page no. 1 2 3 4 5 6 biography
Dear Ulrike,

It was lovely to meet you and to discuss your interest in the Feminist Art Program and its impact on myself, other women artists, and the art world. I was a participant of the Feminist Art Program in its first year at CalArts and worked on Womanhouse and the experience left a deep impression on my life.
     I knew from an early age that I was an artist, but it was always a question to me how that might manifest itself in my life. I already had a strong independent sense of myself and an awareness of contemporary art when I heard Judy Chicago speak about her experiment with the Feminist Art Program at California State University, Fresno. I was familiar with some of the aspects of being a women artist, but she addressed issues that I had not encountered yet but I had an inkling were part of my immediate future. I was interested in what she had to say and wrote Judy. I was invited to come and visit the women of the program. I had already been accepted to tile undergraduate program at CalArts and had already completed three years of undergraduate school.
    Visiting the program in Fresno was revelatory. I was confronted with images and ideas that had a tremendous impact on me.
page no. 1 2 3 4 5 6 biography
All the women asked me if I was going to be part of the program. I almost felt that I had no choice. I was to be part of this experiment.

    That first year at CalArts in the Feminist Art Program was so full. It was simultaneously one of the best and worst experiences of my life. I was challenged in every facet of my being. My consciousness was being raised as to my possibilities as an artist, a person in the world, and in deeply personal areas. Every day was nerve wracking and wondrous. I was 21 years old, at a cusp of having developed myself to a level of awareness about myself, art and the world around me and still naive enough to approach the world with wonder and awe.
    The Womanhouse experience taught me to accept responsibility and to develop construction skills while developing the foundations of a feminist art. I liked the other women and still maintain a close friendship with Mira Schor and supportive professional relationships with some of the other women. While uncovering the history and contribution of women artists, questioning the nature of the core of women's art, trying to establish my individuality within the group and developing my own identity to myself as an artist brought about many opportunities for vulnerability and confusion. It took a tremendous amount of strength on my part to find my identity as an artist.

page no. 1 2 3 4 5 6 biography
I think there is some part of my personality that when faced with constraint or opposition stands up taller for my convictions.

    Experiencing the negative political machinations of the program leaders Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro coupled with the dynamics of any group endeavor threatened me as an art student. I longed to define myself outside the program. I had been accepted to the Graduate Program at CalArts and I chose to divorce myself from the program during those years (1972-74). I was divorced but not estranged. Miriam Schapiro was very supportive of me and my artwork. I closely followed the activities of the program and maintained friendships with many of the women in it. The program seemed to effect all the people of the CalArts community. The women took their experiences from the programs back to their families, lovers, friends, and co-workers. Many of the areas of exploration within the program continued and extended beyond CalArts to the art community and the world beyond.

    In retrospect one can see how many groundbreaking ideas begin in the experiment of the Feminist Art Program. At the time it seemed chaotic, volatile and sometimes wrong directed, even though it was exciting and inspiring. Twenty years later history is trying to tie it into a neat package. It was not.
page no. 1 2 3 4 5 6 biography
The questions raised, however, are still being answered and many doors have opened. There are still many questions to raise and yet even more doors to go and go through.

     

    Since graduating from CalArts I have pursued the life of a serious contemporary artist. I have continued to grow my art and myself. In addition to my art making I have a commitment to teaching art and have taught in many of the programs at colleges and universities in Southem California. My art work has been included in many exhibitions both locally and nationally. I am often asked to lecture about my own art work and on issues of contemporary art.
    In 1987 I was a recipient of a NEA Grant for Visual Artists for Painting. This year I was among the first artists to receive the Anonymous Was A Woman Foundation Grant. This is a new award for women artists over 30. The grant for $25,000 is a welcome opportunity for me to expand my art.

    Over the years, I can see that the program instilled in me a sense of the power of individuals and groups to make change and to effect the world around them. I often pull on my experiences in the program when I teach. The experiences I had In the Program helped me form many effective tools for helping students to find their own voice as artists and individuals.
    It seems like such a short time since I was at CalArts, but it is over twenty years.
page no. 1 2 3 4 5 6 biography
In that time I have conducted myself as a person and an artist in a humanistic way. I see art making as a growth process and I find that my art has a tremendous effect on myself and on others. The Program taught me that I have power in how I choose to effect others.
    As a student in the program I bristled at Judy Chicago's interpretation of Feminist Art as essentially defined by central core imagery. Ironically my art work has evolved images that utilize central images reminiscent of spines and my inner core. I feel that issues of feminist art were an influence in developing these images, but that I had to come to them on my own terms, through my own discovery.

    In the early 70s the women of the program asked women who were role models to us to address their experience and affirmation toward us. I am at a pivot point in my life. I am at a point where I wish a seer could help me with the path ahead but I also have acquired experience and wisdom to pass on to younger women artists. The life of an artist is often hard, but a creative life is the best path.
I encourage them to find their own voice, believe in it. I encourage them to be flexible and open to possibilities. The nature of art is constantly in flux. It can be compared to the life of a plant through the seasons.
page no. 1 2 3 4 5 6 biography
Creative blossoming, periods of dormancy, regeneration, and renewal but always constant growth.

Sincerest regards,

Robin Mitchell
page no. 1 2 3 4 5 6 biography
Robin Mitchell received her MFA (1974) and BFA (1972) in Art from California Institute of the Arts. She was awarded the City of Los Angeles - Individual Artists Grant for 1997-1998, the Anonymous Was A Woman Award (1986), and a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Grant for Painting (1987). Her art work including paintings, works on paper, and sculpture, has been exhibited extensively. She has been a teacher of Studio Art and Contemporary Art courses at the University of Southern California, the University of California at Irvine and Santa Barbara, Art Center College among other art institutions.