National Museum of Women in the Arts
Carolee Schneemann
October 12 1939 - present
Photograph of Carolee Schneemann, 2006, by Alex Sweetman, courtesy of the artist
Place of Birth:
Fox Chase
Phonetic Spelling:
KAIR-oh-lee SHNAY-mahn
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Drawings and prints, Multimedia (electronic, digital, video, film), Painting, Performance Art , Photography
Artistic Role(s):
Assemblage Artist, Body Artist, Collagist, Filmmaker, Installation Artist, Mixed Media Artist , Multimedia Artist, Painter, Performance Artist, Photographer, Video Artist
Conceptual Art, Feminist Art, Other
Artist's Biography:
Carolee Schneemann has been using her body to explore and transgress the ideas of human sexuality, gender, and social taboos for much of her career. Schneemann trained as a painter, receiving her bachelor’s degree from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York and her master’s degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She started working with a variety of media such as, performance, assemblage, film, video, photography, and installation when she moved to New York in 1962, consistently referring to these works as painting.

Schneemann worked in collaboration with the Judson Dance Theater from 1962 to 1965, a fertile performance art center located in Greenwich Village. It was during this time that Schneemann staged Meat Joy (1964), an improvisational performance work featuring eight performers in a Bacchanalian of worship of the flesh incorporating raw meat, music, and paint. Also in 1964, Schneemann began work on Fuses (1964-1967), considered the first erotic film made by a woman artist. Using a 16mm camera, Schneemann filmed herself and her then partner, James Tenney, having sex as observed by their cat, Kitch. She later disordered the sequence of events, interspersing scenes of nature, and manipulated the film with heat, acid, paint, and scratching giving it a unique painterly quality. Schneemann used this film to explore sensuality and the intangible qualities of the sexual experience from a uniquely feminine point of view. It was her objective to explore sexuality without objectifying the female body, as seen in much of pornography.

Schneemann’s performance Interior Scroll (1975) again used her body to challenge convention. Schneemann posited that the vagina was a source of knowledge and creativity, subverting the idea of male dominance of artistic production. During this performance, Schneemann entered robed in a sheet and naked except for an apron. She stood on a table and began reading from her book Cézanne, She Was a Great Painter (1974), while simultaneously assuming poses from life drawing classes and painting her body with mud. She then began pulling a scroll from her vagina, inch by inch, and reading from it. Written on the scroll was a manifesto that described the marginalization and sexism that women artists faced at the hands of their male counterparts and critics. This work was performed at the Women Here and Now Festival in East Hampton, New York and at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado.

In addition to making art, Schneemann writes extensively on her work and other issues and has taught at many prestigious universities including New York University, Bard College, and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Schneemann continues to make multimedia works that not only concentrate on the issues of sexuality and identity but also focus on war and death. Schneemann lives and works in Springtown, New York.

Other Occupation(s):
Activist, Director (Administration), Feminist, Founder, Lecturer, Professor, Teacher, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
Place(s) of Activity:
Where Trained/Schools:
La Universidad de Puebla, Mexico The New School for Social Research, New York, NY, USA Columbia University, School of Painting and Sculpture, New York, NY, USA University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, USA
Related Visual Artists:
collaborated with Yvonne Rainer friend of Allan Kaprow influenced Patty Chang influenced by Stan Brakhage partner of Anthony McCall
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Honorary Doctorate, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA, USA (2003) Jimmy Ernst Award for Lifetime Achievement, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY, USA (2002) Grant, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc., New York, NY, USA (1997, 1998)
Earliest exhibition:
Mink Paws Turret, Artist's Studio, New York, NY, USA (1962)
NMWA exhibition(s):
WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution
Artist retrospective(s):
Carolee Schneemann: Breaking Borders, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Ontario (2007) Carolee Schneemann: Remains to Be Seen, CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NY, USA (2007) Carolee Schneemann: Up To and Including Her Limits, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY, USA (1996)