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The Foundations of Feminist Art: History, Philosophy, Practice


Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

Philosophy Dept., Cavanaugh Hall Rm 344

Indianapolis, IN



Phone Number



Peg Brand


The Foundations of Feminist Art: History, Philosophy, Practice H400: Art History, P367: Philosophy of Art, W300: Topics in Women’s Studies Fall 2007 IUPUI (Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis) This undergraduate level course, listed under three course numbers, will be taught by members of two different schools: Dr. Jean Robertson of the Herron School of Art and Design and Dr. Peg Brand, School of Liberal Arts. Emphasis will be on various disciplines and methodological approaches to defining and characterizing feminist art. Robertson, with expertise in art history, is a practicing art critic, curator, and theorist. Brand is a philosopher and artist. (71 words so far) Beginning in the 1970s, feminist artists introduced unique themes and new media to express their experiences and comment upon past artistic traditions and practices. This course explores the meaning, theories, and many functions that feminist art plays in the artworld against the backdrop of the canonical disciplines of art history and philosophical aesthetics. Themes of focus will include the ethical-political context and intentionality of a work of art, identity (gender intertwined with race, class, sexuality, and ethnicity), global perspectives on western ‘feminism’, and a focus on the body and the gaze. Now in its fourth decade, feminist art is assessed in terms of the so-called ‘post-feminist world’ in which we live, with a look to its future viability and import.

Fall 2007

The Foundations of Feminist Art: History, Philosophy, Practice  

H400: Art History  Section 26336 P367:  Philosophy of Art Section 25607/I300: Integrator Section 25836   W300: Topics in Women’s Studies Section 25658
12:00 – 2:40 p.m. Wednesdays
HR 194 (Herron School of Art and Design, IUPUI campus:
Indiana University Purdue University – Indianapolis)

Dr. Jean Robertson (Associate Professor: Art History, Herron)
Office: HR 238  Office Phone: 278-9483

Dr. Peg Brand (Associate Professor: Philosophy & Women’s Studies, SLA)
Office: CA 503D  Office phone: 274-8851

What is feminist art? Who are its practitioners? What are its major themes, particularly its focus on the human body? What role does the history of art and philosophical aesthetics play in the creation, interpretation, and appreciation of feminist art? How does feminist art intersect with ethics and politics? Does living in a so-called post-feminist age rule feminist art obsolete?


Unless indicated otherwise, presume class readings are available on the Ereserves system which requires that you logon at


Week One.  August 22 | Feminist art / Feminist pedagogy Introductions. Review syllabus: Expectations and goals of class; discuss grant.
Video:  No Compromise: Lessons in Feminist Art with Judy Chicago (1999; WTIU 2002)
Facilitators: Professors Brand and Robertson

Week Two.  August 29 | What is feminist art? Art and feminism: c. 1970-1990.
DVD: The Dinner Party: A Tour of the Exhibition [by Judy Chicago] (2002)
Facilitator: Professor Robertson
1. Laura Meyer, “Power and Pleasure: Feminist Art Practice and Theory in the United States and Britain,” in Amelia Jones, ed., A Companion to Contemporary Art since 1945 (Blackwell, 2006), pp. 317-342.
2. Linda Nochlin, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” in Thomas B. Hess and Elizabeth C. Baker, Art and Sexual Politics: Women’s Liberation, Women Artists, and Art History (Collier, 1973), pp. 1-39.

OPTIONAL Special Event | Thursday, August 30 at 7:00 pm “Feminist Art and Censorship: A Talk with Yara Ferreira Clüver, Indianapolis Museum of Art, DeBoest Lecture Hall, (Ms. Clüver is featured in the video No Compromise . . .)

