Suzanne Lacy: three decades of Performing
and Writing/Writing and Performing
Moira roth
Of Her Early Years, 1960s–1970s
“I wondered who they were, these women whose lives were such powerful
icons for my gender. How did I carry their condition inside my own head?”1
Suzanne Lacy asks herself these questions in her essay “Prostitution Notes”
(1974), the first text in this volume of collected writings, and such questions—
spanning a wide range of women’s experiences, including the impacts of age,
ethnicity, class, and violence—are the inspirations for and underpinnings of
much of Lacy’s early performances and writings.
Lacy had been deeply immersed in feminism since the late 1960s.2 She
began graduate studies in psychology at California State University at Fresno
in 1969. Here she and the artist Faith Wilding, a fellow graduate student,
established the first feminist consciousness- raising group on the campus.
Lacy was already working on a feminist discourse in the psychology depart-
ment when Judy Chicago arrived in Fresno in the fall of 1970 to open her
Feminist Art Program, with fifteen students, including Lacy and Wilding.3 A
year later, the program moved to Los Angeles, where it was run jointly by
Chicago and Miriam Schapiro and housed at the newly established Califor-
nia Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Lacy also transferred to CalArts, where she
enrolled not in the Feminist Art Program but rather in the Women’s Design
Program, directed by Sheila de Bretteville, another influential figure for Lacy
at this time, along with Allan Kaprow, who was then teaching at CalArts. His
ideas about performance and about art- life practice would have a profound
influence on Lacy: “Allan’s formalism was supportive to my own inclinations
in that direction. . . . Because he was working so closely with many of us femi-
nists, Allan’s work gave us an aesthetic foundation for the move into ‘life’ that
we were looking for. He gave us a historical rationale. . . . I thought of them,
humorously, as the passionate mother (Judy Chicago) and the affectionate,
distant father (Allan).”4
In January and February 1972, the Feminist Art Program’s faculty and stu-
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