my lineage of female/feminist curators/writers/artists/thinkers of the 20th and 21st century – posted 3/17/15 in Boulder

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I recently gave a presentation of my current project with Nasreen Mohamedi “as my guide” to a lively group of MFA students at the University of Colorado in Laurie Britton Newell’s visiting artist class. Laurie hails from the U.K., where she previously worked as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Anyway it was an interesting group of artists/students and Laurie is a very perceptive and interesting curator/teacher/thinker herself.

One of the questions the students brought up in discussion was “how do I find these exceptional women artists of the 20th Century?” The answer is – with the aid of my well developed stable of brilliant women thinkers. Throughout my working life as an artist I have relied on the hearts, minds, eyes, ears and feet of many great feminist and female critics, curators and writers.

I studied with Lucy Lippard in the 80s while I was an undergrad at the University of Colorado. As a youngish woman sculptor/artist I remember reading Lucy’s 1976 book on Eva Hesse and being overwhelmed both by Hesse and Lippard.  Lucy was a huge influence on me and she continues to be a dear friend as well as a model for me in my approach and research and interests. You know she is just remarkable – her lifetime of work as an art critic, curator, writer and activist has served to broadcast the voices and issues that are unheard and underrepresented in traditional art criticism and curatorial practice – and she just keeps working. Lucy is also totally approachable and supportive and kind. I met Cydney Payton in the early 90s and we immediately formed a relationship. When Cydney came to Boulder to be the director and curator of BMOCA we curated an exhibit together called Women on Site – a site-specific exhibit with works by Terry Maker and Judi Strahota among others. Cydney and I are very good friends and she is a constant resource for me in working out all matters conceptual and art practice wise. The book pictured below documents two exhibits that Cydney curated when she was director and curator at MCA Denver – Decades of Influence and Extended Remix. Poet and feminist and remarkable person Susan Edwards was another big influence on me in the 90s and we collaborated on a major project together at BMOCA with Cydney’s support. Pictured below is Susan’s beautiful book The Wiid West Wind – Remembering Allen Ginsberg. I have also relied on the advice and support of my dear artist friends Ana Maria Hernando, Barbara Shark and Jane McMahan in a studio group that has been going on for more than 15 years.

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When I went to graduate school in 2002 at the University of Colorado I received tremendous support from Yumi Janairo Roth, Antonette Rosato, Deborah Haynes and Claire Farago. Deborah Haynes, a writer, an art historian and an artist herself has been a wonderful resource for me. A few of her books are pictured here. One of my works during graduate school was a video titled I have been reading Simone De Beauvoir. So Simone has had my back as well. Of course I have had many great male teachers and collaborators and role models as well, but I do rely on my great female thinkers.

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In this century I have become much more interested in the work of women artists from other parts of the world. I have spent a lot of time in the Middle East and worked with some remarkable women artists there. Working with the 6+ collective (Sama Alshaibi, Wendy Babcox, Rozalinda Borcila, Mary Rachel Fanning, Yana Payusova and myself) here and in Palestine has been a huge experience for me. They (6+) have all been a tremendous source of inspiration and strength for me. We dreamed up an international exhibit titled Secrets in 2006 with our own work and the work of eight remarkable Palestinian women artists – Nadira Araj, Rana Bishara, Reem Bader, Rula Halawani, Nathalie Handal, Shuruq Harb, Faten Nastas and Larissa Sansour. We traveled the exhibit all over Palestine (which is a remarkable feat if you know anything about Palestine) and brought the exhibit to the U.S. and produced a beautiful catalogue designed by Pam Beverly with wonderful essays by Lucy Lippard and Maymanah Farhat. Maymanah is a curator and writer and art historian who has written extensively on contemporary Arab art including a book on Palestinian artist Samia Halaby. You can read the catalogue for the Secrets exhibition here as a pdf or I can send you a hard copy of the Secrets catalogue – I still have quite a few. For the cover for the catalogue pictured below we used one of Rozalinda Borcila’s images of the desert taken while we were driving in the Occupied Territories of Palestine.

Click here to read the Secrets catalogue – Secrets Catalogue

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Writer and curator Jennifer Heath has become a good friend and someone whose thinking and knowledge I rely on. We share an interest in the Middle East and specifically in women in the Middle East. Her book The Veil: Women Writers on It’s History, Lore, and Politics – unpacks some of the misconceptions about the veil across many cultures. The corollary exhibit that she curated The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces was a wonderful and illuminating contemporary art exhibit that traveled extensively and further deconstructed notions of the veil. I was honored to be included in the exhibit. Jennifer is a champion for women and artists across many cultural boundaries.

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For my current project with remarkable women artists of the 20th century I have spent significant time mining the work of some of the other major international feminist critics and curators of our time. Catherine de Zegher is one of those writers and curators that I follow. She was the chief curator and executive director at the Drawing Center in New York from 1999 to 2006 and during her time there, showed many well known women artists such as: Eva Hesse and Agnes Martin. She also exhibited the work of Nasreen Mohamedi and Helena Almeida and many other lesser known (in the U.S. at least) international women artists such as Hilma af Klint, Anna Maria Maiolino and Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger and many many more. Her writing and curatorial projects are extensive in the female contemporary art project – her most recent anthology/book women’s work is never done compiles essays she has written on many remarkable women artists of the 20th and 21st century. So she is another one of my heroines and by following her it has helped me find some of these remarkable women artists with whom I am engaging.

