Fresno State professor’s book on birth of feminist art unveiled in SF

A book edited by Fresno State history professor Dr. Jill Fields that details the Fresno State origins and overall impact of feminist art is getting statewide exposure with its launch in San Francisco and two book signings later in Los Angeles.

“Entering the Picture: Judy Chicago, the Fresno Feminist Art Program and the Collective Visions of Women Artists” (Routledge Press/$42.95) will be released at the Feminists in the Arts event 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at The Green Arcade (1680 Market St. at Gough Street). The launch, which is free and open to the public, is presented by the Asian American Women Artists Association.

The Los Angeles events are:

  • Noon Nov. 30 at the University of Southern California, sponsored by the Department of Gender Studies and the Center for Feminist Research.
  • 3:30-5:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Henneseey and Ingalls Art & Architecture Bookstore in Hollywood (1520 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Suite #8).

Fields, who joined the Fresno State faculty in 1999 and teaches women’s, social and cultural history, will join Asian American Women Artists Association artist and book contributor Lydia Nakashima Degarrod and contributors Tere Romo and Tressa Berman at the San Francisco launch. They will discuss their experiences in multi-ethnic women artists’ collectives from the 1970s to the present.

Routledge Press describes “Entering the Picture” as “an interdisciplinary collection of essays by artists and scholars with 37 illustrations and color plates depicting contributions of feminists to American art including in Fresno and other locales. It includes articles on topics such as African American artists in New York and Los Angeles, San Francisco’s Las Mujeres Muralistas and Asian American Women Artists Association, and exhibitions in Taiwan and Italy.”

It recounts how in 1970, then visiting artist Judy Chicago taught art at Fresno State and with 15 students founded the Feminist Art Program, before moving to Los Angeles in 1972 with some of the Fresno students. There, they helped establish the first major feminist art installation, Womanhouse” in Hollywood – “a critique of women and domesticity,” Fields said, that launched the feminist art movement in the U.S. and gained national media notice.

The Women’s Studies Program at Fresno State was established in 1971 born from that era of feminist activism under its first coordinator, Dr. Lillian Faderman, professor emeritus of English, who is also a contributor to “Entering the Picture.”

“Judy Chicago is now considered by many to be the best-known feminist artist in the world,” Fields said. “Nine of the original 15 Fresno students went on to successful professional careers as artists at a time when doing so was extremely difficult for women.”

Two contributed to Fields’ book, Nancy Youdelman and Karen Lecocq, who teach at Fresno State and the University of California at Merced, respectively. A third, Dori Atlantis was the Feminist Art Program photographer, who chronicled the group then and whose work is on the “Entering the Picture” cover. She now lives and works in Los Angeles.

Other Fresno contributors to the book are Laura Meyer, a Fresno State associate professor of art history, and Sylvia Savala, an artist who teaches at Fresno City College and is a board member of Artes America and Gallery 25.

“Little is known about this major Fresno contribution to contemporary art history and about the women who made it happen,” Fields said of her mission in this project.

A review by Dr. Andrea Liss, professor of Contemporary Art History and Cultural Theory at CSU San Marcos, said Fields’ study is an important contribution to the cultural history of feminist art.

“The essays by artists and scholars explore interconnections between that locus of activity and feminist strategies nationally and internationally,” Liss said. “‘Entering the Picture’ establishes a crucial foundation for the aesthetics and ethics of the early feminist movement, based on its magnificent ideas of liberation, exploration and justice.”

Fields may be reached at 559.278.5414 or jfields@csufresno.edu.

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