The Body

Artists such as Carolee Schneemann, Ana Mendieta, and others used their own bodies in their work. In Schneemann’s case, revealing her naked form was an act of reclamation.  Mendieta used her body to associate and unite her physical self with nature.  Judy Chicago created confrontations with aspects of the female body. Her Dinner Party is a major icon of the feminist movement: in this installation, a triangular ceremonial banquet table is laid with place settings for women across time, from the primordial goddess to artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

Carolee Schneemann

In the early sixties I felt quite alone in my insistence on the integrity of my own sexuality and creativity.  There were many reasons for my use of the naked body . . . : to break the taboos against the vitality of the naked body in movement, to eroticize my guilt-ridden culture and further to confound this culture's sexual rigidities—that the life of the body is more variously expressive than a sex-negative society can admit. . . .In some sense I made a gift of my body to other women; giving our bodies back to ourselves.   —Carolee Schneemann (More Than Meat Joy, 1979)


Ana Mendieta

I have been carrying on a dialogue between the landscape and the female body (based on my own silhouette). . . . I am overwhelmed with the feeling of having been cast from the womb (nature). My art is the way I re-establish the bonds that unite me to the universe.  It is a return to the maternal source.  Through my earth/body sculptures I become one with the earth. . . . I become an extension of nature, and nature becomes an extension of my body.  This obsessive act of reasserting my ties with the earth is really the reactivation of primeval beliefs. . .[in] an omnipresent female force.  —Ana Mendieta (in Elinor Gadon, The Once and Future Goddess: A Symbol for Our Time, 1989)






Top image: Carolee Schneeman. American, born 1939. Eye Body # 1. 1963–1979. Gelatin silver print with hand coloring and scratching.Purchased with the Judith Plesser Targan, 
class of 1953, Fund. Bottom image: Ana Mendieta. American, born Cuba, 1948–1985. Untitled from the Silueta Series in Mexico. August 1976 (printed 1991). C print. Purchased with the Janice Carlson Oresman, class of 1955, Fund and the Josephine A. Stein, class of 1927, Fund in honor of the class of 1927