Media - 1997.112A-B - SAAM-1997.112A-B_1 - 13044
Copied Miriam Schapiro, Dollhouse, 1972, wood and mixed media, overall: 79 34828 12 in. (202.6208.321.6 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Gene Davis Memorial Fund, 1997.112A-B

Artwork Details

overall: 79 34828 12 in. (202.6208.321.6 cm.)
Credit Line
Museum purchase through the Gene Davis Memorial Fund
Mediums Description
wood and mixed media
  • Object — toy — dollhouse
Object Number

Artwork Description

In 1971, Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago taught a groundbreaking feminist art class at the California Institute of the Arts outside Los Angeles. Their aim was to radically question the values of the male-dominated art world and to encourage women to make art out of their own experiences and inner lives.

The all-female class transformed an abandoned Hollywood mansion into an environmental art space dubbed "Womanhouse." In its rooms, they created installations and performances about gender, menstruation, domesticity, and other subjects rarely discussed by women in public.

Dollhouse was originally exhibited as part of "Womanhouse." The piece playfully subverts the saying, "A woman's place is in the home." The kitchen, nursery, and boudoir represent the standards a white, middle-class woman of Schapiro's generation felt expected to achieve as homemaker, mother, and sexual partner to her husband. Yet also included, at upper right, is an artist's studio--a traditionally male space that Schapiro here claims for herself. Standing on the easel is a tiny replica of one of Schapiro's own abstract paintings, and, nearby, a male model poses next to a tray of bananas--a gender reversal of the expected female nude.

"Womanhouse" was a watershed in feminist art, attracting thousands of visitors. It was also a transformative experience for Schapiro, who subsequently dedicated her work to celebrating female experience and feminine crafts. "I was trained to be an artist by men," she said, "but I learned how to express myself from women."