Description: Mary BethEdelson(American, b.1933)Dance, 1971oil on canvassigned and dated verso.
Biography from National Museum of Women in the Arts
Mary Beth Edelson has been a pioneer of the Feminist Art movement in the United States since the early 1970s. Her performances, paintings, and collages have relentlessly explored the role of women in society and challenged dominant patriarchal values.
Born in 1933 in diverse East Chicago, Indiana, Edelson had creativity and activism, which were fostered early on by her community-driven parents. In 1955, during her senior-year exhibition at DePauw University, outraged faculty members requested her work to be pulled from the show because it was deemed "degrading and an affront to ministers and small children." Campus-wide protests ensued thus beginning a career whose hallmark would be controversy.
In Some Living Women Artists/Last Supper (1972) based on Leonardo Da Vinci's famous mural, Edelson collaged the heads of prominent women artists over the figures of the Christ and his disciples. With Georgia O'Keeffe as Christ flanked by Nancy Graves as John the Baptist, the composition became one of the most iconic images of the Feminist Art movement almost instantaneously. By using a Christian image, Edelson challenged organized religion as a major cultural force in the subordination of women over the centuries.
Over the years, religion remained a key component of Edelson's oeuvre and was the main subject of her powerful 1977 performance Proposals for: Memorials to the 9,000,000 Women Burned as Witches in the Christian Era. Also around that time, the concept of Goddess increasingly emerged in Edelson's work allowing the artist to transform her own image and slip into new personas, whether fictitious or real.
Edelson's will to reclaim control of the female identity and transform it into a powerful medium of expression is clear in photomontages such as Goddess Head (1975).
Her site-specific performances or 'rituals' which kept investing both private and public spheres strove to create a new feminine spirituality with its own values and iconography.
Beside her important contribution to the arts, Edelson was involved in a multitude of Feminist-related endeavors such as the organization of the first National Conference for Women in the Visual Arts in Washington, DC in 1972. She was also a founding member of the Feminist publications Heresies Collective and Chrysalis.
In 1993, Edelson received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from DePauw University, and in 2000 was the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.
Today, Edelson actively pursues her artistic interests as well as her involvement in collective groups such as the Women's Action Coalition and Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.
44 1/4"H x 39 1/2"W (image), 45 1/2"H x 41 1/4"W (frame).