Quincy, b.1924

May Stevens

May Stevens is a feminist activist artist, who came to prominence during the 1960s. Born in Quincy, MA, Stevens studied at the Massachusetts College of Art, the Art Students League, and the Academie Julian in Paris. She later taught at the School of Visual Arts, NY from 1961-1996. She was a founding member of Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics (1976).

From 1968-1997, Stevens and her husband, artist Rudolf Baranik (1920–1998), maintained studios in New York and exhibited widely. She began her first major painting series, Freedom Riders (with catalog essay by Martin Luther King, Jr.) in 1963. Other well-known painting series include Big Daddy (1967-76); Artemesia Gentileschi (1974-79); History Paintings (1974-81); Ordinary Extraordinary / Rosa Luxemburg and Alice Stevens (1976-91); Sea of Words (begun in 1990); and...

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Biography

May Stevens is a feminist activist artist, who came to prominence during the 1960s. Born in Quincy, MA, Stevens studied at the Massachusetts College of Art, the Art Students League, and the Academie Julian in Paris. She later taught at the School of Visual Arts, NY from 1961-1996. She was a founding member of Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics (1976).

From 1968-1997, Stevens and her husband, artist Rudolf Baranik (1920–1998), maintained studios in New York and exhibited widely. She began her first major painting series, Freedom Riders (with catalog essay by Martin Luther King, Jr.) in 1963. Other well-known painting series include Big Daddy (1967-76); Artemesia Gentileschi (1974-79); History Paintings (1974-81); Ordinary Extraordinary / Rosa Luxemburg and Alice Stevens (1976-91); Sea of Words (begun in 1990); and Rivers and Other Bodies of Water (begun in 2001).

She has received numerous awards including 10 MacDowell Colony residencies, a Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award (1990), Guggenheim Fellowship in painting (1986), National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in painting (1983), Andy Warhol Foundation residency (2001), and the Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement by the College Art Association (2001). Major publications include May Stevens, a monograph by Patricia Hills with introduction by Phyllis Rose (2005); May Stevens Catalog for Big Daddy Series with essay by Lawrence Alloway on the occasion of her solo show at Cornell University’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (1973); Lucy R. Lippard’s essay, “May Stevens’ Big Daddies,” which appeared in From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women’s Art (1976); May Stevens: Ordinary/Extraordinary, A Summation, 1977-1984, edited by Patricia Hills with essays by Donald Kuspit, Lucy Lippard, Moira Roth, and Lisa Tickner (1984); and May Stevens: Images of Women Near and Far published in conjunction with her retrospective at Museum of Fine Arts Boston (1999).

Stevens’s work is in numerous prominent museum collections, including the British Museum, London; Brooklyn Museum, NY; deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA; Hood Museum of Art, NH; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Minneapolis Institute of Fine Arts, MO; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Museum of Modern Art, NY; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; New Museum of Contemporary Art, NY; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY. Two of Stevens’ Big Daddy works feature in the newly renovated Museum of Modern Art’s permanent display.

Her work has been included in exhibitions at the Arts Student League (2019), Smithsonian American Art Museum (2019), Detroit Institute of Arts (2019), Whitney Museum of American Art (2017), British Museum (2017), Brooklyn Museum (2017). In 1999, Stevens had a major retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, entitled Images of Women Near and Far 1983-1997, the museum’s first exhibition of its kind for a living female artist. In 2005, she had important traveling solo exhibitions at the Springfield Museum of Art, MO; the Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, NY. She was further featured in important solo exhibitions at the New Museum(1988) and Cornell University’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum (1973).

“May Stevens: Rosa Luxemburg, Paintings and Collages, 1976-1991,” a solo exhibition of her work, will run through December of 2019.

