On Feminism in Art? (1995)

(manuscript, 25 VII 1995. The text was published in the exhibition catalog: Maria Pinińska-Bereś 1931-1999, Bunkier Sztuki Gallery, Kraków 1999)


On the subject of feminism in art I am not going to expound authoritatively, give recipes or recommendations. I can, at most, offer a few words of re-flection on the subject of my own route.

I consider the year 1965 as the date when my art begins, art that may be labelled as female. It was indeed from 1960 that certain elements of this attitude appeared in works of mine. They were, for example, sewn throws, laid under the massive concrete Rotundas.

In 1965 I decided, however, to sever links with the classic material approach to sculpture. This decision was all the more heroic for during my degree I had been a capable student of sculpture, praised by the maestro Professor X. Dunikowski. Later works also did not give me cause for artistic disillusionment.

I felt, however, during these years a need to create art wholly authentic, that grew from the author’s personality. Rotundas were still to a degree assigned to the cultural circle of sculptural methods. Now the issue was the liberation of the author’s personality. The author here was a woman, with the baggage of experience that today would be classified as feminist. I had still to hear of feminism, while I deeply hid my experiences, perceptions and resentment.

Yet when once I decided to speak with my own voice, when I had unblocked that female reservoir there flowed out a river which led me myself at times into confusion. I was greatly affected at that time by the opening of exhibitions and comments, often aggressive or ironic. Over a series of years my work was damaged at exhibitions by some anonymous person.

Hence the sphere of text… I considered, however, that this was too little, that art, in order to be fully feminine must touch the eternal feminine techniques.

My sculptures were hand sewn, stuffed, modelled and covered with colour. For a time I used the technique of stuck paper layers. I fulfilled the demand that I should carry my own statues. In earlier works poured over with concrete I’d always had to count on male help in transporting my work.

I found therefore my own female technique and the courage to speak with my own voice. In 1965 I noticed that I was making a jump in vain. A risky jump, crossing out the achievements of ability and method. The demand for authenticity triumphed however, and I started to vainly fulfil it.

Firstly was the cycle Corsets. They were created from 1965 to 1967. A woman’s corset not only makes the body thinner, but also the woman’s psyche. From the Table entitled The Feast of 1968 start the ‘psycho furniture’ as I roughly defined it at the time. The 1970s are characterized by the annexation of space, objects spread over the exhibition space, interfering in the surroundings. A series of performances come into being. Pink becomes the colour of the author.

In the second half of the 1970s, hence over ten years from embarking on this road, I heard my work termed feminist art. Was this important to me?

It was a shock. It carried the hope of sisterly souls, while it brought the disillusioned instrumental approach of European feminists to art, for instance at the opening of the Internationale Feministische Kunst at the Hague Museum in Holland.

In the last decade I have carried out a dialogue, or my own game with art. That which I managed to articulate about my sex, emotional experiences connected with the struggle with a range of taboos, and the breaking of the commandments touching women, all this has not shaken, however, my conviction in art’s superiority.

                                  1. VII. 1995


Translated by “Inter-text Translation”

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