The following blog post is the fourth in a series of Facebook posts I wrote for Women's History Month, and to follow along with the hashtag #5WomenArtists, started by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. These posts were written to be an accessible, informative, and humorous way to encourage friends of mine to engage with art history and feminism.
FAST FACTS: We're talking about #5WomenArtists in celebration of Women's History Month! We've learned about three fantastic women so far, and now we get to chat about ADRIAN PIPER!!!
It is 1981, and we're at a little school in Cambridge, Mass. Maybe it is snowing. I don't know. Adrian Piper is getting her PhD from Harvard, and -- you guys. It's just. Adrian Piper is one accomplished gal, and it will take a lot of time to list every single badass thing she has done. We could talk about her MANY degrees (School of Visual Arts, A.A. Visual Arts; CUNY, B.A. in Philosophy; Harvard, M.A. and PhD, Philosophy -- not to mention her time studying Kant in Berlin for three years). We could talk about her fellowships (National Endowment -- twice -- AND Guggenheim? Damn, Piper BACK at it again with the fellowships). We could talk about her faculty positions at Harvard, Georgetown, Stanford, and Wellesley (among others) or how when she was put on the "Suspicious Travelers," list whilst working in Berlin, Piper said, "Fuck that," and just never returned to America. As if you could just DO that.
It should be pretty clear that Adrian Piper is a "Don't take 'No,' for an answer," kind of person, and has worked incredibly hard to be where she is today (Berlin. Remember, from before?). Her art practice is conceptual, and her body of work ranges from traditional painting, to prints, drawings, sculpture, photomanipulation and documentation, as well as performance art (among others. I KNOW.) Her work is reflective of both her intellectual pursuits (Kantian metaethics) and whip-smart personality. She is unafraid to confront issues such as race, gender, class, and "otherness," and Peggy Phalen has said that her work shows "the ways in which racism and sexism are intertwined pathologies which have distorted our lives." Piper herself calls this kind of confrontation "therapeutic and catalytic." Rock on, Adrian.
Some of Piper's more well-known works include "Mythic Being," (1972) where she donned an afro wig, a mustache, and a distinctly male-gait, with which she sauntered around New York City, negotiating a male/female space, exploring blackness and the black male figure in among the crowds. She also produced a series of Calling Cards -- one of which I've uploaded here as the thumbnail to this post ("My Calling (Card) #1" (1986-1990)) -- to ostensibly pass out to friends or strangers, and call them out for their problematic behavior in a clinical and premeditated way. Piper continues to practice today, and she took home the Golden Lion Award for Best Artist at the 56th Venice Biennale last year. Her work continues to be shows at museums internationally. Nice, you guys. Nice.
Check out her meticulously put together website here:http://www.adrianpiper.com/
In addition to Adrian Piper, we've talked about gender inequality in the arts, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Zubeida Agha and Yayoi Kusama. You can check out those posts on my page, or give 'em a Google!