Week Three.  Sept. 5 | What is feminist aesthetics? Philosophical aesthetics and feminism. Discussion of methodologies.
Facilitator: Professor Brand
Read: 1. Roberta Smith, “They Are Artists Who Are Women; Hear Them Roar,” The New York Times, March 23, 2007
2. Judy Chicago’s Newsletter (Summer 2007) from Through the Flower Corporation:, pp. 1-2.
3. Peg Brand, “Feminism and Aesthetics,” The Blackwell Guide to Feminist Philosophy, eds. Linda Martin Alcoff and Eva Feder Kittay (Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 254-265.
4. Carolyn Korsmeyer, “Feminist Aesthetics,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2004) online at

Week Four.  Sept. 12 | What is feminist criticism? Art and feminism after 1990.
Diversity and difference.
Facilitator: Professor Robertson
Read: 1. Laurie E. Hicks, Excerpt from “The Construction of Meaning: Feminist Criticism,” Art Education, 45 (2) (1992), pp. 23-27.
2. Fiona Carson, “Feminist debate and fine art practices,” in Fiona Carson and Claire Pajaczkowska, eds., Feminist Visual Culture (Routledge, 2001), pp. 25-35.
3. Adrian Piper, “The Triple Negation of Colored Women Artists,” in Hilary Robinson, ed., Feminism-Art-Theory: An Anthology 1968-2000 (Blackwell, 2001), pp. 57-68.
4. Harmony Hammond, “Against Cultural Amnesia,” in Hilary Robinson, ed., Feminism-Art-Theory: An Anthology 1968-2000 (Blackwell, 2001), pp. 555-561.

 Exercise due Sept. 12: Gender/Race Diary

 Week Five.  Sept. 19 | Male Gazing in the Museum (The Eurocentric Gaze)

Class visit to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Meet in the main lobby at 12:00 p.m.
Facilitators: Professors Brand and Robertson    At 1:30 p.m.: Tour of the Contemporary Art Galleries by Lisa Freiman, IMA Curator of Contemporary Art
1. Peg Brand (book review), Charles Harrison, Painting the Difference: Sex and Spectator in Modern Art (The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 65, no. 2 (Spring, 2007), pp. 244-246. Reading #1 available online through Oncourse, as a document under the “Resources” tab. 2. Vernon Hyde Minor, “Feminism,” in Minor, Art History’s History, 2nd Edition (Prentice-Hall, 2001), pp. 152-160.      3. bell hooks, “The Oppositional Gaze” in Black Looks: Race and Representation (South End Press, 1992), pp. 115-131.

Writing assignment due September 19: Does gender influence the creation, presentation, interpretation, and appreciation of art?

Week Six.  Sept. 26 | Are you a feminist? Feminism and practice.
View works by art students in the class (OPTIONAL).
Do feminist ideas influence your own art? 
If someone offered you a show at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, would you accept?
The Feminist Art Project at Rutgers University (
Further Discussion of final project
Facilitators: Professors Brand and Robertson
Read: 1. “Feminism and Art [9 views]” (Panel Discussion), Artforum International, vol. 42 (October, 2003), pp. 140-150. 2. Amelia Jones, “’Post-feminism:’ A Remasculinization of Culture?” (1990), in Hilary Robinson, ed., Feminism-Art-Theory: An Anthology 1968-2000 (Blackwell, 2001), pp. 496-506.
3. Peg Brand, “Feminist Art Epistemologies: Understanding Feminist Art,” HYPATIA: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, vol. 21, no. 3 (Summer, 2006), pp. 166-189. (handout)
4. Abigail Solomon-Godeau, “Feminism’s Long March,” book review in Art in America (June/July, 2007), pp. 63-67.

Week Seven.  Oct. 3 | Backlash against feminism Feminism and the power of images in the wider visual culture (advertising, sports, film, television)
DVD by Jackson Katz, Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity     (DVD is on reserve at IUPUI Main Library BF692.5 T68 2002)
Facilitator: Professor Brand
Read: 1. Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (Three Rivers Press, 15th anniversary edition, 2006), pp. ix-xvi; pp.1-15. 2. Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture (Free Press, 2005), pp. 1-5.

