Carolee Schneemann

Biography of Carolee Schneemann

No living artist working today has done more to promote the cause of feminist art than Carolee Schneemann. She sought to give female artists a new aesthetic language that did not emanate from the prevailing male-dominated Abstract Expressionism of the time. Schneemann's body became a source of art production, itself a confrontational medium with which to endorse personal liberation and counteract the oppressive social milieu. She herself never referred to the victimization of woman, rather her work centered on sexuality and female liberation. Her huge leap forward was in making the form of the feminine body into something other than a focus for male desire.


Born in the USA in 1939, Schneemann started off as a painter but never found the audience she so craved. A move into performance and experimental film, however, kick-started sustained critical interest. Incredibly well connected and respected in the art world, Carolee Schneemann was associated with the Fluxus movement and the Happenings going on in New York in the 50s and 60s. Schneemann's father was a countryside doctor and it is believed that his daily dealings with the travails of the human body helped the artist foster her own free attitude to her own physicality.


The film and photographic work Carolee Schneemann produced caused outrage by showing female genitalia and naked youths frolicking around with pieces of meat, as seen in Meat Joy, 1964. Well honored throughout her career, Schneemann won the Women's Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011—previously awarded to Georgia O'Keeffe. She has exhibited at many of the largest institutions worldwide including MoMA, New York, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin. A major retrospective will be taking place in the Museum der Moderne Salzburg in Austria in November 2015.

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