Document 26: Excerpt from Arlene Raven, interview with Cheri Gaulke, New York, 19 September 1992. Woman's Building Oral History Project. Transcript in author's personal collection.


   What exactly constituted feminist art proved a contentious issue within the feminist art movement. Was all art made by women feminist? Did the content of a piece of art need to clearly reflect feminism, or did any art made by an artist who described herself as a feminist qualify for the label? At the Woman's Building, the definition of feminist art offered by founder Arlene Raven was adopted by many of its members. Significantly, it eschews the issues of intent and content to offer a functional definition of feminist art.

   CG: What about this definition of feminist art or the function of feminist art, the tripartite thing we love to quote so. How did that come about?

   AR: That was my invention, just something I thought, that feminist art has to be defined by its function, not by its properties but the way that it works in the world, its action, so I thought raise consciousness, invite dialogue and transform culture [emphasis added]. Well what do you do? Well first give people something to think about, but not just leave it there, which is where a lot of feminism is left, but give them something to do, and be able to be aware of how your whole society around you is transformed by what you are doing. I don't mean in a unilateral way, but in some way. So that is how that came about. It just came about in my mind.


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