A New Eros: Erotic Art by Women Artists in New York, 1963-1973


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Art History


Although women began making erotic art from explicitly female viewpoints in the early 1960s, art history has only properly addressed such work made after the feminist art movement coalesced in 1970. In chronological case studies, this dissertation takes on the issues that arise when considering erotic art produced by filmmaker Carolee Schneemann, sculptor Hannah Wilke, collagist Anita Steckel, and painter Joan Semmel in both pre-feminist and early feminist contexts. It argues that these artists made crucial interventions in the history of postwar American art, not only by redefining the male tradition of erotic art, but also in exploiting the genre to dismantle the universal assumptions of modernism. This dissertation contextualizes their work within the New York art scene of 1960s and early 1970s, and reveals how it inspired debates about gender, taste, and artists’ freedom to address everything from profane topics to deep social concerns.