Judith Bernstein and the Rhetoric of Power by Alix Greenberg

Judith Bernstein and the Rhetoric of Power by Alix Greenberg

Whenever women in the arts seek to move forward within the art world establishment, conservative forces of every variety gather to hold them back. Every advance is gained only through great expenditure of energy and unremitting endurance.[1] – Cindy Nemser, 1974

In the book Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art, Mary Garrard argues that Artemisia Gentileschi has been kept out of the canon because of her feminist scenes rendered in an unfeminine way.[2] Men, the architects of this canon, are historically repelled by this approach, and so have paid scant attention to her in the scholarship of art history. Thus, the driving force of this book was to reclaim, for the purposes of art history, the artist, her identity, and her heroism.[3] Just as Garrard sought to salvage Gentileschi from the shadows of art history, my art historical, semi-archeological project is to re-insert the canon by reclaiming an overlooked female artist, her name: Judith Bernstein who, like Gentileschi, has fallen victim to the myopia of a fundamentally male-composed canon. Based on the state of the literature, Bernstein has been under-recognized for the majority of her career, something my project gestures toward rectifying. As Linda Nochlin writes in her seminal essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” “In the field of art history, the white Western male viewpoint, unconsciously accepted as the viewpoint of the art historian, may – and does – prove to be inadequate not merely on moral and ethical grounds, or because it is elitist, but on purely intellectual ones.”[4] Hence, my present study will reveal the failure of art history in recognizing such a significant female artist.

In 1969, Bernstein introduced her signature motif – large-scale, architectural, calligraphic, seemingly hirsute, possibly rotating phallic screws rendered in charcoal. Representing the bulk of her work, this motif has been a bone of contention since its inauguration three decades ago (as her Horizontal, 1973 (fig. 11) was censored from “Woman’s Work: American Art 1974” at the Philadelphia Civic Center Museum) and remains a source of question due to its multi-metaphorical, sexually suggestive content. In researching this body of work, its origins, and socio-historical context, it is necessary to contextualize her within the larger framework of a decade defined by a flourishing military-industrial complex and rife with visible acts of violence both in Vietnam and at home on the streets and university campuses (i.e. the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970). This brutal period coupled with the concurrent feminist movement prompted many feminist artists, including Bernstein, to use the specificity of the time to address abstract issues regarding the legitimacy of patriarchy. Bernstein’s best, most well known manifestation of this concept is found in her horizontal and vertical phallic screw imagery, executed as metaphorical tools to combat patriarchy. It is important to note that unlike the majority of feminist artists of the late sixties and early seventies who created exclusively gyno-centric imagery, Bernstein’s executions are expressly penile. Therefore, although she belongs to the broader feminist movement, Bernstein can be more specifically located within the same milieu as Nancy Spero and Louise Bourgeois who also focused on male genitalia. Indeed, this choice presents numerous issues – from the explicit to the abstract –, which will be discussed at length throughout my investigation.

The examination begins with the most blatant issue – next to the actual content –, which is how the content is formally approached and rendered. Thus, in Chapter One, I will employ a formal methodology to trace and analyze the evolution of Bernstein’s work, focusing on how her earlier scatological drawings have developed and have lent themselves to her primary focus on the phallic screws. Discussion of these works will include a formal investigation, as choice of medium, scale, and application are significant, as they achieve a monumental, fantastical, and spectacular status not usually associated with drawings. In their formal execution alone, Bernstein has problematized preexisting notions of medium and scale, as she uses a medium normally associated with small-scale preparatory sketches in a massive format.

Another important issue central to the phallic screws is their visual relationship to Minimalist art, which will be addressed in Chapter Two. In this chapter, the works will be examined through a feminist lens, utilizing Anna Chave’s article “Minimalism and The Rhetoric of Power” to understand Bernstein’s invocation of male associated imagery, masculine artistic application, and a Minimalist aesthetic. [5]  This segment will investigate how Bernstein takes on the scale of male macho painting, yet offers a highly intimate surface, thus claiming monumentality and putting it down at the same time. In their fake monumentality, as the phallic screws ostensibly derive from tiny mechanical objects, the drawings will lead to a broader discussion of the phallus as a symbolic, personal icon and its explicit connection to masculinity, chauvinism, aggression, and war. The military angle in her work will be examined, both in terms of aesthetic and historical influences, as well as its evolution within her oeuvre. It is also necessary to discuss the way in which Bernstein employs a hostile vocabulary that is not only connected to militarism, but also associated with sex, as seen in her overtly phallic images that are imbued with a threatening size and an aggressive physical energy.

This, in turn, will lead to my assessment of the works’ threatening appearance in Chapter Three, which utilizes a psychoanalytical methodology, appropriated as a political weapon, to reveal the myriad, multi-layered psychosexual issues at play beneath the menacing surface of the phallic screws. The censorship of Horizontal, 1973 (fig. 11) will serve as a foundation for this psychoanalytical approach. It will be argued that because the male Executive Director of the Museum at the Philadelphia Civic Center, John Pierron, executed its exclusion, Horizontal (fig. 11), in its literal emasculation (as it is arguably a depiction of a severed penis) unconsciously threatened Pierron’s castration. Moreover, due to its phallic content as rendered by a woman, Laura Mulvey’s essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” will be employed to illustrate how Bernstein’s phallic screws mock the art historical (and cinematic) tradition of the ‘male gaze.’ [6] In that, the purpose of this chapter, as well as those preceding it, is to reconfigure the art historical canon by reclaiming Bernstein’s artistic poignancy and potency. The trajectory of my project will reveal likely explanations for why she slipped through the cracks of the canon and will propose possible reasons for her recent resurgence.

Chapter One: Reclaiming the Artist, her Identity, and her Heroism

Judith Bernstein defines herself as feminist and political, as she said at a panel discussion with the curators of her 2009 solo-exhibition in Los Angeles, CA at The Box: "The line between the personal, the political and the artistic is illusionary."[7] Like the other members of her artistic milieu, Bernstein’s art, life, and politics meld into one another, creating a series of work that not only challenge societal constructs, but also confront the body and impress the senses. For the entirety of her career, Bernstein has focused exclusively on the phallus: her first graffiti drawings in the mid-sixties represented a phase when bold, calligraphic gesture was combined with sexually and politically motivated themes. Biting anti-war pieces followed in the late sixties of violent phallic imagery that elucidated the implicit relationship between war, violence, and male aggression. These visual and semantic depictions of sexual pictorial images evolved into Bernstein’s signature work, the phallic screws. At first, in the early seventies, very mechanically conceived, these charcoal drawings, as Susan Stayton of Arts Magazine writes, “gradually metamorphosized into hairy projectiles whose massive energy became the icon of a sexually controversial age.”[8] Thus, a major component of this first chapter serves as a means to trace and assess the evolution of Bernstein’s work, focusing on how her earlier scatological drawings have evolved into the phallic screws. Following this discussion, I will address the work that came after the phallic screws (arguably the victim of her success) to illustrate that the entire breath of her career deserves equal recognition.

Bernstein’s fixation with the male organ grew out of her interest in calligraphy and the graffiti she discovered in rich abundance in the men’s lavatories of the Yale Graduate Art School, which she attended from 1964-1967 as one of only three female students. On the walls of these lavatories, usually hidden from female eyes, Bernstein discovered that, as she said to feminist art critic Cindy Nemser in a taped interview from August 1974, “the Supercock was a tremendous fantasy with the guys. It was the way they treat masculinity – the bigger the cock, the more masculine,” alluding to the notion that the power many men yearn for is in someway connected to their sexual selves.[9] In response to this discovery, she adopted this flying-penis-as-superhero cliché, which Robert Berlind of Art in America argues functioned to “attack the proprieties of the very institution that would be faced with the task of assessing and accrediting these works.”[10] Indeed, in Bernstein’s elevation of the lowest form of expression as extracted from the bathroom walls, she denigrates the institution of art history and its claim on modes of expression.  For example, in her work, Supercock, 1966 (fig. 1), which is infused with raucous humor, Bernstein depicts a superhero flying through the air with a dramatically oversized penis approximately three times the size of his body. Surrounding the figure are scatological limericks written in faded pencil and ink scrawl. These runes imbue the picture with an archeological undercurrent, as though Supercock (fig. 1) was a relic from a men’s bathroom stall. By placing graffiti in a gallery, Roberta Smith of Arts Magazine argues, Bernstein “demands a different perception of such scrawlings. We see it not only as funny or obscene but also as commentary on the attitudes it presents.”[11]

Indeed, her presentation of superman as a dorky flying figure with an enormous penis that weighs him down makes him look simultaneously ridiculous and somewhat monstrous. As Bernstein ogles and pokes fun at the phallus, the work functions as both humorous and potent - a sentiment that can be attributed to her other graffiti works, which are also constructed out of an expressive application of pencil and line on a faint gray background. In Superzipper, 1966 (fig. 2), a cartoony male flies through the air like Superman; the figure has a tumescent larger-than-life erection that has a zipper on it. Like Supercock (fig. 1), this work depicts a tiny flying man who is surrounded by all kinds of obscene scatological scrawl, which, according to Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen of Artforum, “recall Cy Twombly’s graffiti paintings of the early 1950s but replace his invocations of Virgil and classical humanism with something more unequivocally sublime (i.e., ‘There once was a boy from Nantucket/ if his ear were a cunt he would fuck it…’).”[12] Walter Robinson of Artnet.com agrees claiming, “It is brilliant, and makes Cy Twombly’s graffiti paintings look ‘punk’ by comparison.”[13] Interestingly, these relatively recent interpretations illustrate that the focus in critical reception of Bernstein’s work has shifted from an artist who is equally feminist and political to one who is emphatically bold, opinionated, and political. This notion indicates that the angle in critical approach has shifted due to a change in contextual and cultural resonance.

