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In the thirty years since Linda Nochlin asked why there have been no great women artists, feminists have successfully sought to reverse traditional modes of art historical thinking. The work of women artists is now documented in monographs and institutionally collected and displayed. The contributions of feminist scholarship have created a space for a collection of readings like Singular Women. Yet, as Griselda Pollock posited, although there are famous women artists, “a careful analysis of their status will find that they are not canonical—providing a benchmark for greatness. They are rather notorious, sensational, commodifiable or token, and will be as virulently attacked as they are lovingly adored.”[1] What is the implicit difference between canonical exaltation and exploitation, and does either interpretation permit an artist's work to be seen objectively? This book offers, not another exercise in retrieving the artist who is also a woman, but a rethinking of the site of her inscription—the monograph. How are her notations, her works, recorded, valued, made visible, qualified, or erased? Whose memory will be preserved and bear witness?

What follows, from my position as a (younger) artist, is a meditation on writing and erasure. It is intended to renew the dialogue between artist and scholar and thus to promote a continued exploration of the work made by the woman artist. In this epilogue I celebrate both

the artists and scholars whose voices compose this book and who make themselves visible, in both writings and artworks, through their words, their gestures, and their approaches to mark making. By extension, I urge collaboration between authors and artists, interpreting the authors as writers/right-ers of the artists. With their different voices and theoretical concerns, the contributors to Singular Women have taken up Toril Moi's question, “Must women reading women's texts take up the old, respectfully subordinate stance in relation to the author?”[2] Fortunately, their collective answer is no. This book acknowledges different approaches to mark making and creates a space for the convergence of authors' and artists' voices. Two works of art created by artists not included in this volume, Louise Bourgeois and Francesca Woodman, provide a tangible reminder that this text only begins to consider scholarly writing on the artwork of women. Bourgeois's sculpture Destruction of the Father (1974) and a photograph from Woodman's series Space2 (1975–76) may be viewed as visual tropes for interpreting a woman's work, and particularly the ways it can be simultaneously seen and silenced.


Louise Bourgeois (b. 1911) describes her sculpture The Destruction of the Father (Figure 23) as follows:

It is basically a table, the awful, terrifying family dinner table headed by the father who sits and gloats. And the others, the wife, the children, what can they do? They sit there, in silence. The mother of course tries to satisfy the tyrant, her husband. The children are full of exasperation. We were three children: my brother, my sister and myself. My father would get nervous looking at us, and he would explain to all of us what a great man he was. So, in exasperation, we grabbed the man, threw him on the table, dismembered him, and proceeded to devour him.[3]

Childhood memories and experiences often inspire Bourgeois's work. In this case, the subject is her father, a man who invited his mistress to live in the family home under the guise of children's tutor, an authoritative figure who enjoyed the act of entertaining, often at the expense of his family—in particular, his children. The Destruction of the Father revisits childhood trauma, but this time Bourgeois is in control as she rewrites the


23. Louise Bourgeois, The Destruction of the Father, 1974, latex and stone

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outcome of the meal. The artist (and daughter) makes the previously silent bodies at the table speak. While as sculpture the work is abstract, the viewer cannot escape the essential, uncomfortable reference of the forms as teeth in the art of a violent consumption. Bourgeois implicates her own father in her work. However, by extension can this “father” be read as traditional patriarchy and her sculpture thus be interpreted as a direct attack against a patriarchal version of (art) history? Kristen Frederickson's introduction prompts us to recall a version of art history taught by one father, H.W. Janson, and its silencing of women artists.

I find myself returning to Carol Mavor and her discussion of women's time, as defined by Julia Kristeva, and yearn for its gestational, repetitive cycles as a unique approach to seeing/recording beyond the monumental, linear moments encoded by the father.[4] Collectively, as readers, we have been deprived of the works of women artists by numerous acts of silencing. Their works are excluded from the canon, deaccessioned from institutional collections (or destroyed) or denied admission at all, their autobiographies unpublished, their journal entries ravaged. What we know of their stories, most of them unrecorded, suggests that while each woman's life is singular, they shared

the trauma of work encoded, but also erased, generation to generation, artist to author, mother to daughter. Although as editors of this book Kristen Frederickson and I have taken a traditional chronological approach to the artists included, our focus is to expose specific moments, or junctures, that have illuminated the complexity of vision necessary to the interpretation of the woman artist's story.

