Considered one of the first-generation feminist artists, Carolee Schneemann was a pioneer in exploring gender and sexuality in her various artistic mediums. This past March 6, 2019 she was pronounced dead due to a battle with breast cancer.
Schneemann’s work crosses all sorts of mediums. She started painting at the age of five, and later became known for her filmography, visual and performance art. One of her most recognized performances is her piece Interior Scroll where she puts a paper accordion inside her body. While she slowly extracted the scroll from her vagina, she read passages from it to an audience. Another controversy was around her film “Meat Joy.” In an obituary in ArtNews, writer Andrew Russeth explains the short film:
“Meat Joy has the character of an erotic rite: excessive, indulgent; a celebration of flesh as material: raw fish, chickens, sausages, wet paint, transparent plastic, rope, brushes, paper scrap,” Schneemann wrote. “Its propulsion is toward the ecstatic, shifting and turning between tenderness, wildness, precision, abandon—qualities that could at any moment be sensual, comic, joyous, repellent.”
Growing up with a doctor father, Schneemann’s main conquest was to separate eroticism from the normalcy of the naked body.
“Describing the work on another occasion, in terms that could very well serve as a manifesto for her entire career, she said, ‘The culture was starved in terms of sensuousness because sensuality was always confused with pornography. The old patriarchal morality of proper behavior and improper behavior had no threshold for the pleasures of physical contact that were not explicitly about sex but related to something more ancient—the worship of nature, worship of the body, a pleasure in sensuousness’.” -ArtNews