Betsy Damon - Passages: Rites and Rituals - The Feminist Art Project
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Betsy Damon – Passages: Rites and Rituals


La MaMa Galleria

47 Great Jones Street

New York, NY


Thursday–Sunday from 1pm to 7pm
Opening Reception—Thursday, Oct 14, 6–8pm
Press Day—Friday, Oct 15, 1–4pm
Betsy Damon in conversation with Monika Fabijanska — Wednesday, Oct 20, 7pm
Performance: Listen, Respect, Revere (1986) — Wednesday, Oct 27, 7pm
Gallery is open (by appointment): Monday-Friday:12pm - 6pm

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Passages: Rites and Rituals is the first exhibition of Betsy Damon’s radical outdoor performance practice (1976-86). It will feature the documentation of eight public performances, as well as Body Masks—erotic photographs from a 1976 private performative session, which have never been presented publicly.

Activism and community-building have been central to Damon’s feminist practice since the 1970s. A leader among lesbian activists in New York, she co-edited the third issue of Heresies, Lesbian Art and Artists (1977), and participated in the first lesbian art show in the U.S. (1978), curated by Harmony Hammond at 112 Greene Street, and The Great American Lesbian Art Show at the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles (1980). Her early performances addressed the erasure of women’s narratives from history (Blind Beggarwoman, 1979-80, alluding to Homer), and gender-based violence (7,000 Old Year Woman, 1977-78; Rape Memory, 1978-79; What Do You Think About Knives?, 1980-81). Their non-conformist courage consists not just in their subjects but—strikingly—also taking them out to the streets of New York and other cities, often without an institutional umbrella. All of them placed woman’s agency in the center of the public space. Her performances as healing rituals soon grew to include concern for the environment (A Shrine for Everywoman, 1980-88 and Meditations with Stones for the Survival of the Planet, 1982-late 1980s), and she devoted her later practice to public space projects focused on preserving living water.

Today, Betsy Damon (American, b. 1940) is among the most relevant pioneer ecofeminist artists; her social practice attracting a growing interest globally. The exhibition will show how the distinctive vocabulary of Damon’s performance practice – performing outdoors in city streets, inviting audience and other artists’ collaboration, employing archetypes and elements of ritual, and her engagement with transnational feminism – informed the development of her later ecofeminist social practice.

Curated by Monika Fabijanska

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Betsy Damon, 7,000 Year Old Woman, performance at Cayman Gallery, New York, March 21, 1977. Archival print ©Betsy Damon 1977/2021. Courtesy of the artist