In her essay on the work of Clementina Hawarden and Sally Mann, Carol Mavor notes that mothers, as makers of children, are always in a state of almost being missed. By extension, so too are women as makers of art. Their work seems to be in a state of precarious, subterranean, existence—not entirely visible to the father, and capable of being missed either intentionally or accidentally. What threat does its inclusion pose to the father? Mary Sheriff writes that perhaps in the artwork of women “the father's paternity is doubly usurped, as the mother—both in her womb and her (art)work—creates her child, her daughter, her simulacr[um], through her imaginative power.”[5] Deliciously, I imagine the facial expression of Louise Bourgeois's nervous father as he heads to the table for the last time.

Catherine Soussloff has challenged the myth (and its construction) of the artist-genius. She quotes Thomas Heffernan's assertion in his work on the sacred biographies of saints that such “texts have their beginnings not in the act of composition but in a complex series of anticipations.”[6] Assuming what is to be discovered, art historians shape their search accordingly. Linear chronologies are constructed, pinnacles distinguished. Time is noted through the (patriarchal) eyes of the father. But what if because of complications related to gender, institutional biases, or an artist's material approaches, her life cannot be measured in such terms? Will that artist's singular accomplishments still be recorded, or will they be excised from the historical record?

Does the monograph as an art historical genre perpetuate the myth of the artist as genius and thus historically exclude the work of the “woman artist,” as she is always called?[7] Is the monograph even a meaningful format for presenting the work and lives of women? Must it be destroyed, as the ultimate marker of Father Time? Or can we return to the table and rethink the monograph, developing its potential as an alternative curatorial space?

The photographic series Space2 (Figure 24) by Francesca Woodman (1958–81) highlights the potential complications of encoding the work of women artists in the monograph. Woodman made most of her photographs


24. Francesca Woodman, from Space,2 1975–76, silver print

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while she was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. Many began as class assignments inherent in the traditional institutional training of the artist. Rosalind Krauss hypothesizes that in Space2 Woodman intended to “define a particular space by emphasizing its character, its geometries.”[8] Woodman's solution, characteristic of all of her work, was to make a type of self-portrait; she climbed in and physically encased herself in a museum vitrine. As viewers, we encounter and scrutinize her body as an object of display. We see Woodman's left breast and thigh pressed against the glass as she squats. The viewers look down from a position that effectively intensifies the sense
of claustrophobia but also distance. Her head, moreover, appears cut from her torso as she stoops to avert our gaze.

The ambiguous gestures of Woodman's body, further accentuated by the intentional camera blur, are reminiscent of Charcot's images of hysterical women. The viewer is forced to ask, Is she trying to escape, to speak, only to be silenced by the cold, solid structure? Is Francesca Woodman like the hysteric, a spectacle, or does she represent herself discursively as a “speaking body,”[9] defying the grammar of patriarchy? Speaking of his own work, and not that of Woodman, the conceptual artist Christian Boltanski remarked that every time you put an object into a case you preserve it but effectively kill it as well.[10] The artwork, and by extension the artist, is interpreted through the glass box. Is the monographic format, as a single-subject study, also guilty of such treatment, and does it do an injustice to the woman artist?

I cannot deny that my initial awareness of Francesca Woodman's art was filtered through the details of her life. That is, her work was first presented to me when I was an M.F.A. candidate as that of a “romantic artist,” one whose potential was tragically curtailed by untimely suicide.[11] Why do these sumptuous, mythic details of her life tantalize so many art historians and lead them to her work? The work of Francesca Woodman is fused to that of Frida Kahlo and Ana Mendieta; their bodies of work have been defined by their own physicality and use of self as medium, interpreted largely through the tropes of autobiography. Why does the body, specifically the female body, overwhelm the body of work?[12] I want to see Woodman's work, like Kahlo's and Mendieta's, as distinguishable from the circumstances of her death. For it is the primacy of her work that fascinates me as a visible trace of her existence, rather than an insistence upon her death and her absence.

