Women’s Work

Unlike most political art, Wilson-Pajic’s feminist works did not employ more traditional forms and media, such as figurative painting, thought to be accessible to non-specialists, but continued to explore the possibilities of narrative forms not yet authenticated as art. Her positive vision of women and their capacity to manage their own lives was exemplary.

Keywords: art, avant-garde, contemporary art, performance art, performance, anti-performance, installation, sculpture, object, text, sound, video, sound installation, text installation, photography, photo-text, photogram, feminism, feminist art, theatre, film, still life Nancy Wilson Kitchel, recording, site-specific, environment, art context


Dear John 1968

Taped text installed In Situ in Garden City, New York.

Wilson-Pajic recorded a text about the difficulties of a woman’s existence, in the form of a description of a day in the life of a small-town, middle-class, working mother. She installed it in a pile of dirty dishes in her kitchen for a “salon” evening, and titled it “Dear John”. This piece very efficiently set people to interrogating their own existence (especially the women).

«This may have been the first installation of my own text; it was an important revelation to me of the power of text to mobilize others.»

See also Sackler Center for Feminist Art, New Yorkhttps://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/feminist_art_base/gallery/nancy_wilson_pajic.php?i=2815https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/feminist_art_base/gallery/nancy_wilson_pajic.php?i=2815shapeimage_2_link_0
See also Questions of ContextQuestions_Context.htmlQuestions_Context.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0

Identity Studies

A series of performances exploring women’s self-definition. The fact that the works employed photographic documents with the texts made them more acceptable to the art world and they were, and still are, particularly solicited.

Options 1975

Installation exploring the choices presented to women in private and professional life. It consisted of a montage of sound from television and radio, with passages of her own texts, plus 5 loose-leaf notebooks presenting images of women from magazines and books, including passages of books and magazines with “he” changed to “she” and vice-versa.

At the time the piece was shown, feminist art did not yet provoke universal complaisance and self-congratulation. At the Biennale de Paris in 1976, the work was almost entirely destroyed in a violent protest.

Roles 1972

Unique work consisting of 4 photos documenting a performance. Dressed in her sister’s prom dress, her mother’s house dress, her grandmother’s coat, she represented the three traditional roles of women: Virgin, Mother and Matriarch, to which she added a fourth: the independent Career Woman, wearing her own clothes. Strangely, she closely resembled her grandmother, who never worked in her life, but who was a model of independence.

Covering My Face: My Grandmother’s Gestures 1972-73

Performance documented in photos. Black and white photos plus hand-written text mounted on cardboard. Exists in 5 different versions, in collections of the Musée national d’art moderne, Paris; Fonds régional d’art contemporain Haute Normandie; Neuflize Vie collection of photography; and private collectors.

Wilson-Pajic’s works on her Grandmother’s gestures were perhaps the most widely known of her work on female identity and social roles. Its affirmation of female identity and of women’s heritage exemplified a more positive tendency in feminist art.

Among its more recent showings were the National Portrait Gallery in London and Elles@Centre Pompidou, the important survey of women’s art in the collection of the Musée national d’art moderne in Paris.

Ladies 1970

In Situ sound installation. A speaker was hidden in a pile of dolls on a couch in a living room environment. A woman’s voice admonishes a child to behave like a lady, enumerating rules for good behavior, such as «Ladies don’t hit boys».

How Do Men Turn Into Dogs? 1975

Installation in the form of a “learning center” composed of table, chair, lamp, 5 poster-like drawings tracing the process of physical transformation from human to canine, and a 93-page loose-leaf notebook with notes, clippings, collages and drawings demonstrated the relation between dog training and job training. The piece suggests that men are also victims of sexual stereotyping.

The piece was shown in 1976 in the influential exhibition Frauen Machen Kunst (Women Make Art) organized by Margarethe Jochimsen at the Galerie Magers in Bonn and at the Wolfsburg Kunstverein.

(Collection of the Artphilein Foundation, deposited at the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, where it is on permanent display.)

Ladies was later installed as a self-contained sound sculpture in galleries and museums.

See Also: Sackler Center for Feminist Art, New Yorkhttps://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/feminist_art_base/gallery/nancy_wilson_pajic.php?i=2793https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/feminist_art_base/gallery/nancy_wilson_pajic.php?i=2793shapeimage_4_link_0
See Also: Sackler Center for Feminist Arthttps://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/feminist_art_base/gallery/nancy_wilson_pajic.php?i=2791https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/feminist_art_base/gallery/nancy_wilson_pajic.php?i=2791shapeimage_5_link_0
See also Kitchen TableGetting_Free.htmlGetting_Free.htmlshapeimage_6_link_0

Audio (excerpts)