Mary Beth Edelson – Feminist Artist Icon

Starting this series of stories about feminist famous and local women on a somber note, Mary Beth Edelson passed away in April, 2021 at age 88. Edelson was an artist that made art in multiple mediums including collages, drawings, and performative photography. Edelson was most well known for her work that depicted women as goddesses, a commentary on the society’s sexist beliefs about women. Some notable works of hers include Some Living American Women Artists / Last Supper, Kali Bobbitt and The Negotiation.

Edelson was among “first generation feminist artists” that shaped art of the time. She also fiercely advocated for women’s rights and equality. As a founding member of the Heresies Collective, Edelson helped to write and release a feminist art and politics publication called Heresies. Edelson was Also a part of A.I.R, a gallery founded by women in the 1970s. It’s credited with being the first US based artist collective of feminists. In 1994 she ran the project Combat Zone: Campaign Hq. Against Domestic Violence. It served as a headquarters for people of all walks of life to come together to fight domestic abuse.

When asked about her art, Edelson is quoted as saying “What I am most concerned with is spirituality as it manifests itself in our bodies/minds and how this affects how we see/feel about our being, and as a feminist awakening to the greater self as female, as well as making a political statement for women that says I am, and I am large, and I am my body, and I am not going away.”

Edelson often took photos of herself in the nude, creating mixed media pieces that often prominently featured her breasts and vagina at a time where such art was extremely controversial. “I presented myself as a powerful, self-defining person in this body.” She said of her photos. 

She also took Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper and covered the men with over 80 women artists in Some Living American Women Artists. She said SLAWA was a commentary on both male dominated art and male dominated religion.

Edelson’s work is iconic and shaped an era of art. She has influenced multiple generations with her raw depictions of women’s bodies. Her work is featured in major art museum collections the world over. Her advocacy paved the way for other women artists and advanced the cause of women’s rights. That’s why she’s a badass woman worth knowing. More of Mary Beth Edelson’s work an be found here at her agent’s website

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