Was Francesca Woodman trying to escape her glass box, or was she trying to maintain her balance within the structure? While her right hand exerts pressure against the vitrine, her left seems to caress the form or, by extension, her body imprisoned within. Perhaps the art historian writing the woman artist has a similarly ambivalent attitude toward the monograph, simultaneously wishing to escape the structure but also desiring to remain inside it. For better or worse, its familiar life-and-letters approach has given us a way to encode and recognize an artist's singularity. Space2 reads as a visual paradigm of both the woman artist and the art historian—one that acknowledges (with self-awareness)

the implications of placing oneself in a predefined structure, whether display case, monograph, or canon. But how to proceed?

As we have read, Barbara Bloemink and Kristine Stiles have reached similar conclusions on the need to investigate the artist in her original historical context. Kristine Stiles writes that “no matter how self-critical art history becomes as a discipline, with ever more complex theories applied to the practices and institutions of art, some basic chronological groundwork is necessary as preparation for building a structure of criticism.” If the function of the monograph is to refocus our gaze on an artist's body of work, to understand it within its social-historical context, then the form is still valid. As the monograph has developed, however, it is organized, not around the artist's works, but around his or her life. For the female artist, it is a life disproportionately represented in relationship to men—either validating, or proposing, a male “genius” as the recognizer of her talent, or stressing her achievements despite her “lack” of masculinity. And what happens when women are added to the canon as “equivalents” to men, like ingredients in a recipe substituting one for the other, butter for margarine—the female Frans Hals, Caravaggio, or David? The yield is not necessarily the same.

As the authors collected in this book have argued, women artists need to help (re)make the monograph as a site for their work: to make visible what institutions fail to collect and display. We remember both Jo Nivison Hopper's generous bequest of her own and her husband's work to the Whitney Museum and the fact that the institution retained only three of her paintings for their permanent collection—a few minor pieces that managed to pass as Edward Hopper's. Of course, none of these have been published, exhibited, or even accessioned as her work. Similarly, although Florine Stettheimer steadfastly refused to sell her work during her lifetime and thus retained control over her output, when she died her relatives indiscriminately scattered her work to collections throughout the country. Like Gail Levin, Bloemink describes her painful discovery of these works in various states of disrepair and neglect.

The performative nature of Carolee Schneemann's oeuvre, and thus the difficulty of procuring objects, still the mainstay of museums, further complicates the material collecting of her work. Despite her profound influence on the field of body and performance art, Schneemann has only two pieces in museum collections and has been given only one solo museum exhibition to date. But does increased (institutional) visibility

lead to increased power?[13] Arguably, performance art is often intended to question and to erode the patriarchal privilege of museum collecting. Yet because her work remains “uncollectable,” Schneemann has been compelled to make salable objects to support herself and her (uncollectable) performance pieces.

Schneemann's situation is further complicated by her insistence upon using her own body, and bodily fluids, as medium. Her performance pieces are not only uncollectable but often interpreted as unclean, messy. As the anthropologist Mary Douglas cautions, “Where there is dirt there is a system. Dirt is the by-product of a systematic ordering and classification of matter, in so far as ordering involves rejecting inappropriate elements.”[14] Although the rejection of Schneemann has been extreme, Douglas's observation also has relevance to the (in)visibility of women artists—past, present, future. Where there is dirt there is a system, and traditional art history (as a system) has rejected the woman artist as the inappropriate element.

Museum practice and the exhibition (as a site of display) privilege a commodifiable, seamless version of art history—the canon that we have been taught. Susan Stewart remarked that “within the development of culture under an exchange economy, the search for authentic experience and, correlatively, the search for the authentic object becomes critical.”[15] Museums have established themselves as repositories of cultural artifacts—objects collected, preserved, and by implication revered. As the museum has developed, institutional hierarchies have emerged so that one culture, one style, indeed one gender, has been valued over another.

