Carolee Schneemann (b. 1939, Illinois) received a B.A. from Bard College and an M.F.A. from the University of Illinois. She holds Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from the California Institute of the Arts and the Maine College of Art.
Schneemann began as a painter during the 1950s before moving to New York with her partner, the composer James Tenney, in 1960. Here, they engaged and collaborated with the growing avant-garde movement and community of artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers, from contemporaries such as Claes Oldenberg, Jim Dine and Robert Whitman to older, more established figures including Stan Brakhage, Maya Deren and Carl Ruggles. Within this experimental scene, Schneemann began to experiment with new media and forms of art-making, from performance to film, and co-founded and choreographed for the groundbreaking Judson Dance Theater. Schneemann once said that "everything that I have developed has to do with extending visual principles off the canvas." Her work, from painting-constructions and assemblages to kinetic multimedia installations, transcends the boundaries of media and discipline.
Meat Joy (performed in Paris, London and New York in 1964) marked a milestone for the artist, producing a platform from which Schneemann has continued to challenge perceptions within art. Other celebrated pieces include self-shot erotic film, Fuses (1965), and the provocative performance Interior Scroll (1975, 1977). Through these works, which incorporate her physical body and subjective experience, Schneemann has reshaped discourse on gender, sexuality and the body, insisting on her status as both image and image-maker. Collapsing the personal and the political, Schneemann has also engaged significantly with international politics, issues of censorship, and images of violence, as in the anti-Vietnam War film Viet-Flakes (1965). Other recent seminal works include Vulva's Morphia (1995), Ask the Goddess (1993-97), and Flange 6prm (2013). A feature length film on Schneemann's work and history entitled Breaking the Frame by Marielle Nitoslawska was completed in 2012.
Published books by Schneemann include: Cezanne; She Was A Great Painter (1976); Early and Recent Work (1983); More Than Meat Joy: Complete Performance Works and Selected Writings (1979); Correspondence Course (2010) by Kristine Stiles, and Imaging Her Erotics: Essays, Interviews, Projects (2002). Awards received include: Art Pace International Artist Residency; two Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grants; Guggenheim Fellowship; Gottlieb Foundation Grant; National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship; Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the College Art Association.
In 2015, the Museum Der Moderne Salzburg held a retrospective of Schneemann's work, curated by Sabine Breitwieser, which was accompanied by a full-colour catalogue. The exhibition travelled to the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Germany and MoMA PS1, New York in 2017. A major monograph, Carolee Schneemann: Unforgivable, was published by Black Dog in December 2015. Also in 2015, The Artist’s Institute at Hunter College in New York held a four-part dedicated season of exhibitions and events. Schneemann's first solo exhibition in London, UK, Water Light/Water Needle, took place in early 2014 at Hales Gallery. During 2013, Schneemann's work was exhibited at the Gothenburg Biennial (Sweden), WRO Centre (Poland) and in a retrospective of the artist's work in Musée Rochechouart (France).
Schneemann's work has also been exhibited worldwide at institutions including the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (US), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (US), the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (France), The Reina Sophia Museum, Madrid (Spain), the Haus der Kunst (Germany), Tate Modern (UK), Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (UK), the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Ireland) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (US). In 1997, a retrospective of her work entitled Carolee Schneemann, 'Up To And Including Her Limits' was held at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.
Schneemann's work is included in many important collections including Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York (US), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (France), Franklin Furnace, New York (US), Hamburger Bahnhof Museum, Berlin (Germany), Hirschhorn Museum, Washington D.C (US), Institute of Contemporary Art, London (UK), Institute of Contemporary Art, Chicago (US), Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (US), Museum of Modern Art, New York (US), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (Sweden), New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (US), Peter Norton Collection, California (US), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia (US), Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence (US), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California (US), The Whitney Museum of Art, New York (US), and Yale University Art Gallery, Connecticut (US).