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Catherine de Zegher is part of a larger network of remarkable international women contemporary art critics and curators that I am coming to know: Geeta Kapur is very much one of them and her work on Nasreen Mohamedi is significant as well as her writings on Indian and world contemporary art. I came upon Roobina Karode’s work in relationship to Nasreen Mohamedi and was so happy to meet her, she is a remarkable female curator and writer herself.

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I hope to learn more about the work of Helena Almeida through Portuguese critic and curator Isabel Carlos who is the Director of the Center of Modern Art at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, as well as through Spanish curator and art critic Maria De Corral – who curated the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005 with Rosa Martinez. Many of these remarkable contemporary women critics and curators have accomplished great work in directing major international biennials and in their writing and research and curatorial projects. I think that we in the U.S. are isolated from this vast vibrant international art scene. So I am interested in shedding some light on various women artists who have not had a lot of exposure in the U.S.

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My more recent relationships with female curators and thinkers and writers are exciting for me as well. Laurie Britton Newell has become a new friend of mine and I hope to continue our informal discussions about art. Laurie’s exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft was a wondrous show. Laurie has given me some great advice on my recent project – she told me that she saw me continuing “eastwards” in my research and search with women artists. She also said the whole “Sherry Wiggins Private Investigator” aspect of dredging up these under known artists is part of the charm.

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And last but not least in my lineage are my daughter Dana Wiggins Logan and one of her best friends Sarah-Neel Smith. They are both brilliant young academic women. Dana is one of my major intellectual confidantes and though her discipline is religious studies and American religion specifically, we share common interests in anthropology and philosophy and she is quite smart about things I understand little about like “critical theory.” She has always shown interest in my work and has helped me with my studies and thinking and writing. She encouraged me to get help with my writing a few years ago and suggested her good friend Sarah-Neel Smith might help me. Sarah-Neel is currently finishing her PhD at UCLA in art history; she specializes in global contemporary art with a specialty in post war Turkish contemporary art. Smith has written for Frieze and Bidoun as well as her more academic research and writing.  Sarah-Neel gave me tremendous support when I started writing for my project with “remarkable women artists of the 20th century.” I asked Sarah-Neel who she suggests that I look at during my long-term project with remarkable women artists and she suggested the Turkish artist Fusun Onur.

I am now ready to think about who I might pick to work with in 2016 – after I am finished with Nasreen Mohamedi (though I might stay with her forever) and after my work with Helena Almeida in the fall of this year in Portugal. I am doing more research on Fusun Onur (b. Istanbul 1938) she is still living and is considered one of Turkey’s pioneering contemporary artists. She is also considered Turkey’s first “installation artist”, so she might really make good sense for me. Thank you Sarah-Neel Smith. Below is pictured the cover of the Fusun Onur  “scrap book” put together for Documenta 13 by curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. You will probably be hearing more about Onur and Christov- Bakargiev on this blog at some point.

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If you all have any suggestions for my research please let me know. So there you have it, my personal lineage of remarkable women thinkers/curators/artists/writers.

11 thoughts on “my lineage of female/feminist curators/writers/artists/thinkers of the 20th and 21st century – posted 3/17/15 in Boulder

  1. Just read this blog and found you and your search fascinating. I didn’t realize Laurie was teaching at the University. Good for her. Love, Suzie


  2. This is a spectacular tour de force and sending me to books I need to read but have been neglecting. But inronically, just yesterday, I was reading Secrets and Samia Halaby’s book.
    Thank you, dear Sherry, for kind words. You are a treasure to me. Our friendship was sealed as we sat together waiting for word of our Susan’s passing…it seems like ages ago, but she’s always with us, isn’t she? (Did you know I published her book?)

    This blog and this project is just marvelous!


  3. Thank you Jennifer. I remember Susan telling me how much you supported her and worked with her on that little gem of a book with all her beautiful drawings as well as prose. Also I think I have been misspelling lineage, but now have it right.


  4. thank you dear sherry for this piece. \not only i do love sharing the space with all these women, but i have founbd it so interesting. i am ordering the book “women’s work is never done”. wanted the other one by her but it is pricey at the moment.

    just came back from argentina…what an exciting place it is! and was fabulous to be with my family. saw great art. love you ana pd: ate you in town? how about a family dinner?


  5. Also Ana, I forgot to mention that Sarah-Neel Smith who is just finishing her Phd at UCLA is going to her first post graduate school teaching job at MICA, so Paloma will be sure to meet her!


      1. The title essay to “Men Explain…” is hilarious; “Faraway Nearby” is more consistently rewarding. Also loving “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. I started a habit of reading actual books every morning with coffee, after walking my awesome dog. I can count on one hand the number of days I have missed in the last year. Best. Habit. Ever.


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