The Womanhouse Online Archive
The Womanhouse Online Archive is a website, home, and resource for the historically significant Womanhouse, a 1972 site specific work, conceived of by Paula Harper and led by co-founders of the Cal Arts Feminist Art Program, Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. In 2009 curators Suzy Spence and Leslie Brack researched and built a website on the occasion of their tribute exhibition, The Mood Back Home, an Exhibition inspired by Womanhouse at Momenta Art in Brooklyn. With continuing 501c3 status through New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), Spence and Associate Curator Sascha Behrendt have renewed fundraising for the project, to improve the multi-media site and to present archival material as yet unseen.
Womanhouse (30 January - 28 February 1972) is remembered for its site-specific domestic installations in which artists responded to every room of a Los Angeles house they collectively renovated and occupied. Chicago, Schapiro, their CalArts students, and women artists from the local community all participated. Their efforts yielded early examples of installation art, pedagogical strategies like consciousness raising, and a number of performance pieces including Faith Wilding’s Waiting, and Chicago’s Cock and Cunt Play.
Much of the art from Womanhouse was destroyed, stolen, or poorly documented, yet it remains an iconic work from the Feminist Art movement and is a crucial milestone in the intellectual progression between the Fresno Feminist Art Program (1970-1971) at Fresno State College and the Woman’s Building, L.A. (1973-1991). Like these sister projects Womanhouse symbolized an important break with business as usual, disrupting the prevailing narratives and practices of the art world whose exclusion of women financially and critically made political action an urgent necessity.
This archival project gained support from participants of Womanhouse, and was awarded Fiscal Sponsorship by The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) in 2009. The current website presents users with video, oral history, photographs, texts, and portions of the original exhibition catalog designed by Sheila de Bretteville with courtesy of the California Institute of the Arts Institute Archives.
The original site of Womanhouse, 533 N. Mariposa Street, Los Angeles,
California. Image courtesy of the California Institute of the Arts Institute Archives
With continuing 501c3 status through NYFA, Spence and Associate Curator Sascha Behrendt have renewed fundraising for the project. As our collective memory fades and the original participants grow older, the need to uncover remaining articles and documentation becomes an urgent matter. Like other physically vulnerable art works, an example being Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) maintained by the Dia Foundation, steps to secure a partnership with a custodial institution is key to the archive’s survival for future generations. Therefore we are actively seeking an institution to assume eventual long-term responsibility for the Womanhouse online archive.