Analyzing the work museums have excluded can be as telling as studying the works they included. Who defines the authenticity of a work of art, the legitimacy of its claims on historical remembrance? It appears that an individual artist's sustained visibility depends in part on the ease with which that artist can be inserted into the discursive history of art. Women artists whose work fits surreptitiously into one of the pedagogically useful “isms” are more likely to be accepted into the canon. Conversely, artists whose work disrupts those “isms,” crosses boundaries to fit several “isms,” or resists such categorization altogether are less likely to be absorbed by even the expanding canon.

Where can we create a space to exhibit the many works that do not adhere to the tenets privileged through patriarchy? Just over ten years ago, in the first edition of Women, Art, and Society, Whitney Chadwick

wrote that “feminism cannot be integrated into the existing structures of art history because [it] leaves intact the categories which have excluded women from cultural significance.”[16] Therefore much will continue to be lost by trying to place women artists within a male-defined mold. However, can we recast that mold? The only possible inscription for many of the artists in this book would be a text, simply because the work—whether as object or performance—has ceased to exist. In truth, it would be difficult to find traditional publishers to champion such writing.[17] We need only turn to Amy Schlegel's essay, in which she addresses the methodologies for framing the work of Nancy Spero while conceding their potential drawbacks. Rethinking such a structural approach to cataloguing and exhibiting an artist's oeuvre is not only long past due but essential if (feminist) art historians are not to be forever relegated to the act of excavating the past.

Rethinking the monograph might also expose how the art historian chooses what (and how) objects are made visible. Such a dynamic happens in this book in the essays of Carol Mavor and Anne Higonnet and their respective discussions of Lady Clementina Hawarden and Mary Cassatt. Both return to the question: If images must be inscribed by the father, what images will be missed? For Mavor and Higonnet, the historically visible images of these artists are those containing elements of the maternal: Hawarden's photographs of her daughters, Cassatt's ceaseless repertoire of Modern Madonnas. While both authors have previously published their extensive research on maternal representation, in this book they refocus their discussion and with self-awareness reveal what guided their approach to each artist's specific visions. Mavor reveals why she intentionally “missed” Hawarden's landscapes in her book Becoming: The Photographs of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden. Higonnet exposes the inherent contradictions of reading Mary Cassatt and her images within both an “art” and a “historical” context. Relying on the methodologies of both art history and visual culture, Mavor and Higonnet open doors for future scholars who might rethink not only Hawarden and Cassatt but also many artists whose work has been inscribed through a gendered approach to subject matter.

But now, a confession. As much as I have been advocating the monograph as a site for exhibiting (indeed curating) an artist's work, I admit that I still yearn for the details of an artist's life. My desire stems from a longing, not to filter work through autobiography, but to discover

means to make my own work more visible. I search for mentors, for models. Perhaps it is because the discipline of neither art history nor studio production explicitly binds or defines my approach to making work that I continue to look somewhere between the two disciplines. But that leaves me without a clear identity, or at least with an inability to name myself. Am I an artist, a writer? Repeatedly I have been told that I cannot be both.

I find myself questioning the validity of such a statement, however, for is an artist not a cultural critic, a thoughtful scholar, a provocative performer? Why insist on reading an individual's merits according to labels and positions? In academia, one can see the physical separation of departments labeled art and art history, which are sometimes not even housed in the same buildings, as if they mutually excluded rather than informed each other. Why must the roles of artist and scholar be construed as separate entities? To be inscribed as an artist, must an individual erase all other markers? It is clear to me that my identities inform each other, indeed could not exist independent of each other. Through text, image, and object, my work makes visible what is ordinarily not seen—presenting an erased presence, exposing absence. I create in order to question the inherent historical encoding of what has been defined as the woman's place. These concerns are reflected not only in the physicality of my studio production but also in my writings on how the work of women artists is seen at all. I wonder what trace will remain of my work as an artist, a writer, a woman?

