Feminist Erotic Artist Anita Steckel Dies




“If the erect penis is not wholesome enough to go into museums, it should not be considered wholesome enough to go into women” (Anita Steckel)

Anita Steckel – the key feminist artist, little known beyond the underground until art historians discovered her in her 70s and acclaimed her work as masterly and groundbreaking – has died at age 82.

Ms. Steckel spent most of her life working in a small studio in Greenwich Village. She appropriated eroticism in her art in effort to establish the right of women to make art from the male figure — just as men had from time immemorial used the nude female figure. In 1973, an exhibition of her works depicting naked men and women engaged in suggestive or explicit acts of sexual expression set off a tabloid furore. It led her to form an organization of female artists called the Fight Censorship Group whose membership would include Louise Bourgeois and Hannah Wilke.

She wrote a mission statement for the group which read: ‘If the erect penis is not wholesome enough to go into museums, it should not be considered wholesome enough to go into women.’ And throughout her life, she relished the transgressive role of arists: ‘Good taste is the enemy of art,’ she said in 2007; ‘It’s wonderful for curtains, but in art it’s suffocating.’

Steckel was described by Richard Meyer,  art historian and professor at the University of Southern California, as ahead of her time in her use of materials, her fusion of art and politics and her feminist audacity: ‘Anita Steckel was a visionary artist whose work addressed issues of gender, pleasure and sexual politics well before the founding of the women’s art movement. … She was fearless.’

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