It would be hard to find an exhibit with more at stake than the upcoming show at the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus.
“WARM: 12 Artists of the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota” is intended to do nothing less than rescue the history of Midwest women’s art—a history that has largely been forgotten.
The exhibition features art that was displayed in the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota (WARM) gallery from the 1970s to the 1990s. Curator Joanna Inglot, a College of St. Catherine professor, hopes that viewers will realize how critical local artists were to the national women’s art movement. “I wanted these decades to mark a point in history,” Inglot said. “I wanted to commemorate what the women of Minnesota gave to the feminist movement.”
The show displays the work of 12 WARM members, each of whom focused on themes inspired by the second wave of the feminist art movement: the body, sexuality, domesticity and the social construction of femininity.
“This show pulls together themes that were distinctive of their time and of WARM,” Inglot said.
How it started
The first feminist art cooperative in the state, WARM was formed in 1973 by a group of women who simply wanted to talk about art. They began meeting in each other’s homes, showing slides and discussing articles like Linda Nochlin’s “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Seeing the need for change, they decided to form a collective in order to give each member the opportunity to share work, expenses and the decision-making process.
The collective began working out of the College of St. Catherine’s art department. In 1976 a renovated wholesale showroom became the WARM gallery, where the 37 members took turns displaying their art. The collective published a monthly journal and started a mentor program, pairing new artists with experienced members for two years.
After 10 years, WARM had developed a national reputation and organized a national conference on women in the arts.
According to Inglot, WARM’s transformation over the years reflects the changes in feminist art that have occurred across the nation. During the 20 years that the WARM gallery was open, feminist art cooperatives were springing up along the East and West Coasts and in larger cities everywhere. The galleries became places where women artists could discuss their feminist agendas and present them to the communities around them. During the 1990s, feminist art began to move out of the cooperatives and into a more personal space.
“Feminist art is more of an individual expression today,” Inglot said. “Those types of galleries are gone.”
WARM didn’t escape this trend either. The collective was unable to overcome its financial burdens and was forced to close its gallery in 1991.
But WARM remains active, using offices in St. Paul and operating with a volunteer staff. WARM members can display their art in rotating member exhibitions at various sites and network through coffee meetings and art partnerships.
WARM and the Weisman
“Over the past 30 years, nothing of real significance has been done to commemorate WARM,” Inglot said. “Everyone has vague memories of the gallery, but everything has been kept in historical archives.”
Inglot proposed her idea for the show to the Weisman, knowing the museum has a history with the organization. The Weisman has previously displayed work from various WARM members, but this will be the first show dedicated completely to the group.
“The Weisman has had a long relationship with WARM artists,” said Diane Mullin, the associate curator at the Weisman. “This exhibit just cements our support.”
This exhibition is also the first show to be assembled by a non-WARM member. As an outsider, Inglot said she could examine the group as a whole and identify its core themes.
Inglot also liked that the Weisman is linked with the University of Minnesota; many of WARM’s members either graduated from or currently teach at the school. Along with the exhibit, the Weisman will host panel discussions with the curator and artists, as well as separate gallery talks about the process, memories and legacy of WARM.
“I want this show to be a revival of interest in feminist art and women’s art in the Twin Cities,” Inglot said.
Share your views on WARM and women’s art in our “Arts forum”:https://www.tcdailyplanet.net/forum/59.