Being an artist involves a certain self-conscious (romantic) conditioning and internalizing of Western cultural values, which have been defined by patriarchal terms that give precedence to the notion of solitary genius. Whether it is possible, if one were even to want to mold oneself according to those values, is a different question altogether. Yet the question is one that bonds the women artists discussed in this book. I think back to Irene Rice Pereira's “Eastward Journey,” the artist's authoritative statement about her life and work that she hoped would ensure her historical place. But as her biographer, Karen Bearor, cautions, Pereira knew that she herself was constructing a “Pereira” in accordance with her own needs. How must the woman artist see herself before she is made visible to others?

The contributors to Singular Women suggest new approaches to making the work of both artist and author visible by expanding our concept of the monograph. Paramount to such a revision in feminist

historiography is the development of the relationship between artist as maker of objects and art historian as scribe. Such a “relationship” is not limited to those who are contemporaries; it can also develop intergenerationally as the art historian revisits the original site of an artist's studio production. As I have argued, it is imperative that we not view these two professions as mutually exclusive, for both artists and art historians create and perform, working in tandem to make visible the contributions of women both as text and as image.

Only by writing in collaboration can the artist and the art historian right the woman artist so that her marks are not erased. I am drawn back to this passage from Carolee Schneemann in Kristine Stiles's essay: “All my writing has been implicitly or—more recently—explicitly addressed to unknown ‘young women artists,’ which has been a persistent and desperate need on my part, to serve as possible precedent since my own [role models] were a private company of suicided or demeaned historical women.” Schneemann's letters are as important to future art historians as to practicing artists whose work has yet to be seen and recorded. Visual marks are made and letters written to be interpreted as much through the act of reading/readings as through the original act of artistic creation itself. It is a story of mutual dependence between text and image knitting these “singular women” and those beyond the pages of this book.


1. See Griselda Pollock, Differencing the Canon: Feminist Desire and the Writing of Art's Histories (New York: Routledge, 1999), 9, for a more complete discussion of the (art historical) canon and feminist inscription. [BACK]

2. Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory (New York: Routledge, 1985), 31. [BACK]

3. Jean Frémon, Louise Bourgeois: Retrospective 1947–1984, exhib. cat. (Paris: Galerie Maeght Lelong, 1984), quoted in Mignon Nixon, “Bad Enough Mothers,” October 71 (Winter 1995): 74. [BACK]

4. Julia Kristeva, “Women's Time,” in Feminist Theory: A Critique of Ideology, ed. Nannerl O. Keohane, Michelle Z. Rosaldo, and Barbara C. Gelpi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 31–53. [BACK]

5. Mary D. Sheriff, An Exceptional Woman: Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and the Cultural Politics of Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 50. [BACK]

6. Thomas J. Heffernan, Sacred Biography: Saints and Their Biographers in the Middle Ages (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 18, quoted in Catherine Soussloff, The Absolute Artist (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

Press, 1997), 13. Kristen and I are grateful to Catherine for her early support of this writing project [BACK]

7. Soussloff, The Absolute Artist, 4. For a valuable (early) discussion on this topic, refer to Christine Battersby, Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989). [BACK]

8. Rosalind Krauss, Bachelors (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), 162. [BACK]

9. See Stephen Heath's remarks in “Difference,” Screen 19 (Autumn 1978): 51–112. [BACK]

10. Lynn Gumpert, Christian Boltanski (Paris: Flammarion, 1994). See section ii, “The Early Work,” for a complete discussion of Boltanski's working method and approach to materials. [BACK]

11. Francesca Woodman committed suicide just before her twenty-third birthday. [BACK]

12. Carolee Schneemann asked this very question of the audience when she was presented with a life achievement award for her work at College Art Association 2000 Conference by the Committee for Women in the Arts. [BACK]

13. For a more complete discussion, refer to Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (New York: Routledge, 1993). [BACK]

14. Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (New York: Routledge, 1966), 36. [BACK]

15. Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), 133. [BACK]

16. Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art, and Society (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1990), 12. Women, Art, and Society continues to be updated and is now in its third edition. [BACK]

17. Perhaps electronic publishing and the World Wide Web will be the site for such an endeavor. For a provocative discussion of Martha Wilson's experience of turning Franklin's Furnace into a virtual exhibition space, see her article “Going Virtual,” Art Journal 59, no. 2 (Summer 2000): 102–10. [BACK]

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