Maria Lassnig (1919–2014)

Maria Lassnig,  Kantate or The Ballad of Maria Lassnig, 1992, video, color, sound, 7 minutes 35 seconds.

IN 1974, A SMALL GROUP OF ARTISTS CAME TOGETHER. We named ourselves Women Artist Filmmakers. We were each painters dedicated to various materials, images. Our paintings had been consistently marginalized in the New York City world of heroic male traditions. Would presenting ourselves as both artists and filmmakers lead to a double marginalization? 

Martie Edelheit’s shaping energy organized our film programs, helped us find printing labs, and brought to focus our shared editing processes. Within the feminist energies of the 1970s, Women Artist Filmmakers carried determination, distinction, and pleasurable associations of our work and daily life. Unexpectedly our collaborations entered a transformative history in which women’s rigorous visual work would become influential among generations.

Maria, in New York City from Vienna by way of Paris, joined our group. Uniquely cheerful, she had a goofy smile that was always encouraging. Her films were charming, ironic, shifting between static images and density in motion—always colorful with a subtle, brutal gender appetite towards erotic happiness.

It was with her death that the powerful dark undertow of her self-portrait paintings became celebrated, shifting away from any interpretation of self-deprecation or essentialism!

Carolee Schneemann is an artist based in New York.

More reflections on Maria Lassnig can be found in the October print issue of Artforum.