Week Eight.  Oct. 10 | Post-feminist liberation (or not)?
Explicit sexuality in art.
Sexuality and violence.
Facilitator: Professor Robertson
Read: 1. Jean Robertson, “Artistic Behavior in the Human Female,” in Betsy Stirratt and Catherine Johnson, eds., Feminine Persuasion: Art and Essays on Sexuality (Indiana University Press, 2003), pp. 23-38.
2. Michelle Falkenstein, “What’s so good about being bad?” Art News, vol. 98 (November, 1999), pp. 158-163.
3. Barbara Pollack, “Babe Power,” Art Monthly, no. 235 (April, 2000), pp. 7-10.

Week Nine. Oct. 17 | Should art have limits? Ethics and politics. Pornography, censorship, and the limits of art.
DVD by Byron Hurt: Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes (2006) (DVD is on reserve at IUPUI Main Library ML3531 H56 2006)

Facilitator: Professor Brand
Read: 1. Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party (Penguin Books, 1996), pp. 219-223.
2. Catherine MacKinnon, Only Words (Harvard University Press, 1993), pp. 3 – 41;
113-126 (footnotes contain info on the Dworkin-MacKinnon 1988 Model Ordinance. The first anti-porn ordinance to be enacted in the U.S. was the Indianapolis Anti-Porn Ordinance of 1984. The American Booksellers Association fought this ordinance all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals where it was defeated on August 27, 1985).
3. Guy Trebay, “Sex, Art and Videotape,” The New York Times, June 13, 2004 [A review of the recent art performance/videotape “Untitled” (2003) of artist Andrea Fraser; more info on the artist can be found at the Friedrich Petzel Gallery]

Reading #3 available online through Oncourse, as a document under the “Resources” tab

Paper topic/1-page abstract due October 17 (submit 2 copies): selection of artist to be added to the “canon,” with brief biography; selection of artwork; working bibliography; answer to basic question: What issues in feminist art history do you think a discussion of this artwork will help illuminate?

We will email our reactions and suggestions to you individually.

Help for writing your abstract can be found in the “Handouts” section of the IUPUI University Writing Center at under:


-Writing Effective Summaries (abstract).

Week Ten. Oct. 24 | Expressive bodies Tour of the Kinsey exhibition, Expressive Bodies, at Herron Galleries, led by Catherine Johnson-Roehr, Curator of the Kinsey Institute collection (12:00 – 1:15) Read:
1. Richard Leppert, “The Male Nude: Identity and Denial,” in John C. McEnroe and Deborah F. Pokinski, eds., Critical Perspectives on Art History (Prentice Hall, 2002), pp. 134-138.
2. Lynda Nead, “The Female Nude: Pornography, Art, and Sexuality,” in John C. McEnroe and Deborah F. Pokinski, eds., Critical Perspectives on Art History (Prentice Hall, 2002), pp. 237-244.
3. Susan Bordo, “Beauty (Re)Discovers the Male Body,” in Beauty Matters, ed., Peg Brand (Indiana University Press, 2000), pp. 129-136.

 Week Eleven. Oct. 31 | Women and politics in the art world

Galleries, museums, journals and magazines, organizations.
Guest speakers: Dave Mattingly, Director of Galerie Penumbra
Judy Newton, co-author of Skirting the Issue: Stories of Indiana’s Historical Women Artists (Indiana Historical Society Press, 2004)
1. Selected readings on Jo Hopper from Gail Levin’s Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography (Rizzoli, 2007)
2. Judith Vale Newton and Carol Ann Weiss,  Introduction from Skirting the Issue: Stories of Indiana’s Historical Women Artists (Indiana Historical Society Press, 2004), pp. 1-11.
3. bell hooks, “Women Artists: The Creative Process,” in Hilary Robinson, ed., Feminism-Art-Theory: An Anthology 1968-2000 (Blackwell, 2001), pp. 635-640.
4. Excerpt from Maura  Reilly, “Introduction: Toward Transnational Feminisms,” in Maura Reilly and Linda Nochlin, eds., Global Feminisms: New Directions in Contemporary Art (Merrell, 2007), pp. 17-24.
5. Kristen Raizada, “An Interview with the Guerrilla Girls,” NWSA Journal, vol. 19, no. 1 (Spring, 2007), pp. 39-62 Reading #5 available online through Oncourse, as a pdf under the “Resources” tab.

