Urgent Museum Notice

SoHo Women Artists

Close up of SoHo Women Artists

Life-sized, full-length portraits of 12 individuals form a frieze-like composition against a saturated lapis-blue background. Most of those portrayed are noted feminist artists and critics. Details from the artist's earlier paintings appear above and to the right of the figures.

May Stevens, SoHo Women Artists, 1978; Acrylic on canvas, 78 x 142 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum purchase: The Lois Pollard Price Acquisition Fund; © May Stevens and Ryan Lee Gallery, New York

SoHo Women Artists
May Stevens

Directly involved with the 1970s feminist art movement in New York, May Stevens created this contemporary version of an academic history painting.

Traditional western history paintings present scenes from classical or Christian history and typically exclude female figures. SoHo Women Artists is part of a series of historically-styled works that Stevens created to recognize women artists and call for the inclusion of women in art history, a cause catalyzed by the provocative 1971 ArtNews article entitled, “Why have there been no great women artists?”

Stevens’s painting highlights her devotion to the collective work of the Heresies activist group that she helped found as well as her preference for narratives that resonate with her personally. “The stories are anecdotes about events. And they’re selected because they mean something to me,” she notes.

Stevens composed this work from photographs of friends who helped shape the feminist art revolution from their New York City neighborhood. Arranged in a frieze-like composition are (left to right): Signora d’Apolito, owner of a bakery; two men from SoHo’s Italian-American community; May Stevens; fellow Heresies artists Harmony Hammond, Joyce Kozloff (sitting with her son Nikolas), and Marty Pottenger; artist Louise Bourgeois, in one of her wearable sculptures; artist Miriam Schapiro and critic Lucy Lippard, also Heresies members; and artist Sarah Charlesworth.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    May Stevens
  • Title

    SoHo Women Artists
  • Date

    1978
  • Medium

    Acrylic on canvas
  • Dimensions

    78 x 142 inches
  • Donor Credit

    Museum Purchase: The Lois Pollard Price Acquisition Fund
  • Photo Credit

    © May Stevens and Ryan Lee Gallery, New York
  • On Display

    Yes