member of CODAI, photo, and coordinating committees, mentors Pink Slips action as well. and a participates in 15 other actions, zaps or committees. Meets Janet Henry and 3,000 other women at WAC (See pages 45-47). Produces, with the sponsorship of Creative Time, Combat Zone: Campaign HQ. Against Domestic Violence, a three-month long storefront project whose main contribution was providing the first self-defense workshops designed for battered women. This concept was then picked up around the country. Self-defense workshops were also presented for women in the neighborhood. Other programs included: women in prison project, d.v. in the gay community, men’s initiative, video program of d.v. tapes, photo project, first on-line d.v. conference to encourage Internet communications for sharing information and coordinating efforts between shelters, police stations, hospitals, and d.v. agencies. X-WACers pitched in to help Edelson with this mammoth undertaking, notably Janet Henry, Diane Dwyer, and Great Lakes College Association assistant Caroline Cotton, and her friends. Edelson receives Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from DePauw University ’93. Exhibitions: simultaneous showings of Edelson’s work: A Non-survey of Photographic Work,s Hopelessly Essentialist (Think Again) at both A/C Project Room and Nicole Klagsbrun, NYC, No More Nice Girls, mural for CIA, Cleveland, OH ’93, Action /Performance and the Photograph, Turner/Krail, LA travels, ‘93-96, Coming to Power, David Zwirner, NYC, A/C at 303 Gallery, NYC, Yes I Am, No I’m Not, Momenta at Nicole Klagsbrun, NYC ‘94, Obala Theatre, Sarajevo, Lectures: Fearless in the Artworld, Clemson University, SC 94, Reviews: Artforum, High Performance and Mirabella, Books include:The Power of Feminist Art, Gerrard and Broade and Lone Visions, Crowded Frames, Kozloff ’94.
Newt Gingrich appointed Speaker of the House. Gas attack in Tokyo underground train. Sweden, Austria and Finland join the European Union bringing membership to 15. Internal border controls between 7 EU countries abandoned. Globalism becomes even more of a reality. Fourth UN world conference on women held in China amid official Chinese interference. UN peacekeeping force enters Angolia, departs Somalia. Iran bans TV satellite receivers. Microsoft releases Windows. Oklahoma bombing, Million Man March, DC, Rabin assassinated in Israel. Edelson shows for the first time at the Agency gallery in London, in the exhibition, In-significance, a visual and theoretical dialogue on the femme fatale. This exhibition and the trip to London become the starting point of Edelson’s renewed ties with Europe. Other exhibitions: Sniper’s Nest: Art that has Lived with Lucy R. Lippard, Bard College Curatorial Studies. Show travels to other sites, and is donated by Lippard to the permanent collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, NM, Tarot at Lombard/Fried. NYC, Selections from 1989-1995 at Nicole Klagsbrun, NYC. Books featuring Edelson’s work: Visions of America: Landscape as Metaphor, Denver Art Museum, Time Capsule, ed. Kahn, The Pink Glass Swan, Feminist Essays on Art, Lippard. Reviews in Art in America and Artforum. Juries Contemporary Projects, University of So. Florida, and presents a lecture.
