Carolee Schneemann, '59 (BardCorps)
Ezra Broach '15; Helene Tieger '85
Carolee Schneemann begins her conversation by confirming,when asked, that she is a double Libra.
She describes her relationships, positive and negative, with Bard faculty in the 1950s, including: her advisor Stefan Hirsch (terrible; she would come to his house for advisee meetings, and wait until he emerged from his bath “all damp and hostile”); Louis Schanker (who was very kind; he taught her how to crush a garlic to make a good salad, and ‘never tried to get into her pants’, but who also said “Don’t set your heart on art--you’re only a girl.”); Harvey Fite (who she believed “hated” her); Anthony Hecht (who tried, unsuccessfully, to seduce her and left her feeling that she was in the wrong); and Heinrich Bluecher (who she revered as a teacher).
She recalls a Field Period when she got a job working the switchboard at The Cloisters. Part of her job involved polishing brass museum plaques from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She noted that one plaque attributed a painting to [Constance Marie] Charpentier, but the plaque also included her teacher, Jacques-Louis David in parenthesis because no one knew Charpentier’s name. Struck by the injustice of this, she was told no one knew Charpentier, implying that the painting had no value if it was painted by a woman.
Other stories include her recollection of her suspension from Bard on grounds of ‘moral turpitude’ (though she was able to keep her scholarship, and was allowed to study for a time at The New School); and her memory of being welcomed into a Bard sisterhood of women who shared a red flannel coat, along with a communal diaphragm.
Her subsequent career as teacher and artist was in part a response to the painful experiences she had in college, and as a talented woman in the 1950s. She felt the message she was given was “Do whatever you want. This is a free liberal time. But don’t expect it to mean anything.” And as she explained, “We didn’t have a context yet; we didn’t have feminist studies….breaking down the inherited patriarchy and its structures.”
Carolee Schneemann died on March 6, 2019.
Libra; Cancer; Gemini; Bard; Studio Arts; Stefan Hirsch; Wayne Battelle ’56; Elsa Rogo; Faculty Circle; Luckies [Lucky Strike]; The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan For Art Study; Kimon Nicolaides; Louis Schanker; New York; Saul Bellow; Anthony Hecht ’44; Albee; W. B. Yeats; New Orleanian; Houston, Texas; Aurora Award; Tivoli, New York; Field Period; New York City; The Met Cloisters; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Constance Marie Charpentier; James Rorimer; Unicorn Tapestries; World War II; Adolf’s; Frederick Dupee; Red Hook, New York; William Frauenfelder; Portland, Maine; Harvey Fite; Opus 40; Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters; Clair Leonard; Barbara Wersba ’54; Ruth Gillard; Emil Hauser; The New School; Columbia School of Painting and Sculpture; Heinrich Blucher; Hannah Arendt; White Horse Tavern; the Village, NYC; James Tenney; Steven Barbash, ’55; Florida; France; Parisian; Helen Frankenthaler; Robert Motherwell; Joan Mitchell; Barney Rosset; New Directions; Hedda Sterne; Saul Steinberg; Elaine de Kooning; Willem de Kooning; East Hampton, NY; Jackson Pollock; Lee Krasner; Planned Parenthood; Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania; Dr. [Robert] Spencer; Richard “Buzz” M. Gummere; Theodore Weiss; Louis Schanker; Mount Whitney; Steve Burr, ’53; Mona Mellis ’56; Dennis Cunningham; Melissa Ragona; Maggie Nelson; Peggy Ahwesh; Jennifer “Jenny” Jaskey ’12; The Artist’s Institute; Zabriskie Estate; [Christian] Zabriskie; Hudson River; Leon Botstein; Robert “Bob” Bassler ’57; Rhoda Levine ’53; Quaker
Home of Ms. Schneemann
Schneemann '59, Carolee, "Carolee Schneemann, '59 (BardCorps)" (2020). All Oral Histories. 66.
The use of any image or audio from the Bard College Archives without permission is prohibited.