Artworks

19

The Elaboration of Absence, 1991

Related Categories

20th Century Art / Acrylic on Canvas / Acrylic on Paper / Acrylic Paint / Acrylic Painting / American Art / Art of the 1970s / Art of the 1980s / Art of the 1990s / Art Students League / Collage / Drawing / Female Identity / Historical Figures / History/Historical Approach / Learning from Foregoers / Painting / Paper / Women Artists / Works on Paper

Curriculum Vitae

Education

  • 1989

    Postdoctoral Fellow, Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA (1988-1989)

  • 1960

    MFA Equivalency, New York City Board of Education

  • 1948

    Art Students League, New York, NY

Solo Exhibitions

  • 2019

    Rosa Luxemburg, Paintings and Works on Paper, 1976-1981, RYAN LEE, New York, NY

  • 2017

    Alice in the Garden, RYAN LEE, New York, NY

  • Big Daddy Paper Doll, RLWindow, RYAN LEE, New York, NY

Group Exhibitions

  • 2019

    Post-War Women, Art Students League, New York, NY

  • Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

  • From Camelot to Kent State: Pop Art, 1960-1975, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI

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Curriculum Vitae

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Education

  • 1989

    Postdoctoral Fellow, Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA (1988-1989)

  • 1960

    MFA Equivalency, New York City Board of Education

  • 1948

    Art Students League, New York, NY

  • Academie Julian, Paris, France

  • 1946

    BFA, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA

Solo Exhibitions

  • 2019

    Rosa Luxemburg, Paintings and Works on Paper, 1976-1981, RYAN LEE, New York, NY

  • 2017

    Alice in the Garden, RYAN LEE, New York, NY

  • Big Daddy Paper Doll, RLWindow, RYAN LEE, New York, NY

  • 2014

    May Stevens: Fight the Power, RYAN LEE, New York, NY

  • 2013

    May Stevens: Political Pop at ADAA, Park Avenue Armory, New York, NY

  • 2012

    May Stevens: The Big Daddy Series, National Academy of Design, New York, NY

  • 2011

    One Plus or Minus One, Mary Ryan Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2010

    May Stevens: Crossing Time, I.D.E.A. Space at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO

  • 2008

    May Stevens: Paintings and Works on Paper, 1968-1975, Mary Ryan Gallery, NY

  • 2007

    ashes rock snow water: New Paintings and Works on Paper, Mary Ryan Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2006

    Women, Words, and Water: Works on Paper by May Stevens, Rutgers University

  • 2005

    The Water Remembers: Paintings and Works on Paper from 1990-2004, Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, MO; traveled to the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, MN and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC

  • New Works, Mary Ryan Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2003

    Deep River: New Paintings and Works on Paper, Mary Ryan Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2001

    Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA

  • 2000

    Rivers and Other Bodies of Water, Mary Ryan Gallery, New York, NY

Group Exhibitions

  • 2019

    Post-War Women, Art Students League, New York, NY

  • Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

  • From Camelot to Kent State: Pop Art, 1960-1975, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI

  • Women Defining Themselves: The Original Artists of SOHO 20, Rowan University Art Gallery, Glassboro, NJ

  • 2017

    An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017, curated by David Breslin, Jennie Goldstein, and Rujeko Hockley with David Kiehl and Margaret Kross, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

  • American Dream: Pop to the Present, curated by Stephen Coppel, British Museum, London, UK

  • You Belong Here: Reimagining the Blanton, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin, TX

  • 2015

    America is Hard to See, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

  • 2014

    Witness: Art, Activism, and Civil Rights in the 1960s, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY

  • 2013

    Rabble-Rousers: Art, Dissent, and Social Commentary, The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY

  • 2012

    Sinister Pop, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

  • We the People, Rauschenberg Foundation, New York, NY

  • …As Apple Pie, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

  • 2010

    New Prints 2010/Spring, Selected by Philip Pearlstein, IPCNY, New York, NY

  • 2009

    The Poetic Dialog Project curated by Beth Shadur, Simon Yates Gallery, Chicago, IL; travelled to Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN

  • Reconfiguring the Body in American Art, 1820-2009, National Academy, New York, NY

  • 2007

    Claiming Space: Some American Feminist Originators, The Katzen Museum, American University, Washington, DC

  • Lost and Found II, Patina Gallery, Santa Fe, NM

  • 2006

    Hot Off the Press: Prints of 2006 from New York Printshops, The Grolier Club, New York, NY

  • Women, Words and Water, Rutgers University, Douglas Library, New Brunswick, NJ

  • The Book As Art: Twenty Years of Artists' Books from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC

  • How American Women Artists Invented Postmodernism: 1970-1975, Mabel Smith Douglas Library, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey; traveled to Monmouth Museum, Lincroft, NJ; Noyes Museum, Oceanville, NJ; Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, NJ; and Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ

  • 2004

    Insight Out, The Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, NM

  • Eight Artists Portfolio Premiere, Harwood Museum, Taos, NM

  • The 179th Annual: An Invitational Exhibition of Contemporary American Art, National Academy Museum, New York, NY

  • 2003

    Censorious, Ceres Gallery, New York, NY

  • Insomnia: Landscapes of the Night, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC

  • 2002

    In the Spirit of Martin: The Living Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit, MI; traveled to Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE; Missouri Historical Society, St Louis, MO; Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY; Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN; and Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Montgomery, AL

  • H2O, Houghton House Gallery, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY; traveled to Western Gallery, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA; Elaine L. Jacob Gallery, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

  • Personal and Political: Women Artists of the Eighties, Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY

  • Text and Textile: Words and Weaving in Contemporary Art, Deutsche Bank, New York, NY

  • A Century on Paper: Prints by Art Students League Artists 1901-2001, UBS Paine Webber Art Gallery, New York, NY

  • Daily Terrors, Santa Fe Art Insitute, Sante Fe, NM

  • 2001

    Highlights from the Collection: Social Conflicts in American Art, Jersey City Museum, Jersey City, NJ

  • Twentieth Century Reflections and Impressions, Mary Ryan Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2000

    The End: An Independent Vision of the History of Contemporary Art, EXIT ART, New York, NY

Grants/Awards

  • 2004

    Edwin Palmer Memorial Prize for Painting, National Academy of Design

  • 2001

    College Art Association Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement

  • Andy Warhol Foundation Award, Residency, Project Space, Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA

Collections

  • Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, OH

  • Allentown Museum of Art, Allentown, PA

  • Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, TX

  • British Museum, London, UK

  • The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

  • Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH

  • The David C. Driskell Center, University of Maryland, MD

  • David Owsley Museum of Art, Ball State University, Muncie, IN

  • DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA

  • Department of State, Washington, DC

Bibliography

  • Books

  • Larsen, Jessica Hunter. May Stevens: Crossing Time, Colorado Springs, CO: Colorado College, 2010.

  • Hills, Patricia, May Stevens, Petaluma, CA: Pomegranate Communications, Inc, 2005.

  • Cork, Richard, Breaking Down the Barriers: Art in the 1970s. London: Yale University Press, 2003.

  • Hills, Patricia, Modern Art in the USA: Issues and Controversies of the 20th Century. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2001.

  • Heller, Nancy G., Women Artists: Works from the National Museum of Women in the Arts. New York: Rizzoli and Washington, DC: National Museum of Women in the Arts, 2000.

  • Wasserman, Krystyna, Book as Art XIII: Books About Artists. Washington, DC: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 2001.

  • Bee, Susan and Schor, Mira, Eds. M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artist’s Writings, Theory, and Criticism. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2000.

  • Kuspit, Donald, The Rebirth of Painting in the Later Twentieth Century, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

  • Frascina, Francis, Art, Politics and Dissent: Aspects of the Art Left in Sixties America. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1999.

Writing

  • “The Artists Voice” National Academy of Design Spring Bulletin, Volume 20, Number 1, 2004.

  • “In Her Own Words” Women in the Arts. Magazine of National Museum of Women in the Arts.

  • “(Not) Coming to Terms.” with Rudolf Baranik, Exit Art - The First World, 1994.

  • “The White Paper.” Art & Academe: A Journal for the Humanities and Sciences in the Education of Artists, edited by Mark Salmon and Robert Milgrom. New York: Visual Arts Press, 1993.

  • “Whose Agenda? False Dichotomies on an Uneven Ground.” M/E/A/N/I/N/G #10, 1991.

  • “Mourning and Militancy.” M/E/A/N/I/N/G #5, 1989

  • “Ordinary Extraordinary.” Between Women, edited by Carol Ascher, Louise DiSalvo, and Sara Ruddick. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.

  • “Looking Backward in Order to Look Forward. Memories of a Racist Girlhood”, Heresies #15, 1982.

  • “Ordinary Extraordinary.” Artists Book, 1981.“May Stevens on Jane Cooper on Rosa Luxemburg.” Voices of Women: 3 on 3 on 3, edited by Cynthia Nava retta. New York: Midmarch Associates, 1980.

  • “Taking Art to the Revolution.” Heresies 9, 1980.