“In this work, there’s explicit genital imagery that’s combined with physiological images, sacred images, and images from nature,” Schneemann points out, as our conversation turns back to Fresh Blood - A Dream Morphology. The project, which will be on view at P.P.O.W, has taken the form of a lecture about taboos accompanied by a dynamic, pulsating video projection. Its goal is to emphasize female sexual pleasure as normative, as opposed to secret, shunned, or second-rate—the go-to responses to female eroticism in the early 1980s, when Schneemann began the piece. “It’s part of my sustained attempt to demystify the female genital experience, acknowledge it as something various, positive, and alive, instead of a some dead envelope to be torn apart or penetrated.”
Schneemann has been grappling with Trump’s perspective, and those similar to it, which homogenize and objectify women, since her youth in rural Pennsylvania. “When I was young, living in the country, the biggest compliment I could get was a boy saying, ‘When we grow up, will you breed my babies?’” Schneemann recalls. “I think that idea—that women have the power to procreate—still underlies the need to control and possess by male culture.”
It was in the 1960s, when Schneemann found herself ensconced in New York’s male-dominated avant-garde scene, that her frustration with this brand of deep-seated sexism was converted into art. By that time, she had left Pennsylvania and the traditional path her father had arranged for her. “My wonderful father refused to send me to college for art; he was afraid that I wouldn’t be a normal girl. And I wasn’t, I got lucky,” she laughs. Yet even though downtown Manhattan was rife with creative experimentation and the burgeoning organization of feminism, Schneemann didn’t feel particularly accepted there either. Some of her most pioneering works, like Meat Joy
(1964)—using her naked body in lieu of the “phallic” brush that “belonged to
male endeavor,” she’s explained
—were originally maligned by ardent feminists and big-name galleries alike, who were both, for different reasons, uncomfortable with her use of eroticism.