OPTIONAL *SPECIAL EVENT* Saturday, Nov. 3: 10:00 am Appearance by the Guerrilla Girls at University Place Conference Center Auditorium

Week Twelve. Nov. 7 | Research Papers
Individual consultations with professors about papers (special office hours)

Week Thirteen. Nov. 14 | Feminism and diversity Class visit to the Eiteljorg Museum to see the Eiteljorg Fellowship exhibition.
Tour led by Jennifer Complo McNutt, Eiteljorg Curator of Contemporary Art
(Meet first in classroom; 1:00 at Eiteljorg Museum.)
Read: 1. Introduction and excerpts from the catalogue for the Eiteljorg Fellowship exhibition.

Paper outline due November 14 (submit 2 copies):  See Final Research & Writing Assignment handout . Include an outline of the key points you will make in response to the following questions: How would you write about the artist and exemplary artwork for an art history textbook? For an aesthetics text?


Help for writing your outline can be found in the “Handouts” section of the IUPUI University Writing Center at under:
-Making an Outline

Thanksgiving Break begins on November 21: No class

Week Fourteen. Nov. 28 | Going global Feminism and international issues.
Guest speaker: Filiz Cicek.
Read: 1. Tina Sherwell, “Bodies in Representation: Contemporary Arab Women Artists,” in Fran Lloyd, ed., Contemporary Arab Women’s Art: Dialogues of the Present (Woman’s Art Library, 1999), pp. 58-69.
2. Leila Ahmed, “The Discourse of the Veil,” in David A. Bailey and Gilane Tawadros, eds., Veil: Veiling, Representation and Contemporary Art (MIT Press, 2003), pp. 42-55.
3. Filiz Cicek, Artist’s statement
4. Filiz Cicek, “Problems in Representation,” in the Indiana Daily Student newspaper (5/22/2003) online at
5. Fatima Mernissi, Beyond the Veil: Male Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society, revised edition (Midland book-Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1987):

• “Women and the Sacred Threshold: Allah’s Boundaries and Men’s Obedience,” pp. xv-xviii;
• “Notes to the Western Reader,” pp.7-9;
• “Conclusion: Women Liberation in Muslim Countries,” pp. 165-177.

 6. OPTIONAL – Fedwa Multi-Douglas, “Female Body Male Gaze” in Medicines of the Souls: Female Bodies and Sacred Geographies in a Transnational Islam (University of California Press, Berkeley, 2001), pp. 15-47.

Week Fifteen. Dec. 5 | Are we post-post-feminist? Is feminism still relevant?
What is the future of feminist art? (Is there a future for feminist art?)
What role will/might I play in the future of feminist art? What role will feminist art play in my future?
Facilitators: Professors Brand and Robertson
1. Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, “Introduction: The F-Word,” The F-Word/Feminism in Jeopardy: Women, Politics, and the Future (Seal Press, 2004), pp. 1-17.
2. Mary Flanagan and Suyin Looui, “Rethinking the F Word: A Review of Activist Art on the Internet,” NWSA Journal, vol. 19, no. 1 (Spring, 2007), pp. 181-200.
Reading #2 available online through Oncourse, as a pdf under the “Resources” tab

Exam week.  Wed. Dec. 12 No class.
Final Research Papers and Abstracts due no later than Dec. 12
(submit 2 copies)




Documentation for this event is housed in The Feminist Art Project archives at Rutgers University.




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