“Mad Cow” disease bans British beef. Charles and Diana divorce. Unabomber captured. Atlantic Olympics marred by bomb explosion. Timothy Leary and Ella Fitzgerald die ’96, O.J. Simpson was acquitted in criminal court (‘95) O.J. ordered to pay 8.5 million for damages in wrongful death trial ’97. Tobacco companies offer compensation packages in exchange for no future prosecution. Madeleine Albright becomes first woman Secretary of State. Adult sheep “Dolly” cloned in Britain, Tony Blair landslide win for Prime Minister of Britain, China takes over Hong Kong from Britain, Diana’s death causes changes in Royal Family, public grieving and continuation of her charitable projects ’97. Exhibitions: Survey of Edelson’s work, Nicolai Wallner Gallery, Copenhagen. Denmark, Love Gasoline*, Mercer Union curated by Barbara Fischer, Toronto, Canada, Personal Best, Chaisse Post Gallery at Atlanta Olympics, American Dreaming curated by Heidi Zuckerman, Linda Kirkland NYC, Combat Zone 2, P.S. #122 Gallery NYC ‘96, Female Perversion, Halle fur Kunst, Berlin, Germany, collaboration between Edelson and Yvette Brackman, curated by Heiki Munder, video: Biting and Picking, produced for Berlin. The exhibition, Useable Issues, a collaboration between Edelson and Paul Bloodgood, and A Conversation on Community at Art Resources, Inc, (featured in Simon Says), NYC ’97, Eye of the Beholder International Center of Photography NYC, curated by Shelley Rice and Sandi Fellman. All works in the exhibition purchased by the Avon Collection. Leonardo Lives*, Seattle Art Museum, WA. Original Visions*, (with Agnes Martin, Pat Steir, Carrie Mae Weems, Magdalena Abakanowitz and Edelson) curator Alston Conley, in-depth interview by Jennifer S. Grinnell on Edelson in catalogue, opening night lecture, Re-Scripting the Story, presented by Edelson, McMullen Museum of Art, Boston. Vraiment Feminisme et Art*, curated by Laura Cottingham, Magasin, Centre National D’Art Contemporain de Grenoble, France, catalogue ‘97. Books featured in: The Vocation of the Artist, Haynes, Art and Propaganda in the Twentieth Century, Clark, From Suffragettes to She-Devils, Liz McQuiston foreword Germaine Greer. Reviews: New York Times. Lectures: Royal Danish Art Academy, Copenhagen ‘96, Master Class/workshop, Who Does She Think She Is? Gettysburg College, PA, Committing Heresies, panel with Lucy Lippard, Betsy Hess, Joyce Kozloff and Mary Beth Edelson AIR Gallery NYC ‘97.
Forest fires devastated Central America. Monica Lewinsky scandal dominates media at the expense of news. Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid beheaded by vandals. Thousands killed in earthquakes in Afghanistan, Japan and Turkey. School boys in US begin massacring classmates and teachers. NRA balks at calls for tougher gun control laws. India and Pakistan detonate nuclear bombs. Asian financial crisis. Pinochet arrested. Michael Jordan retires in triumph. John Glenn at 77 orbits earth again ’98. Statesman King Hussein of Jordan dies. UN Peace Keepers and NATO troops enter Kosovo. Serbia’s ethnic cleansing widespread. Hillary Clinton enters New York Senate Race first, first lady to run for office. Zealous Kenneth Starr becomes the last independent counsel as office is abolished. Official launch of Euro currency. Elia Kazan who “named names” during anti-Communist McCarthy days is given an Oscar amid controversy ’99. Exhibitions: Trickster: Proposition for a Retrospective, Agency Gallery, London is reviewed in Time Out London, Flash Art, and Contemporary Visual Arts ‘98, Tip of the Iceberg, Dorfman Projects, Chelsea, NYC 98. Contemporary Classicism* curated by Judy Collischan, Panel: The Goddess in Pop Culture, Nancy Spero, Jane Kromm and Edelson, Neuberger Museum of Art, NY ‘99. War – Artists Bulletin Board, Postmasters, Chelsea, NYC, Censorship, Richard Anderson, Chelsea NYC, Le Grande Praemiere Show, Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen’99. Prepares for traveling exhibition titled, Re-scripting the Story: Mary Beth Edelson 1970-2000. Edelson is featured in the book: Where is Ana Mendieta? Identity, Performativity, and Exile, Blocker ‘99. Reviewed in: New York Magazine, Springing, Contemporary Visual Arts 98, Politiken , Art in America ‘ 99. New performance created: Just Looking: Mary Beth Shops for a New Mate ‘99.
