In the artist’s The Beauty of Summer (1973–74), multicolored flower patterns flood a background filled with diamond shapes resembling handkerchiefs. Edges blur together, complicating the viewer’s understanding of the underlying process and structure. One of the latest Schapiro pieces in the show, House of Summer’s Night (1980), features a pointed, house-shaped canvas with similarly shaped interior pentagons demarcated by rhinestones and fabric. The home becomes a valid source of creative inspiration: It literally gives shape to the painting.
Schapiro was born in Toronto in 1923, migrating to Brooklyn with her family during the Great Depression. She received a masters degree in fine art from the University of Iowa, where she met the artist Paul Brach (whose own oeuvre spanned geometric abstractions to landscapes). The pair married and moved back to New York, where Schapiro exhibited her work at what were then some of the city’s major galleries: André Emmerich, Tanager, and Stable. In 1967, they moved to California when Brach got a teaching appointment at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Schapiro’s nascent feminist beliefs became central to her practice as she integrated herself into West Coast academic and artistic circles.
Though Schapiro was creating hard-edged abstractions in the late 1960s, they evidenced the concerns that eventually and more elaborately filled her femmages. Schapiro’s Big Ox
and Side Ox
(both 1968), for example, feature X-shapes with round, gaping holes at their centers. Like her contemporaries
, she used this “central core imagery,”
or vaginal form, to infuse power into feminine iconography and encourage women to reclaim their bodies and sexuality.