The counter culture of the 1960s and 1970s had a tremendous affect on American society. Civil Rights, gay rights, and feminism all grew out of this turbulent time in history. Art during the period was greatly affected by the drastic transformation in culture. St. John’s students will have an opportunity to experience the last effects of feminism in the M.T. Geoffrey Yeh’s newest exhibit, “From the Inside Out: Feminist Art Then & Now.”
“I think that there really is a stigma to the concept of feminism,” explained exhibit curator Claudia Sbrissa, a professor in the department of fine arts. “In this show I think you see that there’s a real joy and celebration going on, and that’s the heart of feminism.”
Sbrissa said that she was inspired to create the exhibit by a number of individuals and organizations that have had an impact on her life, as well as an art show that she participated in called “Regeneration.” She singled out artists Joan Snyder and Joyce Kozloff, both in the exhibit, as well as the organizations the Feminist Art Project and the College Art Initiative as having helped to inspire or support the idea.
“One thing I wanted to do was to sort of honor some of these women who have been mentors to me,” Sbrissa said. She added, however, that along with renowned aritists like Snyder and Kozloff, she felt that it was important to include lesser-known artists.
“I think the idea of inclusion is a really important part of what feminism means,” she explained, adding that “I wouldn’t necessarily say that all the women in the show proclaim themselves as feminist artists, but they all deal with the reality of being a woman in the world.”
Parvez Moshin, the director of the gallery, was impressed by Sbrissas efforts to seek out influential and talented artists for the exhibit.
“Dr. Sbrissa worked very hard to get the caliber artists displayed in the exhibit,” he said. “Artists of their stature are very hard to get, so getting them to St. John’s was a huge accomplishment.”
The exhibit features works created from the 1960s through the current day, literally illustrating the effect that period had. The show opened with a reception last Thursday that was attended by more than 300 people.
Most of the art attacks womanhood as it was defined before the feminist movement and shows women of the 1990s and beyond experiencing similar problems.
One piece, created in 1979 by Julie Voyce and entitled “Let Your Little Girl Grow Up With Mary,” portrays striking and original marketing elements at once objectifying and critiquing gender through artistic expression. Other pieces display 20th century women discussing their experiences of bias on their quests for equality. Many of the pieces are uniquely interactive, creating multimedia experiences of biases and oppression against women.
Dr. Kathleen Lubey, an assistant English professor in the women’s studies program, said that she was impressed by a number of aspects of the exhibit.
“One of the show’s greatest strengths was its chronological diversity,” she said. “I expected the show to be explicitly political considering its subject, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the politics of feminism subtly came through its chronological diversity.”
She added that she thought the show is particularly valuable as an educational tool.
“The show could be used quite well alongside a literature or history course,” she said. “I think it documents different moments in the 20th century that express the emergence of new ideas.”
Distributed at the exhibit is a catalog that lists the pieces contained in the show and includes two short essays on feminist art and the exhibit itself, one of which was written by St. John’s professor Susan Rosenberg.
Sbrissa said that the exhibit received funding from the women’s studies program, which “generously contributed a great deal of moral and financial support for this initiative.”