Millennium celebrations worldwide produce spectacular displays and not the feared terrorism, US Census 2000 results are 281,441,906 strong. IMF & WTO protested for globalization agenda defined as enrichment of multinational corporations at the expense of poor and environment. Slobidam Milosevic failed to steal election after 13 years of terror. AIDS still out of control in Africa, as are famine and fighting, with 23 million people carrying HIV and 13 million African AIDS orphans expected by 2001. Vermont passes bill allowing same-sex couples to enter into “civil unions,” Selma, AL elects first black major 35 years after famous 1965 civil rights march. Senator Joe Lieberman, first Jew to run for the office of Vice President of USA. High voltage Hillary becomes New York State Senator by a landslide. George W. wins presidential election through the Electoral College, not by popular vote, leaving questions of integrity about the Supreme Court and Florida’s ballot count. Israel and Palestine ‘s ancient claims to Jerusalem unleash the furies again, courtesy of Ariel Sharon’ s provocative visit to the Temple Mount. Peace now sits on the back burner. The impossible summit between North and South Korea happens. Pope travels to Holy Land in Jubilee year of Catholic church and begs forgiveness. DNA decoded. Music industry fought for their right to claim their intellectual property on the Internet. Both poles experience thinning ice caps and melting glaciers, resulting in the possibility of higher seas and flooding. Marion Jones is picture perfect US winner of 3 gold medals, (Title IX we love you). Australian Aboriginal, Cathy Freeman wins the first gold medal for her people. Elian Gonzalez flies back to Cuba. Exhibitions: Picturing the Modern Amazon*, curated by Stein, Frueh, and Fierstein, New Museum, NYC, ’00, Homemade Rootbeer: Three Curatorial Selections of Mary Beth Edelson’s Work by Alissa Rame Friedman, Alejandro Diaz, and Paul Bloodgood, Malmö Museer, Sweden. Borders, a 2-month-long Summer workshop symposium sponsored by Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, and The Malmö Art Academy, Sweden on the occasion of the permanent dissolving of borders between the two countries by means of the new Öresund bridge. Other artists invited to participate in Borders: Reneé Green, Jimmie Durham, Douglas Gordon, Tony Oursler, Sharon Lockhart. Edelson’ s workshop project titled Forgrening/Branching (see page49) installed in numerous locations including the Louisiana Museum and Roskilde Samtidskunst Museum. Edelson’s second presentation at the Fall symposium was titled Some Enchanted Evening; Or Drawing a Line in the Sea While Considering Diversity. While in Sweden with son Nick, the law student, genealogical research produces the thrill of meeting living Swedish relatives long lost to their US family. Re-scripting the Story travels in the fall of ’00 in US for two years with a major catalogue and plans for a European tour. Catalogue and exhibition supported by grants from Andy Warhol Foundation, NEA, Pollack/Kranser Foundation, Florsheim, Central Pennsylvania Consortium of Colleges, and Thanks Be to Grandmother Winifred Foundation. Featured in The Artist’s Body, Tracey Warr and Amelia Jones, Phaidon.Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis, Tate Modern Museum, London, major catalog, produces Edelson post card and exhibits Edelson’s poster, Some Living American Women Artists/ Last Supper.
WAC ACTIONS 1992/1993
May 16 WAC is present as part of the SAVE OR CITIES! SAVE OUR CHILDREN! March on Washington.
June 29 WAC is a vocal presence at the gay pride parade, with the slogan “WAC is here, some are queer!”
July 14 WAC convention during the democratic National Convention to alert delegates, the nation, and the public to women’s power within the electorate. WAC marches down museum mile to the metropolitan Museum of Art with a banner reading “Oh Say Can You See 10 Million More Women Than Men.”
October 19 WAC delivers Pink Slips to Bush and Quale, while Vice President Quale is in New York for a Republican fund raiser.
Decenber 23 WAC carolers sing feminist Christmas carols at the New York Public Library.
January 23 WAC Rape and War Crime demonstration in support of the women in former Yugoslavia calls for an international war crimes tribunal to prosecute men responsible for raping women.
June 11 With GABRIELA NETWORK, an organization which works on issues affecting women and children of the Philippines, WAC joins a broad coalition for the Women’s Indignation Rally Against the Trafficking of Filipinas.
October 15 “We have What it Takes to Hang in Pace Gallery” action at PACE GALLERY with full WAC treatment- the last big action by WAC included banners, posters, printed business cards, original chants, costumes, etc. organized by MBE.
