USA/Canada, 2010, 83 min
Can you name three women artists? The question was asked of visitors to two major metropolitan art museums. Nobody filmed could. If you can’t either, see this film. And if you can, ditto, because you might owe that fact to the feminist artists, critics, curators and academics who, starting in the late 1960s, took on the old-boy art establishment in an all-out WAR: Women Art Revolution. Lynn Hershman Leeson was there with her camera and in 40 years has never turned it off. In her living room, in artists’ studios, over coffee, she recorded dozens of women artists. Their candid tales of WAR come woven together in this engaging, provocative film with original graphics by Spain Rodriguez and a score by Carrie Brownstein. Some of the stories are public record, such as congressmen debating the merits of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party with its depictions of “women’s genital regions.” Others were newsworthy protests at major institutions (meet the Gorilla Girls—still masked). But most are personal revelations that, taken together, form a history of a culture that grew out of the struggles of the 1960s but remained marginalized: How Faith Ringgold, the first to raise her voice in protest, challenged Robert Rauschenberg and Carl Andre as a representative of the made-up “WSABAL”; where Leo Castelli Gallery told the late Nancy Spero to put her artwork; and the childhood outrages that led women artists to adopt fictional identities, as in Howardena Pindell’s Free, White and 21 and Hershman Leeson’s own Roberta Breitmore series.
This is a Cinema by the Bay film. Presented in association with San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery.