Pioneering Art Historian, Lesbian, Arlene Raven Dies at 62
August 14, 2006, 5:51 pm
Filed under: gay and lesbian

When I was a graduate student at USC, I wrote a paper on Arlene Raven that forever endeared me to her and her life’s work. Because of dedicated, hard working women like Raven, I get to walk around feeling entitled – as a women – to a place at the table.

Raven co-founded the Los Angeles Woman’s Building in 1973 with artist Judy Chicago and graphic designer Sheila Levrant de Bretteville. Raven taught art history there and founded the Lesbian Art Project to promote work by and about lesbian artists. The three women, who were colleagues at the California Institute of the Arts, also launched the Feminist Studio Workshop, a two-year training program that sought to merge consciousness-raising with practical art education.

“She was one of the very earliest women … to begin to write women back into art history,” said Terry Wolverton, a Los Angeles writer and former director of the Woman’s Building.

When the Woman’s Building closed in 1991, Raven moved to New York and served as the chief art critic for The Village Voice as well as a contributing editor for On the Issues: The Progressive Woman’s Quarterly. Raven lectured at the New School in Greenwich Village and led women on monthly tours of New York City galleries, museums and studios for 21 years.

A prolific scholar of women’s art, history and criticism, Raven wrote or edited nine books, including the important anthology Feminist Art Criticism (1988) and Art in the Public Interest (1989). She also co-founded and edited Chrysalis, an avant-garde feminist journal that attracted writers such as Adrienne Rich, Mary Daly and Susan Griffin.

Raven passed away on August 1 in her Brooklyn, New York home. She is survived by her life partner since 1983 and well-known artist, Nancy Grossman.


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