March 4 March in March
MOVE TO AIR IN POSTERS CHAP Art works in the retrospective include: Flying Rocks, Old Myths/New Myths, Blood Mysteries, Sexual Fantasies. and the Story Gathering Boxes ’75. Initiates the One on One: Artists Critiques and the National Affiliates Program, organize panels, and present her exhibitions and performances until 1983 at A.I.R Gallery, (see photos).
MOVE TO ? Edelson attends the first national conference on women’s spirituality, the three day gathering was organized by a Boston collective, during the opening session held at the Unitarian Church, hundreds of women spontaneously dance bare breasted on the altar, before forming a snake line up and down the aisles, architect, Mimi Lobell to Edelson “Just what the church fathers always feared would happen.”
MOVE TO CO-OP Original shareholders and residence included video artists, Nam June Paik, Shigeko Kubota, and Davidson, fluxus object makers Jean Depuy, and sound artist Yoshi Wada, dancers Frances Alenikoff, Elaine Summers and Simone Forti. When Emily Harvey purchased DePuy’s space in the 80’s she turned it into gallery and living space.
PLACE THIS TEXT WITH PHOTOS – IF APPROPRIATE . Edelson continues the photographic ritual performances begun in 1970 with a single covered, with transparent cloth, body performance, ( that she returns to in ’77), and progressing to the, Rituals with the Children, series which inaugurated Edelson’s cinematic approach to presenting a progression of multiple photographs in a single piece, including some of theWoman Rising series shot in the Outer Banks, NC. Edelson’s well-know single image performance body works including: Moon Mouth, Trickster Body, Patriarchal Piss, TV Spirit, Seeing Double, and Nobody Messes With Her from ’73 present the same series of photographs repeatedly, but uniquely draws, paints, cuts, gouges and collages the photographs while concentrating personifing on a variety of identities rather than solving the problem of changing body signs with each piece. The homage piece to Georgia O’Keeffe and Louise Nelvelson titled, O’Kevelson was produced the same year adding another layer to the inventory of self-constructed identities available in all of Edelson’s photographic works by intentionally intruding into another persons identity, and exposing what can and can not be simulated about another while paying homage to their status. On High Island, Maine in ‘74, multiple photographic images continue cinematic, and story telling references in bothVictory in My Long White Beard, and Ageing in Diana’s Grove,.
ELSEWHERE IN ONE OF MY TEXTS FOR CATALOG When Edelson come across Louise Bourgeois’ art at the Whitney Bi-annual it makes such a strong impression that her knees buckle and she falls on the floor.
FOR COMMUNITY AND ACTIVISM Alice Neel, who during a presentation, came out into the great marble atrium of the Corcoran Gallery of Art inquiring of Edelson where she might find the Ladies room, when Edelson gave her the lengthy directions, Neel protested, “That’s much to far to go,” and lifting her skirt she pissed right on the marble floor. The other remarkable aside is that the number of witnesses to this event grows every year.
Committees included: Legal, Media, Photo, Phone tree, Art-watch, Anti-censorship, Marshalls, Counterimages, Book, WAC Stats publication, Albany Lobby, Artists and Homeless collaborative, Archives, New Members Orientation, Riker’s Island Women’s Prison Project, WAC chapter liaisons, Firefighters sexual harassment, Women in Black, Lesbian Caucus, and CODAI, (committee on diversity and inclusion) WAC Circle newsletter, Action Planning, Theory, and WAC productions committees. Actions and zaps included: Solidarity with Irish Women’s Group supporting abortion for 14 year old rape victim, St. John Five, and Glen Ridge gang rape court watches, During the Democratic Convention, 2,000 WACers march down 5th Ave museum mile, “ Oh Say Can Your See 10 Million More Women Voters than Men” NYC, (photo), Pink Slips for Bush and Qualye, NYC (photo), Women Ignite: Houston Republican Convention, Save our Cities/Save Our Children, March, D.C., Lesbian Avengers, Take Back the Night, NOW, NARAL pro-choice march on Washington, Coalition to end police brutality, ST Patrick’s Day Protest,(yearly), Happy Mother’s Day ,” 30 billion owed mother’s in child support” banner dropped over train schedule, Grand Central Station, WAC and a coalition of clinic defenders effectively shut down Operation Rescue, “You’re Not in Kansas Anymore” in Buffalo, NY, “ WAC is Here, Some are Queer”, Gay Pride March, Guerrilla Girls co-operated with WAC to protest opening exhibition of Soho Guggenheim originally scheduled to feature four white males including Carl Andre, “Where is Ana Mendieta?” posters plaster on buildings.
WAC Actions and Zaps: Superbowl Sunday WAC flies banners “Stop Violence Against Women and Wac is Watching” over the stadium, WAC sings holiday carols at Rockefeller Plaza including “Oh come let us ignore him” and the following to the tune of Joy to the World, key of F.
Women of the world Our time has come Behold the time is now We’re tired of glass ceilings We won’t suppress out feeling We demand out rights in court We demand your full support We’re sick of being looked upon As one chop short.
Rape is a War Crime, protest of women raped in Former-Yugoslavia at the UN, Men’s Bake Sale for WAC, NYC, “WAC is out for Lesbian rights”, annual Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade, WAC with Gabriela Network rally against Trafficking of Fillipinas: “A Paid for Wife, Is a Slave for Life”, March in March, a multi-cultural, international coalition to”Stop the War Against Women”, Silver Palace Picket, protest with Local 318 against union busting Chinatown restaurant, What’s Wrong with this Picture? protest against Pace Gallery’s all white male artists pictured on N.Y. Times Magazine cover, NYC ’93. Banner read “ We have what it takes to hang in Pace Gallery”, (see photos), Drum core played and WAC chanted:
Pace sends a message loud and clear Only white guys welcome here. Seems Jim Crow has found his feet Here on 57th street. Pace sends a message loud and clear Only white guys welcome here. A better name for Pace might be “The Pale-skin Penis Gallery.
Wake up Arnie Broaden our agenda How about some artists with pudenda!
Vigil at Grand Central Station for Nicole Brown Simpson on Domestic Violence Day’94, WAC archives organized in Combat Zone: HQ Against Domestic Violence to donate to 42nd St. Library, December ‘94, Edelson headed the Action Planning committee, Pace Gallery action, Nicole Brown Simpson Vigil, and was active member of CODAI, photo, and coordinating committees, and mentored Pink Slips action as well as participating in 15 other actions, zaps or committees. she met Janet Henry and 3,000 other women at WAC. WAC’s demise: There are 3,000 different versions of what killed WAC: a perceived power elite, mammoth differences in levels of skill, experience and access with no structure for accommodating this, we forgot, (or never knew), early feminist warnings about “the tyranny of structurelessness”, impatience, (we have already waited long enough). We were short on long term commitment and planning, trust, forgiveness, and faith. Right! But who’s perfect. No one had any experience working with 500 high powered NYC women in the same room who all had something to say, now. Nonetheless, it was quite an exhilarating and empowering run, and friendships, networks, even jobs, and smaller working groups continue on to this day as a result of WAC. Edelson produced with the sponsorship of Creative Time, Combat Zone: Campaign HQ. Against Domestic Violence, ”94. Combat Zone was a three-month long storefront projects whose main contribution was providing the first self-defense workshops designed for battered women, this concept was then picked up and implemented by other d.v. services, (self-defense workshops were also presented for women in the neighborhood), other programs included: women in prison project, d.v. in the gay community, men’s initiative, video program of d.v. tapes, photo project, first on-line d.v. conference to encourage internet communications for sharing information and coordinating efforts between shelters, police stations, hospitals, and d.v. agencies. Just the facts: Stats on Domestic Violence, was a two-year research project that unfortunately never found a publisher. A poster was produced and distributed to d.v. agencies and also pasted-up around the city: This is Not a Sporting Event showing a man with baseball bat over women, poster also listed Batterer’s Dozen (excuses), as well as a removable crack and peel sticker with city d.v. hotline number. X-WACers pitched in to help Edelson with this mammoth undertaking, notably Janet Henry, Diane Dwyer, and GLCA assistant Caroline Cotton, and her friends.