Miriam Schapiro born 1923 American Abstract Expressionism/ New York School, Minimalism, Geometric Abstraction/ Hard Edge Painters
Miriam Schapiro moved to New York with her husband, the painter Paul Brach, in 1952, at the height of the popularity of Abstract Expressionism. While Brach was instantly welcomed into the Club, Schapiro felt excluded; as she states, “I was shy and not experienced at speaking up. I was also concerned about people liking me and was afraid to speak up.” She struggled to reconcile her identities as artist and woman, while working within the context of the “boys’ club” of Abstract Expressionism. She and Brach first visited East Hampton in 1953, when they rented a house with their neighbor and fellow artist Joan Mitchell. The following year they were guests of Leo and Ileana Castelli in East Hampton. Later that summer, Schapiro and Brach purchased a barn in Wainscott, where they would summer for many years and eventually move full-time. After abandoning the Abstract Expressionist style, Schapiro worked through a series of “shrine" paintings, employing images that were personallty symbolic to her. In the late 1960s her distinctive visual vocabulary focused on central core imagery. The hard-edged style of her paintings reflects the aesthetics of male-dominated Minimalism, but she used this format to represent the feminine central core. This style represents the resolution of an identity crisis, a visual declaration that women can have “strong, male-assertive, logical, measured, and reasonable thoughts in a female body.” Schapiro’s involvement with the women’s movement coincided with the development of central core imagery in her painting. In the late 1960s she and her family moved to California. Her husband was chair of the art department at the University of California at San Diego in 1967, and Schapiro taught there, then followed him a few years later to the newly formed California Institute of the Arts. While still in San Diego, Schapiro met Judy Chicago, and after lecturing and working together, they developed the Feminist Art Program for Cal Arts in 1971. This revolutionary project culminated in the collaborative exhibition space Womanhouse, whose rooms and installations reflected the ideals of feminism, centering around the position of the woman in the home. At this time Schapiro’s style shifted again, from hard-edged central core paintings to collages of patterned fabrics, found objects, photomontage, acrylic painting, and printing. These works inaugurated the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s. Schapiro used the term “femmage” rather than "collage," emphasizing through her combination of commonplace materials the traditional connection among women and craft in American society. Schapiro, who has traversed the globe lecturing and teaching, maintains a home and studio in Wainscott, as well as her feminist ideals.
Thalia Gouma-Peterson. Miriam Schapiro. P 41. Harry N. Abrams. 1999