Summer Session

Summer Session – Suzanne Lacy on the Feminist Program at Fresno State and CalArts

Back to School is the focus of this month’s Summer Session, and today we bring you an interview from our friends at East of Borneo between Moira Roth and Suzanne Lacy, illustrating the ways in which Lacys graduate experience shaped her as an artist. Here, Lacy describes how feminism as part of her formal education was inextricably linked to her nascent art practice, and how the Feminist Art Program she helped develop at CalArts in the early 70s influenced the Los Angeles art scene. This article was originally published on December 15, 2011.

CalArts students at Klubnikin Packing Co., downtown Los Angeles, in Maps, 1973. Happening in Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Susan Mogul. Courtesy of Suzanne Lacy.

CalArts students at Klubnikin Packing Co., downtown Los Angeles, in Maps, 1973. Happening in Los Angeles, CA. Courtesy of Suzanne Lacy. Photo: Susan Mogul.

In this interview Suzanne Lacy offers a thorough discussion of the development of feminism in California and the California art world in the early 1970s. She describes her introduction to Judy Chicago and her subsequent involvement in the Feminist Art Program at Fresno State and later at CalArts. She describes the development of her own performance-based work and discusses the influence of other artists such as Faith Wilding and Allan Kaprow.

SUZANNE LACY: I discovered feminism in ’69. I then applied to graduate school at Fresno State and—

MOIRA ROTH: Why did you single out Fresno State?

SL: I think I had a boyfriend going there. [laughs] Some real profound reason. Fresno had a fairly decent grad program in psychology, and I got right in. At that point, feminist organizing was beginning in psychology. I went to the founding meeting of the Women’s Psychology Associates at an American Psychological Association annual conference in Washington, D.C. I met a lot of women psychologists who were just starting to ask questions about Freud’s attitudes toward women, etc. In graduate school, I taught a course in feminist psychology, which was very new then, for my graduate peers, and rabble-roused as much as I could every time Freud came up in a class, and I was known as “that angry woman.” 
At Fresno, I ran into Faith Wilding, who was there as a graduate in English literature. Her husband was a teacher. She was probably the only other person at Fresno that knew anything about feminism. We proceeded one day to stick up signs all over campus saying, “Feminist meeting tonight.” There must have been over thirty or forty women who showed up. Faith and I sat there dumbfounded and looked at each other and said, “What do we do now?” We did what has become, I think, a kind of strategy. We began talking about sex.

Read the full interview here.