As with many of the artists associated with the feminist art movement, Miriam Schapiro (b. 1923) began her career surrounded by the male-dominated movements of the 1950s and 60s, particularly Abstract Expressionism and hard-edge painting. As she developed as an artist, she began to incorporate the structures and brushwork typical of these movements into a body of work that addressed the uniqueness of the female identity. For example, her OX series from the 1960s presents a set of very basic, abstract symbols of language that also combine to form a rather obvious stylized representation of the female vagina—a second layer of meaning that a viewer could deny but probably not ignore.
Schapiro created her OX series after a move to Southern California—a life change that brought with it a faculty position at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where she worked with Judy Chicago to establish the Feminist Art Program in 1971. Soon after, she and other members of the Program founded Womanhouse, and in 1972 Schapiro co-created the work Dollhouse, a piece that unapologetically integrated feminine imagery into the core of its meaning. During the 1970s Schapiro began to incorporate fabric into patchwork assemblages of paint, embroidery, and quilting that she called “femmages.” These works were the starting point for her leadership in the postmodern, abstraction-focused Pattern and Decoration movement, a mode of art making that continued into the 1980s.
Gouma-Peterson, Thalia and Miriam Schapiro. Miriam Schapiro: Shaping the Fragments of Art and Life. New York: Harry N. Abrams Publishers, 1999.
Schapiro, Miriam. Rondo: An Artist Book. San Francisco, CA: Bedford Arts, 1989.
Schapiro, Miriam, and Thalia Gouma-Peterson. Miriam Schapiro, A Retrospective, 1953-1980. Wooster, Ohio: College of Wooster, 1980.
Schapiro, Miriam, Robert A. Yassin, and Paul Brach. Miriam Schapiro: Works on Paper: A Thirty Year Retrospective. Tucson, Ariz.: Tucson Museum of Art, 1999.
Swartz, Anne. Pattern and Decoration: An Ideal Vision in American Art, 1975-1985. Yonkers, N.Y.: Hudson River Museum, 2007.