Further exemplifying this shift is Berlind’s assessment, which incorporates a comprehensive and up-to-date view of Bernstein’s work. He writes, “In advance of the feminist assertions of the early 1970s, Bernstein’s appropriation of the penis – whether erect, spent, mechanized, laughable, threatening or simply absurd – was both timeless (art history offers many ancient examples) and vanguard.”[14] Indeed, Bernstein had discovered a contemporary form of one of the oldest themes in erotic art spanning from the phallic monuments in Delos to the Japanese 17th and 18th century scroll paintings. These scrolls contain explicit depictions of men of all ages who measure their penises to evaluate and establish their respectability; in that, virtue is inextricably linked to the size of the male genital organ, as said respectability is informed by “hardness, durability, and resistance.”[15] This antiquated notion of “hardness, durability, and resistance” is rendered contemporary and relevant at the height of the Vietnam war protests, during which Bernstein created works that expressed the situation with, what Nemser refers to as “an acuity that no male artist, political or otherwise, was able to attain.”[16] Nemser’s statement speaks to the artist’s shift from her cartoony depictions to her collage pieces of gleefully nasty antiwar messages. Emblematic of this shift is The Fun Gun, 1967 (fig. 3), an anatomical diagram of the penis drawn on distressed, stretched canvas, gridded with gold lines. Interestingly, Bernstein imparts a spin to the anatomical male genital organ, as she fills the scrotum with real bullets, transforming the penis into a 45-caliber pistol. Further elucidating this transformation are the meticulously placed bullets that trace a course through the medically labeled apparatus. Berlind writes, “In place of the mechanomorphic slyness of Duchamp and Picabia, she went for a directness closer to Warhol’s Dance Diagrams of 1962 (fig. 4).”[17] Another similarity to Pop art presents itself in Claes Oldenburg’s Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, 1969-74 (fig. 5), which, like Bernstein’s work, is straightforward in its visual phallic pun. Despite these shared characteristics, Bernstein never entered the same artistic milieu in New York, as she was solely defined as a member of the Feminist art movement.

After the execution of The Fun Gun (fig. 3), Bernstein’s work dropped such literal metaphors giving way to more complex, abstruse renderings. In these works, she introduced cut-up American flags accompanied by newspaper and magazine clippings pertinent to the political climate of the time. For example, Are you Running with Me Jesus? 1967 (fig. 6), whose title quotes Malcolm Boyd's book, reveals Bernstein’s anger towards mass-culture’s simultaneous disenfranchisement and criticism of the African-American youth. In the artist’s amalgamation of images, text, objects, and media, she was able to successfully comment on the political turmoil around her; a notion present in the collages that followed. As Bernstein worked through these collages, she continued to explore the use of the American flag in her work, focusing on America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. In these pieces, all under the umbrella of her larger Union Jack Off series (example: Jack off on U.S. Policy in Vietnam, 1967, fig. 9), language and graffiti are key components, just as in her earlier scatological work. Like Bernstein’s Supercock (fig. 1), her caustic anti-war collages contain an enraged vernacular, rendered in a graffiti-like scrawl.

The artist’s 1967 charcoal and oil-stick drawing, Vietnam Garden (fig. 7), for instance, presents an ambiguous surface that is covered with proliferating coarsely drawn penises, which are rendered so to be synonymous with male aggression and war. Indeed, Bernstein is among the first generation feminists to first identify the body as not only a social but also a political site. In this work, the penises are accented with real steel wool and crowned with small American flags. Moreover, a Cross on one and a Star of David on another suggests that these figures are to be considered as gravestones in a military cemetery. Butterfield-Rosen avers, “This critique of US imperialism visually predicts the moon landing two years later – and the patently ridiculous gesture of planting an American flag on the no-man’s-land of the lunar surface.”[18] An interesting comparison to Vietnam Garden (fig. 7) presents itself in the work of feminist artist Nancy Spero who utilizes a similar symbolic language in her powerful antiwar pictorial protests, which are executed using sexual anatomy as metaphors. In her images, Spero determines the penis as a surrogate for the war machine. Like Bernstein, Spero was enraged and shocked that the United States, which founded on democratic principles, was doing terrible things in Vietnam; she averred, “I wanted to make images to express the obscenity of war.”[19] This statement coupled with the implication that the penis stands as a symbol of aggressive militarism visually manifests itself in Spero’s Sperm Bomb, 1966 (fig. 8), a work from her seminal series entitled The War Series 1966-1970. In this piece, executed in gouache and ink on paper, image and text are collaged to create a simplicity and directness that resonate with the complex political issues of the epoch. Like Spero, Bernstein employs raw imagery and semantics to protest the war and to underline the sexual basis of irrational male aggression. This notion is exercised in Jack off on U.S. Policy in Vietnam, 1967 (fig. 9), whose title gets its name from the statement, which is ferociously sketched over an American flag that – in place of its stars – contains an X formed by two crossing penises. This work, like all of her collages, combines graffiti, signatures, and flags with a Surrealist interest in automatic writing to provide a real political thrust. As such, “Bernstein’s work suggests the role of the penis as an implement of endlessly territorial tagging.”[20] Berlind writes, “For all their raunchy scruffiness and slapstick comedy, these drawings signaled a rebellious, mordant sensibility. They were, in effect, social performances – a rambunctious acting out – as well as send-ups of these allegedly masculine fixations, low-end pornography, and patriotic militarism.”[21] In that, while Bernstein’s work is effortlessly and directly humorous, it resonates on a much deeper, complex level.

What developed directly out of this focus on language play and scatological drawings was Bernstein’s interest in the screw, not only for its sexual implications but also for its numerous verbal connotations. As John Perreault argues, “To see these screws only as penises is to miss a major part of the message, for Bernstein is working on the semantic as well as on the visual plane.” He continues, “We cock a gun. Toilet bowl tanks have cocks. There are male and female electrical connections.”[22] Weapons, plumbing, and hardware, among many other things, all have sexual connotations, and are mechanical metaphors for sex. Bernstein exacerbates this notion by executing the screw as deliberately and straightforwardly penile, thereby prompting several sexual nuances associated with both the mechanical object as well as the phallus. Judith Van Baron of Arts Magazine asserts, “Though there is an extensive historical phallic tradition in art, Bernstein’s phallic screws have a very contemporary context, for they are current with the open sexuality of the seventies and are effective visual puns on contemporary slang expressions.”[23] Van Baron is referencing the artist’s work introduced in 1969 - the year that Bernstein’s art dropped its specific political allusions and the literal penises transformed into monumental charcoal drawings of hardware-type screws. At first the drawings were cool, architectural, clean, and almost geometric in shape, but then progressively became more massive, anatomical, and biomorphic, developing into thick, hairy presences with a tactile quality.[24] As is central to Bernstein’s work, the connotations of phallic power are still inherent in these environmental renderings, yet the sensuality of her earlier faint drawing application and layered-on washes, as seen in her Supercock series (figs. 1 & 2), has been replaced with a harder edge look. Bernstein’s move to the depictions of the phallic screws marks her mature period, wherein the power of the works rests in their ambiguity. There is an enigmatic, indistinct transition from the representation of the screw to the suggestion of the phallus so that the drawings become psychologically challenging and multi-metaphorical. Additionally, the element of fantasy, which verges on the surreal, underlies these images, as it is unclear if they are projections taken from Bernstein’s dreams or imagination, or if taken from something more impersonal and external. Although impossible to define, the phallic screws are strident cultural clichés transformed into both an artistic signature and an icon.

Because the phallic screws are powerful and dramatic, achieving a monumental and spectacular status not usually associated with drawings, it is necessary to consider the works’ formal attributes and their effect on the expressive quality. The immediate strength of the drawings resides in their large scale and massive form, rendered even more impressive by the technique of drawing with charcoal. Bernstein has generated massive forms by building up swirling and curving lines, which are both calligraphic in character and architectural in production. The phallic screw is executed so that it fills the paper – in its horizontal format, the phallic screw moves across it from left to right and in its vertical format, it rises up from the bottom edge. In all horizontal and vertical permutations, there is an evident graphic attack upon the surface, emphasizing the performative aspect of the artist’s work. This calls to mind the graffiti present in Bernstein’s earlier work, which, as “the graphic mark of male bravado” and as “the residue of sexual and spatial invasion,” is a prominent trope in her oeuvre.[25] Elucidating this notion are the edges of these enormous iconic screws that are alive with jittery pubes, which embellish their surrealist spirit and vigor. The result is an image of threatening size and aggressive spiral energy, which evokes force, dramatic mass, and a vocabulary of hostility associated with sex. Ellen Lubell of Art in America writes, “The glowering black phallic forms were ambivalent celebrations of hairy macho sex, both threatening and enticing. Lined up close to each other, the vertical panels of twisting, seemingly rising screws had a processional impact of resonating dark malevolence, while the horizontal renditions were more specifically phallic and anthropomorphic.”[26] Nevertheless, in both formats, Bernstein manifests a firm control of volume through her spiraling cross-contour strokes and precise control of tone. 

Thomas Lawson of Art in America writes that Bernstein “wields chubby charcoal sticks with vigor, creating a controlled but visually active web of gestural, loosely cross-hatched lines. Although she does make conventionally sized drawings, her major pieces are executed on huge sheets of paper measuring 20 by 30 feet or on long scrolls hung vertically and still partly rolled so as to suggest infinite length.”[27] Lawson’s statement can be applied to Two Panel Vertical (12 ½ feet high), 1973 (fig. 10), which includes two panels, each bearing a busy charcoal rendering of a hairy screw thrusting upward. It is the case with all of Bernstein’s vertical renditions that they are drawn on vertical paper scrolls, in which the top portion is rolled and the bottom curls out a bit just above the gallery floor, such that the paper physically enacts the spiral theme and engages the architecture of the room. In their evocation of sacred scrolls, these upright screws, both individually and as a set, take on the classical presence of a Greek Kouros. While Bernstein’s verticals assume a more architectural effect, her horizontals are, arguably, more expressly phallic. For instance, Horizontal (9 x 12 ½ feet), 1973 (fig. 11), a giant, rightward facing phallic screw, has been cited as an extension of The Fun Gun (fig. 3), the anatomical diagram of male genitalia. There is also a more explicit implication of penetration in Bernstein’s horizontals, as Robinson avows, “it looks like [Horizontal (fig. 11)] might bore through the earth.”[28]

As stated earlier, the transition from the representation of the screw to the suggestion of the phallus is never concrete; however, each individual work is nuanced, some illustrating this transition more concretely than others. In Van Baron’s review of Bernstein’s first one-person show at A.I.R. Gallery, NY in 1973 – an exhibition that included two horizontals and five verticals installed as a multi-panel piece – she deciphers this transition in the individual works. [29]  The author interprets Five Panel Vertical (12 ½ x 35 feet), 1973 (fig. 12) as the most realistic illustration of the mundane object (the screw) and thus implies a vague association with Pop art. She notes that one of her larger-scale horizontals at 9 x 26 feet, like Big Horizontal #3, 1975 (fig. 13) for example, is staggering in its dramatic scale and visually evokes the phallic/screw metaphor most effectively. Van Baron also asserts that the rounding head of Horizontal (fig. 11) achieves the closest identification with the phallus and thus expresses the icon most specifically. Although, the author’s claims are valid, compelling interpretations, I am hesitant to come to any firm conclusion regarding this transition. My position on the phallic screws is that they are inherently ambiguous, and will perpetually continue to take on new form and meaning. Are they screw-like penises, screw-like phalluses, phallic screws, or penile screws? Interpretations are endless.

Indeed, the multi-metaphorical, psychologically complexity of her phallic screws of the seventies was carried over in her work of the eighties. However, the threatening force and the raw, raucous, aggressive sexuality found in her phallic screws has been mollified, while still enduring the graphic thrust and strength of this earlier work. Stayton writes, “Then the preeminent goddess of the ‘Olympian’ screw, that fetishistic emblem of primal power, Bernstein entered the ‘80s a gracious matriarch who nurtures her images with a more subtle and still more sensual vocabulary of artistic allusions.”[30] In that, the artist’s dialogue with sexuality and power lent itself to her work of the eighties, during which she initiated new visual metaphors of ambivalent connotations, yet moved away from an explicitly sexual male referent. Lubell writes, “The forms and styles seen in her [work of the eighties] were direct descendants of the earlier work, but her newer shapes were more varied, and spring from organic sources.”[31] The dominant thematic forms present in Bernstein’s work of this decade are that of a primitive Venus figure, which, undoubtedly, invokes the Venus of Willendorf (fig. 14), and that of the Anthurium (fig. 15), a tropical flower that has both male and female characteristics, being a flat pinkish-red fleshy petal and a penetrating long stamen. Thus, her phallic renderings of the seventies, which ostensibly derived from cool mechanical objects, were modified into symbols derived from organic sources, gaining new visual allusions to sexual themes in the world of nature.

This is evident in her composite work of twelve charcoal and oil drawings on canvas, Anthurium Thru Venus, A Thru V (10 x 10 foot grid), 1981-84 (fig. 16), in which Bernstein applies an expressive, lyrical handling of plant and human forms to express fantastical androgynous imagery. The work explores the interplay between sexual and organic, male and female, and literal and abstract expression. Speaking to the themes that course through the entirety of Bernstein’s career, Anthurium Thru Venus, A Thru V (fig. 16) combines notions of sex, physicality, fertility, nature, and life.[32] The Venus form appears to be either a female figure seen from the rear, or a double phallic form. Although some of the twelve canvases contain a more descriptive invocation of flora, the remainder are more closely linked with her multi-metaphorical phallic screws, as in their combination of bulging spheres, shadow, and line, they achieve the fantastical ambiguity of her earlier work. Employing the artist’s characteristic dynamism and ambivalence, each image is rendered with suggestive openings, and each implies a certain degree of movement. Additionally, in the hairy quality of her line and the sweeping, full-armed, muscular strokes of the work, her gigantic screw drawings are revived.

Interestingly, Bernstein’s Venus Triptych (9 x 18 feet), 1981-83 (fig. 17), which is also endowed with this gestural movement, expresses the metaphorical relationship between phallus and power as seen in her phallic screws of the seventies. Contained within the work is the androgynous Venus figure; its male forms rematerialize as the bulbous head of the phallic screw and its female forms, which are more specifically floral, are imbued with a gaping genital quality. Stayton writes, “Venus, who merges male with female, expresses the duality in metaphorical terms. An embodiment of the transition of roles so prevalent in contemporary culture, the image manifests a sexual self-awareness on the part of women, and the power that men have which they eventually must share.”[33] Venus Triptych (fig. 17), in its sexually suggestive ambiguity, manifests the human experience in both feminine and masculine terms. This notion coupled with that detectable hirsute calligraphic signature, indeed, characteristics of Bernstein’s oeuvre, remanifest in her charcoal in-situ wall drawing Signature Piece (14 x 45 feet), 1986 (fig. 18).

This work, which was first introduced in 1986 at C.W. Post’s Hillwood Art Museum, again in 2008 at Mitchel Algus Gallery, NY, and most recently at Alex Zachary Gallery, NY, undergirds the power of Bernstein’s phallic screws as well as her Venus imagery, as she applies that same vigorous gestural, hirsute quality to her own autograph, however eliminates any allusions to hardware imagery. In combining the application of medium used to describe her phallic screws with the gaping vaginal character expressed in her Venus renditions, as seen in the undulating, voluptuous lettering, Signature Piece (fig. 18) epitomizes the metaphorical androgyny Bernstein aimed for in her Venus series. Robinson claims, the work is “a florid fountain of black, explosively hirsute strokes.”[34] Indeed, Signature Piece (fig. 18) amplifies the themes and motifs of her previous manifestations. And, enhancing the performative aspect of this earlier work, Signature Piece (fig. 18) is literally a drawing-in-process that clearly utilizes the notion of site sensitivity found in the large-scale wall drawings of Sol LeWitt, for example. Indeed, this serves as testament to the expansiveness of Bernstein’s practice and her ability to take on many forms, something that can also be said of her large gestural strokes, which appropriate the macho artistic style of Abstract Expressionism.

In taking over the gallery wall with her own signature, the work acquires a muscle and ego, thus functioning both as a send-up of the egotistical posturing of the male artist and as a reassertion of female agency. It has been argued that if it were executed by any of her male contemporaries it would be immediately snapped up by a collector, “so if nothing else, Signature [Piece] (fig. 18) marks the ongoing sexism of the art market.”[35] Butterfield-Rosen argues that in all of Bernstein’s work, she implements a “where my hand is set, my seal shall be,” a conquistador’s drive to adorn all surfaces of the universe with the kind of crude sexual scrawl found in men’s lavatories.[36] Clearly, neither Bernstein nor her art are exempt from these urges, as Signature Piece (fig. 18) “consists of nothing but her own enormous autograph, the sign of her own seal setting and phallic conquest of the gallery.”[37] Interestingly, of her 2010 manifestation of the work, inscribed on the walls of Alex Zachary Gallery, NY, Bernstein writes:

I’m going to make an intense and humongous charcoal drawing of my signature over the townhouse gallery, which is a perfect jewel and container for my signature. The Signature Piece (fig. 18), a subtext of stardom, fame and ego, deals with the art world and the bigger world at large. Downstairs will be a large projection of the 1958 Alec Guinness movie, ‘The Horse’s Mouth.’ Guinness’ character in the film, Gully Jimson, is an eccentric British artist who trashes a patron’s home while making a mural and winds up having an exhibition at the British Museum. The movie is an artist’s fantasy with fabulous results. In 1977, I made two installation pieces at William N. Copley’s (CPLY) townhouse near the Guggenheim museum (one in his living room, the other bedroom), I kept thinking I was going to trash Bill’s place with his extensive Surrealist collection and getting the results that Whistler had with his Peacock Room.[38]

Indeed, this muscle and ego is best exemplified when Signature Piece (fig. 18) is turned 180 degrees to take the form of an erect vertical phallus, as the looping J resembles an anatomical sac. This piece, executed on paper in 2008 (fig. 19), therefore, represents or is the artist’s own phallus, alluding to the notion that the symbolic phallus is not gendered – it is not only a symbol of male generative potency, but also of female power. Like Signature Piece (figs. 18 & 19), in both horizontal and vertical manifestations, her newest series entitled Dick and a Head continues to explore the phallus as a non-gendered power symbol. In Dick and a Head #3, 2009 (fig. 20), for example, three large penises, rendered in her characteristic vigorous and gestural strokes, erupt out of a head-like form. As the phallus emerges from the brain, this piece alludes to the idea that power comes from the mind and not the genitals. It must be noted that these recent works, which are more ephemeral and contemplative, possess a less morbid, crude sensibility than her work of the sixties and seventies. In that, Bernstein proves to be still progressing as an artist, taking on new constructs of meaning and new forms of production.

In any case, the notion that power comes from the mind, not the genitals, as expressed in Bernstein’s recent work provides a good segue to the following chapters, which attempt to handle her multi-metaphorical renderings of the phallus by asserting some of their most relevant and significant interpretations. I trust that in tracing the evolution of Bernstein’s career, and in recognizing the avant-guard and forceful nature of the works, her heroism has been reclaimed. The short monograph offered in this chapter will serve as a jumping off point for subsequent analyses of Bernstein’s iconic horizontal and vertical phallic screws. While noting that the foundation of the artist’s oeuvre is the idea that the power men yearn for is in someway connected to their sexual selves, I will employ both feminist and psychoanalytical methodologies to illustrate how this concept is made most explicit in the phallic screws. 

Chapter Two: Judith Bernstein and the Rhetoric of Power

Like Robert Morris’ Untitled (Cock/Cunt), 1963 (fig. 21), with its “schematic image of sexual difference and coitus,” Bernstein’s horizontals and verticals demonstrate clearly that highly simplified, abstract configurations may actually be coded.[39]  Indeed, her works plainly invoke a Minimalist aesthetic in their frontal mass and repetition of form, initially seeming obvious and one-dimensional; however, in spending time with them, they continue to metamorphosize, perpetually assuming new meaning and form. Moreover, Bernstein takes on the scale and male machismo of Minimalism, yet offers a highly intimate surface, giving another twist of inversion to our preconceived notions of the movement. Her claiming monumentality and putting it down at the same time is a curious notion and one that can be better understood through the use of Anna Chave’s seminal essay “Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power.” Chave’s analysis will be utilized to shed light on how Bernstein’s multivalent, powerful works function as a feminist counterpoint to Minimalist art and perhaps a feminization of the movement in general. This theory speaks to the most overlooked, yet most significant aspect of Bernstein’s oeuvre.

Chave begins her influential study on Minimalism’s political commitments with an anecdote of her witnessing Donald Judd’s brass box, Untitled, 1968 receiving both a kick and a kiss from two female museum visitors. In her attempt to figure out how a work of art could elicit such contradictory reactions, Chave finds an answer in what she considers to be Minimalism’s demonstration of plain or absolute power. This absolute power has two dimensions: the first concerns the “strong” and “aggressive” materials used; the second concerns the work’s “obdurate blankness,” which to the author is a symptom of the Minimalists’ hostility and disdain toward humanistic values and progressive social causes.[40] Chave rigorously interrogates Minimalist art in terms of said power, arguing that this movement’s valorization of power can be understood as participating in the patriarchal overvaluation of power and control, at the expense of mutuality, toleration, or nurturance. This overvaluation that Minimalist art represents, Chave argues, can be held accountable for almost all that is politically reprehensible and morally lamentable in the world.[41]

However, the author notes that in the art-historical idiom, it has traditionally been common approbatory language to describe art works in terms of their application of power: as forceful, authoritative, compelling, challenging, or commanding. The masculinist bias in art historical rhetoric becomes even more explicit with the use of terms like masterful, heroic, penetrating, and rigorous; that what is strong is valued while what is soft is comic or pathetic. The author asserts that terms that might, but do not as readily, serve as high praise for art include: pregnant, nourishing, or pleasurable. Chave writes:

As the male body is understood to be the strong body – with strength being measured not by tests of endurance, but by criteria of force, where it specially excels – so the dominant culture prizes strength and power to the extent that they have become the definitive or constitute descriptive terms of value in every sphere: we are preoccupied not only with physical strength and military strength, but with fiscal, cultural, emotional, and intellectual strength, as if actual force were the best index or barometer of success in any of those spheres.[42]

If Minimalist art functions as a symbol of the aforementioned preoccupations with power, then Bernstein’s art functions as a symptom of or a response to these fixations through her appropriation of the “powerful,” sometimes brutal, formal rhetoric of Minimalism. In the previous chapter, the evolution of Bernstein’s work was traced and analyzed, focusing on how her earlier scatological drawings have developed and have lent themselves to her primary focus on the phallus. This chapter, while informed by the previous one, is primarily concerned with her later works post 1969, also known as her mature period, defined solely by the iconic horizontals and verticals, which are also depictions of phallic screws. Five Panel Vertical, 1973 (fig. 12), the artist’s magnum opus, will be utilized as the sole subject of this study, for it is a good representation of the series. In this work’s fake monumentality, as the phallic screws ostensibly derive from tiny cool mechanical objects (this, perhaps, mocks the prized industrial materials employed by Minimalist artists), the drawings will lead to a broader discussion of the phallus as a symbolic, personal icon and its explicit connection to chauvinism and war. When her work is viewed as a linear narrative, the frank anti-militarism in her early Union Jack Off series (example: Jack off on U.S. Policy in Vietnam, 1967, fig. 9), as discussed in Chapter One, becomes apparent in the Minimalist inspired horizontals and verticals analyzed in this chapter.

In 1969, Bernstein’s art abandoned its specific political implications and abject funkiness. The literal penises metamorphosized into giant charcoal drawings of hardware-type screws imbued with an aura of incontrovertible authority. Chave once criticized the authoritative aspect of Minimalism, particularly Morris, for “representing power in such an abrasive, terse, and unapologetic way, the work nonetheless has a chilling effect: this is authority represented as authority does not usually like to represent itself; authority as authoritarian.”[43] But, unlike Morris who was successful at creating authoritative and oppressive images due to his alleged infatuation with power, Bernstein’s success at realizing such images comes from her interest in finding strategies to counter the abuses of power rife and visible during the Vietnam War time era. Thus, her authoritative phallic screw image is symbolic, not only as a representation of those in power oppressing others, but of Bernstein taking the power back as a woman, bestowing the screw with complex meaning not usually attributed to an image of a simple tool. In that, her screws are multivalent, embodying something more than the idea of a piece of hardware.

As stated earlier, Chave asserts that there is an inherent masculine bias in our art historical parlance especially when describing art in terms of the exercise of power. Critical reception of Bernstein’s phallic screws validates the author’s claim. Best representing the bulk of early critical response is Van Baron’s review of the artist’s 1973 show at A.I.R. Gallery, NY. Van Baron refers to the artist’s phallic screws as “starkly powerful,” “emphatically dramatic,” and “psychologically challenging,” achieving a monumental status not usually associated with drawings. She claims that the immediate strength of the drawings resides in their large scale and massive form, evoking great energy, force, and dramatic mass.[44] Moreover, the “stark contrast of black and white is especially effective since it emphasizes the mechanical nature of the screw, providing a greater sense of power through economy”- a concept at the heart of Minimalism.[45] It would seem, then, that Bernstein is literalizing the feminist contention that Minimalism is nothing but a sign of male aggressiveness: “the face of capital, the face of authority, the face of the father.”[46] Lawson quips, “If a large scale, single image, monochromatic work signifies machismo, why not be explicit and make large black-and-white drawings of penises?”[47] Thus, Bernstein uses reduced means to spoof reductive art. But where Minimalism’s focus is on cool and industrial displays of power, Bernstein is concerned with transforming a cool mechanical object into a personal icon of power: the phallus.

Chave writes, “Minimalism can be seen as replicating – and at times, perhaps, as implicating – those systems of mediation which have (over) determined our history: Money, the Phallus, and the Concept as privileged operators of meaning.”[48] According to this logic, Minimalism is turning a mirror to society, reinforcing traditionally allocated symbols of power. Similarly, Bernstein invokes these “systems of mediation,” however, rather than replicating or implicating, she repositions a genital signifier in cultural discourse, a strategy called “political essentialism.”[49] This is evident especially in her Five Panel Vertical, 1973 (fig. 12), which appropriates the authority of that largely male art movement, presenting the phallus in enlarged multiple images, so to better “undermine its mythic power through ridicule of masculinist posturing.”[50] These repeating enormous phallic screws, which in their “colossal symbolic power poke fun at the male mechanical monster,”[51] are not only informed by a Minimalist aesthetic, but also classical architecture and art – a masculinist construct, no doubt, that for Western civilization is conventionally “the art of authority, authoritative art.”[52] As such, Five Panel Vertical (fig. 12) in all its permutations (as it can be rearranged and exhibited in parts) depends, like Minimalist art and classical architecture, on the repetition of simple geometric forms and on certain elementary principles of construction. Formally, Bernstein’s drawings, like Minimalism, and classical architecture are distinguished by the use of plain forms that tend to reveal themselves in their entirety from any viewpoint. Thus, what renders Bernstein’s work, like Minimalist sculpture, successful are many of the same things that make an ancient temple memorable: “a pleasing sense of proportion and scale coupled with a clarity and austerity of design.”[53]

Clearly, Bernstein’s fundamental architectural, classical, visual language invites comparison with the masculinist formal vocabulary of Minimalism. However, where Minimalism is ostensibly neutral and deliberately non-narrative, Bernstein’s works are multi-metaphorical statements that can be understood in a number of ways.[54] Of course, the content and phallic associations of the drawings cannot be ignored, but as Lawson writes, “Their sexual content is not in doubt, but its precise nature is.”[55] The artist agrees claiming, “Obviously my work deals with sexuality, but it is symbolic, rather than obvious. It is a statement that can be taken in many different ways – as women’s lib work, a glorification of [or ambivalent celebrations of hairy macho] male sex, a reaction against the mechanical era… or just an abstract image, penetrating space.”[56] Whatever the precise nature of the phallus may be (and that nature is dubious and its implications are infinite) there is no question that in these works, the phallus functions as an emblem of primal power, a performance of masculinity regardless of the genitalia of the artist. Perreault asserts, “I do not believe, as some feminists have proposed, that women artists must utilize imagery derived from female genitalia. Have not male artists also tapped that form of energy? Likewise, the energy of phallic forms is available to both sexes.”[57]

In the execution of Five Panel Vertical (fig. 12), Bernstein has assumed the role of the male macho artist, alluding both to masculinist posturing, as well as to militarism as a symbol for male sexual aggression. This work, in particular, is the most realistic illustration of the mundane, industrial object, which speaks to the fundamental building blocks of Minimalist art. But in the tips of the vertical projections of Five Panel Vertical (fig. 12), an explicit visual connection to James Rosenquist’s F-111, 1964-65 (fig. 22) presents itself in the nose cone of a missile-like hairdryer crowning the smiling female child. With this correlation in mind, these enormous repeating verticals begin to look like a line-up of guided missiles or saluting cocks. In that, Five Panel Vertical (fig. 12) becomes a form of protest, revealing connections between power, sex, and instruments of war. With this in mind, Bernstein’s work, in a wider sense, assumes a more politically motivated identity than one that is strictly feminist.

While Bernstein and Rosenquist introduce some similar visual cues and both render their images within a multi-panel format, they are fundamentally disparate in their approach to militarism. Where F-111 (fig. 22), painted during the Vietnam War, draws disturbing connections between militarism and the consumerist structure of the American economy, Five Panel Vertical (fig. 12) implicates masculine aggression as the source of the then flourishing military-industrial complex. This is where Bernstein’s departure from Minimalism, and of course Pop art, or perhaps her feminization of the movement lies: rather than glorifying the mechanical era, she challenges it by dressing it up as a dramatically oversized phallus, dehumanizing its function, thus overcoming its political and psychological threat. As such, Bernstein has captured the “essence of women’s sexual and political grievances.”[58] Indeed, these later works – these “visual equations of phallic power” - address chauvinistic militarism, however less explicitly so than her earlier caustic anti-war pieces, which contain heavily phallic pictorial images that crudely and clearly elucidate the implicit relation between war, violence, and male aggression.[59] Although the frank, concrete anti-militarism in her earlier work of the sixties gives way to a more abstracted, ambivalent message in the seventies, it is this ambiguity that is their strength. This notion of ambivalence speaks to the evolution of Feminist art, particularly in its movement from specific to women to more general and comprehensively involved.

Providing the phallic screws with another level of mystification, Bernstein embellishes the drawings with a surrealist spirit by making them appear hairy, imparting them with both a primal and primitive quality. The tufts of hair creeping from the grooves of the heads of the screws, give a further twist of inversion to our conditioned perception of a familiar object. So that, while architecturally, the horizontals and verticals are informed by a Minimalist vocabulary, Bernstein’s fine, tapered charcoal lines weave a tactile softness and vulnerability, resulting in an amalgamation of cool, industrial strength and warm, sensual tenderness.[60] As Nemser asserts, “While Bernstein was harnessing the ferocious driving energy of the phallus, she took this overpowering image and transformed it by combining the mechanistic male force of the screw with a tender sensuality of touch that softened and celebrated the pleasure-producing aspects of the phallus.”[61] Although these phallic screws are puns about getting screwed – frank and nasty statements about phallic force and mechanistic power– the hairy strokes with which Bernstein covers the forms are sensuous and make them feel touchable.[62] Nemser states, “[Bernstein’s] hairy charcoal screws, architectural in scale and repeatedly insistent in both horizontal and vertical progressions, create an incredibly sensuous female environment.”[63]

This assertion speaks to the notion that Feminist art follows what has recently been termed the “Principle of Worldly Attachment,” a theory that posits an exclusively female vision – not just in terms of theme or subject. [64] The strongly organic aspect of Bernstein’s imagery coupled with the soft, calligraphic application of medium is very different, for instance, from the hostile, industrial aesthetic of the Minimalists. Furthermore, Bernstein injects her horizontals and verticals with an unrelenting, rhythmic energy and unequivocal dynamism, making the viewer conscious of her arm movements that inscribe the arcs and tangles of black to create her phallic screws. In that, the artist’s hand is present, something absent from the harsh objectivity of Minimalism. Bernstein’s softer style can be considered feminine, suggesting that there are possible feminist strategies for making interpretations, despite employing rather unfeminine content. As Nochlin writes, “Women artists are more inward-looking, more delicate and nuanced in their treatment of medium, it may be asserted.”[65] Implied in Nochlin’s statement is the notion that the “Principle of Worldly Attachment” remains in the realm of possibility and dubiousness. Bernstein’s psychologically challenging phallic screws support the author’s hesitation, as they can manifest the human experience in both masculine and feminine terms and their specific sexual references remain ambiguous. As such, the artist has rejected the feminist point of view that asserts an essential female vision. Stayton claims, “Bernstein is freed from the jurisdiction of ‘female’ art. She is an artist who just happens to be a woman.”[66]

This notion is supported in The Power of Feminist Art, which argues that Bernstein’s huge charcoal drawings of “cocks-as-screws” are “seizures” of phallic power and are “metaphors for women ready to admit things hidden for a long time – that they have the same drive, the same aggressions, and the same feelings as men.”[67] In the early seventies, this admission was a revelation. Furthermore, Bernstein’s unprecedented use of male sexually explicit imagery functions to expose the hidden ideologies at work behind the phallic symbol. The chapter Personal and Political: the Women's Art Movement from “Embodying Feminism” discusses Bernstein’s phallic screws as forcefully delivering an ideal synthesis of the conventional notions of masculinity and femininity. This synthesis is perhaps made most explicit when examining the heads of the screws, which can suggest female genitalia, providing a unisexual reference and thus creating a more universal metaphor. Nemser states, “In bringing about this synthesis, Bernstein is moving toward the area of androgyny in line with the concerns of women’s liberation.”[68] Meaning, in executing work that combines both male and female elements, Bernstein illustrates that not only are women capable of creating work outside the box of essentialist practice, but, on a more conceptual level, are also able to have the same drives and aggressions as men. It must be noted that early attempts at dealing with feminist issues in art tended toward essentialism, emphasizing universal differences – either biological or experiential – between women and men. However, Bernstein is among the feminist artists who recognize gender as a socially constructed concept.[69] As such, in the androgynous quality of Bernstein’s work, she has blurred the divide brought about by the apportioning of gender roles, so that it functions as a metaphor for feminism and for equal access to the system. It also “eloquently bespeaks the complex dilemmas faced by women whose place in society can only be located in relation to men.”[70] In that, Bernstein has liberated herself from the patriarchical symbolic order, therefore quashing the risk of ever being trapped in a system of masculine representations.[71]

As Bernstein unrelentingly elucidates the connection between male chauvinism and super-patriotism, it is clear that she is reversing the trend of the copious amount of images of sexual antagonism toward women throughout the art of the twentieth century. In Eroticism in Western Art, author Edward Lucie-Smith writes, “by creating images which outrage conventional ideas of decency and sexual reticence, the artist marks the difference between himself and the ordinary members of society.”[72] Because Smith means male artist since he does not include any women artists in his book, from a feminist point of view, particularly Nemser’s, it can be inferred that men are taking a cowardly way out of getting back at society by taking their anger out on women who are powerless, while never really risking offending the powerful males they actually abhor.[73] And so, by focusing exclusively on the phallus and its explicit connection with war and violence, and in Bernstein’s blatant appropriation of male macho art, such as Minimalism, she gives no quarter to the male constructed art historical tradition of ‘masculine’ representations. Rather, she amplifies the masculinist power rhetoric of Minimalism by creating gargantuan sexual apparatuses that, like the art of the Minimalists, Chave argues, “succeeds insofar as it visualizes, in a suitably chilling way, a nakedly dehumanized and alienating expression of power.”[74] However, this amplification of Minimalist rhetoric is met with an expressionistic handling and a personally engaged style, therefore taking the anti-illusionistic preoccupation of Minimalism as a foundation while simultaneously remaining palpably involved with her own intimate body experience. The somber, detached objectivity and emotional disengagement of Minimalism prompted some artists to seek a way back to the individual psyche. Bernstein is among those artists, like Louise Bourgeois, who wanted to reestablish continuity with the subjective experience, while still clinging to the cool aesthetic of the sixties. Indeed, Bourgeois’ art provides an excellent comparison to Bernstein’s phallic screws, not only in terms of application and handling, but also in her focus on the male anatomy – a multivalent, comprehensive subject matter to be discussed in the following chapter’s assessment on the ‘male gaze.’


Chapter Three: Judith Bernstein and The ‘Male Gaze’

The censorship of Bernstein’s 9 x 12 ½ foot phallic screw, Horizontal, 1973 (fig. 11), by male Executive Director, John Pierron from a major feminist exhibition called “Women’s Work – American Art 1974,” at the Museum at the Philadelphia Civic Center poses many possible implications, one of which will be argued in this chapter. Due to my belief that in Bernstein’s horizontal and verticals, she appropriates the phallus as a Freudian sign of power, I will utilize a psychoanalytic methodology to illustrate the psychosexual underpinnings for Horizontal’s (fig. 11) withdrawal. One being, in the work’s literal emasculation, as it is arguably a depiction of a penis as isolated from the body, Horizontal (fig. 11) may have unconsciously threatened Pierron’s castration.[75] Indeed, this notion can be applied to all men or any man in Pierron’s specific situation or when confronted by something of a similar nature. It must be noted that when faced with a depiction of this severed and extremely sensitive organ, a visceral reaction of fear occurs in the mind of the male spectator, triggering some unconscious reaction, which ultimately leads to some fight or flight action. In this particular case, Pierron’s manhood was threatened, causing him to flight, as he used his power of authority to dismiss the work. As such, with the implementation of Freudian psychoanalysis, Pierron’s actions were driven by a fear of castration or castration anxiety, which is the fear of literal and/or metaphorical emasculation, the conscious or subconscious fear of losing all or part of the sex organs, or the function of such.

In Freudian psychoanalysis, the literal castration anxiety (Kastrationsangst) refers to an unconscious fear of penile loss originating during the phallic stage of sexual development and lasting a lifetime. In that, when the infant male becomes aware of differences between male and female genitalia he assumes that the female's penis has been removed and becomes anxious that his penis will be cut off by his rival, the father figure, as punishment for desiring the mother figure.[76] This established concept has issued in subsequent theories that recognize castration anxiety’s several symbolic implications, such as the fear of being degraded or dominated, usually an irrational fear wherein the male goes to extreme lengths to save his pride/manhood. Indeed, the literal and symbolic go hand in hand when the male fears the loss of his virility or feels sexual dominated. For the purpose of my argument, more so the metaphorical than the literal aspect of this phenomenon will be utilized to demonstrate how and why men’s sexual anxiety is exacerbated by Bernstein’s fantastical phallic renderings. Psychoanalytic theory is thus appropriated in this chapter as a political weapon to prove that the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured art form, and consequently to explain how this precise notion impedes certain forms of specifically ‘female’ expression.

Acting out of castration anxiety, thereby anticipating the artist’s banishment from the exhibition, Pierron announced, “To me it’s a penis…I have yet to see the redeeming social value in [Horizontal (fig. 11)]…it offends me on behalf of the children of this city.”[77] Just how long Pierron had scrutinized the work in his futile search for redeeming said social value was not revealed, but he was adamant in banning a piece he deemed not necessary. The reaction to his decision involved various feminist artists and other interested parties bombarding the museum with letters of protest, petitions, and mass withdrawal threats.[78] One petition, which was signed by many art world luminaries, claimed that Horizontal (fig. 11) was judged, not according to aesthetic standards, but according to an inappropriate legal statute. In regard to Pierron’s statement, “I have yet to see the redeeming social value in the work,”[79] the petition avers, “This phrasing is usually applied to ‘porno’ material in a court of law and not to works of art.” [80] Moreover, Nemser, then Editor of the Feminist Art Journal who selected Horizontal (fig. 11) to be a part of the exhibition, wrote in her article “Focusing on Focus,” “Astounded and outraged by the narrow minded priggishness of this individual who could read pornography into a sensuous but basically abstract image, I urged Bernstein to notify every influential member of the press and art community I could think of.”[81] Additionally, Nemser along with a couple of co-jurors, reacted to the censorship by sending Pierron a letter disaffiliating themselves from the show unless Bernstein’s piece was reinstated. Pierron replied to one juror, Marcia Tucker, then Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, curtly informing her that her withdrawal was accepted. The others were not answered and Pierron maintained his steadfast refusal to allow Horizontal (fig. 11) to penetrate his museum. Despite the committee’s threats, the show continued without Bernstein. As Nemser explains the situation, the eighty-five artists not excluded probably could have been persuaded to withdraw their works, thereby closing down the show. However, due to the high importance of the exhibition, which incorporated a wide range of styles by feminist artists including Faith Ringgold, Edna Andrade, and Audrey Flack, to name a few, the exhibition committee decided it was too significant to be halted. It must be noted that of the eighty-five artists exhibited, none created works of a phallic nature; in fact, the show displayed every other style of ‘female’ representation, such as essentialist, Op Art, and Femmage, leaving out more controversial or out-of-the-box works. At the show’s opening, buttons were much in evidence on lapels. Their legend: “Where’s Bernstein?”[82]

With that, Horizontal (fig. 11) entered the eminent company of James Joyce’s Ulysses and D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover. But more specifically, the censorship of Horizontal (fig. 11) for its sexually explicit content speaks to the banning of Oscar Wilde’s Salome for its focus on sexual passion, to Lynda Benglis’ bypassing of editorial censorship for her controversial Artforum advertisement, in which she sported a massive dildo (like Bernstein, Benglis appropriated the phallus as a Freudian sign of power), and to the scandal in the Salon of 1919 caused by Brancusi’s large gleaming bronze phallus Princess X.[83] It must be noted that in the history of art, there have been many erotic works that have been displayed and admired for centuries. Notable examples are among the vestiges of ancient Greece and Rome, in which phallic structures symbolized wellness and good health. But, it can be argued, since the early twentieth century with the arrival of Freudian psychoanalytic theories, this ithyphallic tradition lost its relatively innocuous connotations and gained a much more loaded, complicated resonance. With that in mind, Bernstein’s banishment from the museum was not as arbitrary or limiting as one would think. In order to prove that the psychosexual implications of Horizontal (fig. 11) are what caused its censorship, it is necessary to utilize Salome as a precedent, as it was censored for its focus on the phallus in 1892.[84]

Salome, as a multi-metaphorical work, much like Horizontal (fig. 11), is best understood through the application of Freudian psychoanalysis, specifically Freud’s theory of Medusa’s Head. In one act, the play tells the biblical story of Salome, stepdaughter of the tetrarch Herod Antipas, who, to her stepfather's dismay but to the delight of her mother Herodias, requests the head of Iokanaan (John the Baptist) on a silver platter as a reward for dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils.[85] Salome demands Iokanaan’s decapitation, both as revenge against him, as he rejected her sexual advances, and as a decisive test of the limits of her stepfather Herod’s lecherous desires, a direct exchange for her acceptance of his ongoing sexual advances. To understand this demand, Freud’s theory of Medusa’s Head can be utilized, which argues that decapitation equals castration. In that, Salome’s desire to decapitate is, in Freudian terms, her desire to castrate. Moreover, Freud asserts that the erect male organ also has an apotropaic effect. Therefore, to display the penis (or any of its surrogates) is to say: “I am not afraid of you. I defy you. I have a penis.”[86] By displaying the decapitated head of Iokanaan, and removing his phallic power, an empowered Salome displays her own metaphorical phallus.

In detaching the head (the symbolic penis) from the body, Salome has dehumanized its function to overcome its psychological threat. Moreover, because the head is really a euphemism for the phallus, it, in Freudian terms, functions as a fetishized object to disguise the terrors of its reality. This presents an interesting twist to Freud’s theory of fetishism, which argues that women are always the fetishized objects due to men’s need to disguise the vagina as it poses a threat to their fear of castration. However, in Salome this notion is reversed, as the male, specifically the phallus is objectified. The same can be said for Bernstein’s Horizontal (fig. 11), which in its phallic associations, both “critiques male supremacy and claims the male body as a site of female fantasy and desire.”[87] Perhaps, as a send-up to Freudian psychoanalysis, both the character Salome and Bernstein, neither of whom express themselves in the patriarchal symbolic order, literalize the feminist view that the psychoanalytic project is patriarchal, anti-feminist, misogynistic, and represents women as deficient men. In that, Bernstein, like Salome, has released herself from the system of male representations by redirecting the long-standing art historical tradition of the ‘male gaze.’

Underlining this tradition was the 2002 exhibition, “Personal & Political: The Women’s Art Movement, 1969-1975,” curated by Simon Taylor and Natalie Ng at Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY, which presented an important historical survey of first-generation feminist art and its legacy, including artists from the famous to the overlooked. The show’s second gallery space entitled “Reversing the Gaze,” “gave a nod to later deconstructive approaches stemming from French psychoanalytic theory, which became the vanguard in feminist thought in the mid-1980s.”[88] Carey Lovelace’s celebrated article, “Feminism at 40,” notes that in this room the works were among those created in the “innocent days” before the power-wielding “masculine gaze” was widely acknowledged. Sylvia Sleigh’s “art-historical swicheroo” Philip Golub Reclining, 1971 (fig. 23), for instance, alludes to Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, 1647-51, as the artist depicts herself like Velázquez in the background recording a reclining, languorous nude, here as a long haired youth watching himself in the mirror. Sleigh’s distortion of the historical ‘male gaze’ was accompanied by works, which focused on shifting the terms of power to the ‘female gaze.’ In these depictions, women artists focused on the male anatomy as flaccid, erect, attached to bodies or as single, disembodied subjects.  Of these works, Bernstein’s Two Panel Vertical, 1973 (fig. 10) was included, and as “(literal) pendants nearby” hung Bourgeois’ phallic cast-bronze sculptures Janus fleuri and Hanging Janus with Jacket, both 1968 (figs. 24 & 25).[89] In their unavoidably phallic depictions, Bernstein and Bourgeois, especially, satirize the tradition of the ‘male gaze.’

Laura Mulvey first proposed this terminology, the ‘male gaze,’ in an article called “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.”[90] In this essay, Mulvey identifies the ‘male gaze,’ in sympathy with the Lacanian statement that “woman is a symptom of man,” a claim meaning that femininity is a social construct, and that the feminine object or the object of desire is what constitutes the male lack, and thus his positive identity. She then argues that movies tap into the unconscious desires of the male heterosexual viewer, so his voyeuristic tendencies are brought to the surface and he becomes a scopophiliac, meaning one who loves to look. The idea of the ‘male gaze’ depends in part upon psychoanalytic theory, which often makes of art a means of satisfying unconscious wishes. The eye of the camera and the eye of the audience, according to this theory, are male. And in the act of looking and being looked upon, the male is active, the female passive, indeed a biologically predetermined notion. In Western tradition, the one who does the gazing seems to have influence over the gazed upon: the one who looks makes the purchase. The object of the gaze is like a precious object in a glass case: desirable, perhaps expensive, but obtainable.

Mulvey’s terminology, which became a primary focus for contemporary feminist theory, particularly in the exploration of designated gender roles, conditioned identity, and stereotypes, is clearly expressed in the work of Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger, to name a few. Both of these artists address the way much of Western art has been constructed to present female beauty for the enjoyment of the ‘male gaze.’ For example in Sherman’s Untitled: Film Still #35, 1979 (fig. 26), which she produced, directed, acted in, and photographed, she has taken control of her own image and constructed her own identity. The artist is still the object of the viewer’s gaze in these images, however the identity is one she has chosen to assume. In that, Sherman simultaneously acknowledges, determines, and controls the ‘male gaze.’

On perhaps a more obvious level, noting that fine art is a historic object of (heterosexual male) desire, Bernstein’s phallic screw drawings, like Bourgeois’ phallic sculptures, aggressively mock the active male, the “seer.” Mulvey claims that vision is a powerful tool in establishing power relations: the ‘male gaze’ expresses an asymmetrical power relationship between gazer and gazed. According to this logic, Bernstein (and Bourgeois) assumes all power, as her works deny men human agency, therefore, relegating them to the status of objects. In that, the abstract concept of the phallus, the phallic symbol, is treated as a concrete thing or physical object. Meaning, the artist treats the phallus as a tool for her own purposes (instrumentality), as if lacking in agency or self-determination (denial of autonomy), as if inert (inertness), as if owned by another (ownership), as if interchangeable (fungibility), as if permissible to smash (violability), and as if there is no need to show concern for the object’s feelings and experiences (denial of subjectivity).[91] By decontextualizing the phallus, as it is depicted as a literal emblem of emasculation - an objectified larger-than-life member severed from the body, Bernstein has undermined its symbolic potency and mythic power.

In reversing the historical ‘male gaze’ and its precedence over the ‘female gaze,’ Bernstein issues in “a new turn of the screw.”[92] But, as Mulvey writes, “An active/passive heterosexual division of labour has similarly controlled narrative structure. According to the principles of the ruling ideology and the psychical structures that back it up, the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification. Man is reluctant to gaze as his exhibitionist like.”[93] This statement supports Perreault’s claim that “The exposure of these phallic screws, these secret weapons, is more apt to upset men than women, given the myth that the size of one’s member has something directly to do with potency and masculinity. Visibility invites comparison.”[94] Joan Semmel of Women’s Art Journal agrees asserting, “The scale of the works, as a gargantuan sexual apparatus that was conjured up by a woman, makes all normal sized penises seem inadequate.”[95] Moreover, according to Freud’s Medusa’s Head theory, a multiplication of penis symbols signifies castration. In that, Bernstein’s multi-panel pieces, such as Five Panel Vertical (fig. 12), in their repeated representation of this psychosexual threat (they too are severed from the body) are also bound to upset men. As Semmel writes, “Bernstein’s execution of more than one phallus also implies inadequacy, such that men’s sexual anxiety is exacerbated by her fantasy.”[96]

Nevertheless, in all permutations, Bernstein’s representation of the phallus antagonizes male sexuality and lampoons the art historical construct of the ‘male gaze.’ Eliciting a similar interpretation and response is, of course, Bourgeois’ best-known latex sculpture, Fillette, 1968 (fig. 27)– a depiction of a seemingly rotting two-foot long penis with a pair of testicles to scale. Interestingly, in the 1982 photograph taken by Robert Mapplethorpe (fig. 28), Bourgeois carries Fillette (fig. 27) jauntily and proudly under her arm, treating the work as her own penis. This calls to mind Bernstein’s vertical Signature Piece, 2008 (fig. 19), which represents the artist’s phallus, and in turn, epitomizes its androgynous symbolic nature. In Fillette’s (fig. 27) combination of male and female qualities (though overtly phallic, its title means little girl), Bourgeois, like Bernstein, humorously pokes fun at the male ego while exploring the anxieties and responsibilities of womanhood. In regard to Bourgeois’ merging of the sexes and to Mapplethorpe’s photo of the artist cradling Fillette (fig. 28), Julie Nicoletta of “Louise Bourgeois’ Femmes-Maisons: Confronting Lacan,” states, “In keeping with the blatant sexual imagery of the sculpture, we can explicate the photograph in terms of sexuality and gender. Bourgeois, in her black, furry coat, becomes a vagina that engulfs the penis. Her devilish, even lewd expression, as she tickles the head of the penis, leaves little doubt that she is in control. The image has been interpreted as one of castration; however, it can also be seen as one of protectiveness.” [97] This interpretation can also be generated from the photograph of Bernstein who gleefully and, indeed, tauntingly strokes the head of her cat while sitting cross-legged in between the columns of her Two Panel Vertical (fig. 29). With the explicit penile associations of the drawing in mind, this photograph permits a sexual read. As such, the perched and caressed cat, which is both semantically and symbolically a pussy, functions as a crude expression of female power. In reclaiming female agency through the presence of the pussy, a cipher for the artist’s own vagina, and in gaining power through the enormity and energy of the double phallus, Bernstein adopts the same gender ambiguity found in Bourgeois’ work and most explicitly in Mapplethorpe’s photograph. This use of gender ambiguity, for both artists, may be a denunciation not only of phallocentric language and patriarchal society, but also of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, which both note that men’s power over women is reciprocally linked to the castration complex.[98]

In decontextualizing the phallus, owning it, taking control of it, and in deconstructing its psychoanalytical strength by appropriating its power, these feminist artists not only deride the tradition of the ‘male gaze,’ but also mock Freud’s model of masculine sexuality that they believe has castrated the twentieth-century woman, wherein “the penis is being and the vagina is nothingness.”[99] Yet, rather than executing works of an essentialist nature, as so many feminists did to determine female sexuality as a positive and assertive force, Bernstein strictly focused on the male organ to explore its symbolic potency. It is necessary to address the notion that the history of Western art - from the Classical to the Renaissance well into the nineteenth century - has mostly denied and obscured women’s genitals while making men’s largely apparent. “Art, which has exhibited male genitals, has sought to prove that women have nothing.”[100] Therefore, in executing enlarged phallic imagery as a woman, Bernstein both acknowledges and scoffs at this art historical tradition, thereby commandeering and usurping male generative power. Such a threat may justify Pierron’s censorship of Horizontal (fig. 11). Indeed, to be confronted with work of this nature - as a man – is hard to swallow.


Despite Bernstein’s censorship, which Nick Stillman of Artforum claims, “reduced Bernstein to the status of a lightning rod,” her work is currently experiencing resurgence in prominence.[101] As Nemser declares, “Women in the arts never get anything the easy way. Yet despite the lack of proper documentation, despite petty jealousy and poor publicity and even despite censorship and agonizing moral conflicts, we women will assert ourselves; we will not allow our existence to be cancelled out. Women’s work will be seen!”[102] Today, Bernstein’s work is seen –at many New York City galleries and in significant exhibitions at MoMA PS1 and The Brooklyn Museum, to name a few. The reason for this renaissance, Stillman argues, is that the qualities that course through Bernstein’s works, such as anger, stridency, and hilarity, have all been absent from the contemporary scene; thus, Bernstein’s work functions to fill that void. Interestingly, Lee Lozano’s work, which incorporates similar themes, word play, and palpable rage, is also currently being revived.

Perhaps, this newfound appreciation for raucous, crude content, speaks to our evolving taste and ability to intellectualize beyond the shocking or embarrassing.

In keeping with the end of Modernism, Bernstein’s art transcends the idea of the pretty aesthetic, with crude and hard images that are not just about form. As previously discussed, Bernstein’s pieces function on a multitude of levels, each - either subtly or explicitly - antiwar, anti-chauvinistic, and phallocentric. Although her signature phallic screws embody the most profound amalgamation of these concepts, her caustic antiwar pieces from the Vietnam era are gaining tremendous relevance. In fact, the Whitney Museum of American Art recently acquired Vietnam Garden (fig. 7), which, although executed in the late sixties, is largely pertinent to our contemporary militarism. Additionally, Are You Running with Me Jesus? (fig. 6) is currently included in The New Museum’s “The Last Newspaper” exhibition, which is focused on works that deconstruct the newspaper and address the ambiguity of the news. Today, at least among New York museums, Bernstein’s work is presented as highly politically motivated, such that it is easy to forget that it is largely feminist. Indeed, the artist has revived the age-old phallic tradition in art and has newly articulated the ancient conflation of the phallus as an agent of physical violence. In her renditions of mockingly monumental erect phalluses, which delight in endless satirical associations, Bernstein provides a fresh twist to a longstanding art historical construct.

It can thus be argued that the power of the artist’s work is in its evolution of context, as its worth transcends the time period of execution. Certainly, reception of Bernstein’s art shifts accordingly; however, the work continues to address politically charged issues that gain perpetual resonance. Five Panel Vertical (fig. 12), for example, was included in the 2010 MoMA PS1 show, “The Comfort of Strangers” – an exhibition that brought together work from the seventies and eighties, and combined “figuration with abstraction, monumentality with fragility, and reluctance with exuberance.”[103] The show, comprised of four living, working New York artists, Curator Cecilia Alemani writes, “imagines unusual connections between different art works and art worlds, reminding museum visitors that New York is a stratified and complex landscape.”[104] On a broader level, the show sought to reinterpret content and revive meaning of work created decades ago to demonstrate its present applicability. In that, Bernstein’s work has been pulled out of its original 1970s framework, rendering the artist free from one historic moment. Indubitably, it is justified to maintain that her art, in its meditations on war and gender and in its abstract examinations of sociological and political interests, resonates with the troubled time we live in. It is apparent that her political critique of patriarchy and misgivings concerning the power that has historically been assigned to men is something on the mind of contemporary mass consciousness. This here capacity to continuously speak to our cultural, societal, and political conditions and grievances signifies the impact of Bernstein’s work - a notion that determines the premise of my art historical project: to re-define the disciplinary canon to include an under-recognized female artist.

In evaluating the trajectory of content in Bernstein’s oeuvre, analyzing its meaning in relation to context, and in issuing further implications of the works via feminist and psychoanalytical methodologies, I have put forth a comprehensive monograph that aims to reclaim the importance and staying power of the artist. Moreover, my study should illustrate that although her phallic screws have formally been considered a double-edged sword, a catch-22, or the victim of her success, as they are what she is most known for and one was the subject of censorship, the entirety of Bernstein’s career is worth much recognition. It must be noted that Horizontal (fig. 11) was not hung in the seminal exhibition “WACK!,” but only mentioned in the catalogue as a censorship reference, therefore reducing her career to one moment. Nevertheless, my examination reveals the inability to pigeonhole Bernstein, as “WACK!” did. In her multi-metaphorical, largely indefinable works, she has transcended art world constructs of movement and meaning, pointing to the idea that categories are meant to be broken. The harsh strokes and aggressive signs present in each controversial, politically slanted image maintain monumental significance that functions beyond time of execution, form, and artistic designation. The fact that Bernstein is so present today, despite years of struggle in her attempt to be duly recognized, typifies Nemser’s wise words, which functioned to commence and will consequently complete my project: “Whenever women in the arts seek to move forward within the art world establishment, conservative forces of every variety gather to hold them back. Every advance is gained only through great expenditure of energy and unremitting endurance.”[105]


[1] Cindy Nemser, "Focusing on Focus," Feminist Art Journal 1.2 (1974): 22.

[2] Mary D. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi: the Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1989).

[3] Vernon Hyde Minor, "Feminism," Art History's History (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2001): 157-165.

[4] Linda Nochlin, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?," Vivian Gornick and Barbara Moran, Women in Sexist Society: Studies in Power and Powerlessness (New York: Basic Books, 1971): 481.

[5] Anna Chave, "Minimalism and The Rhetoric of Power," Arts Magazine 64.5 (1990): 44-63.

[6] Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Screen 16.3 (1975): 14-26.

[7] The Box, Past Exhibitions, Judith Bernstein: The Box LA, 6 June 2009, 12 August 2010 <http://www.theboxla.com>.

[8] Susan Stayton, "Judith Bernstein," Arts Magazine 59 (1984): 8.

[9] Cindy Nemser, "Four Artists of Sensuality," Arts Magazine 55 (1975): 73.

[10] Robert Berlind, "Sticking It," Art in America 96.6 (2008): 184.

[11] Roberta Smith, "Judith Bernstein," Arts Magazine 54 (1973): 76.

[12] Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen, "Critics' Picks Judith Bernstein," Artforum 46.1 (2008): np.

[13] Walter Robinson, Magazine US, Reviews, Weekend Update: Artnet, 15 January 2008, 9 July 2010 <http://www.artnet.com>.

[14] Berlind, 184.

[15] Theodore Robert Bowie and Cornelia V. Christenson, Studies in Erotic Art (New York: Basic, 1970).

[16] Nemser, "Four Artists of Sensuality," 74.

[17] Berlind, 185.

[18] Butterfield-Rosen, np.

[19] Nancy Spero, et al., Nancy Spero. (London: Phaidon Press, 1996): 12.

[20] Butterfield-Rosen, np.

[21] Berlind, 184.

[22] John Perreault, Judith Bernstein Drawings: 1966-1976, Review, University Museum of Boulder Colorado May 11-28 1976 (Boulder, 1976).

[23] Judith Van Baron, "A.I.R. Gallery, New York; Exhibit," Arts Magazine 48 (1973): 70-71.

[24] Nemser, “Four Artists of Sensuality,” 75.

[25] Butterfield-Rosen, np.

[26] Ellen Lubell, "Judith Bernstein," Art in America 72.11 (1984): 159-160.

[27] Thomas Lawson, "Judith Bernstein at Brooks Jackson lolas," Art in America Jan/Feb (1979): 148.

[28] Robinson, np.

[29] Bernstein was a founding member of A.I.R. gallery, an all-female artist collective. 

[30] Stayton, 8.

[31] Lubell, 160.

[32] Stayton, 8.

[33] Ibid, 8.

[34] Robinson, np.  

[35] Ibid, np.

[36] Butterfield-Rosen, np.

[37] Ibid, np.

[38] Judith Bernstein. Signature Piece, 2010. Alex Zachary Gallery, New York, NY.

[39] Chave, 45.

[40] Ibid, 54.

[41] Ibid, 56.

[42] Ibid, 55.

[43] Ibid, 56.

[44] Van Baron, 71.

[45] Ibid, 71.

[46] Chave, 51.

[47] Lawson, 145.

[48] Chave, 51.

[49] Judith Bernstein, Five Panel Vertical, Katzen American University Museum, College of Arts & Sciences, in Claiming Space: Some American Feminist Originators, exh. cat. (Washington, DC, 2008): 7.

[50] Ibid, 7.

[51] Joan Semmel and April Kingsley, "Sexual Imagery in Women's Art," Women's Art Journal 1.6 (1980): 2.

[52] Henri Zerner, "Classicism and Power," Art Journal 47.1 (1988): 36.

[53] Chave, 53.

[54] Ibid, 45. In Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power, Chave points out the referential qualities of ostensibly neutral Minimalist works, paying particular attention to the significance of titles, most notably those of some of Frank Stella’s black paintings such as Die Fahne Hoch, 1959 and Arbeit Macht Frei, 1958.

[55] Lawson, 145.

[56] "Excetera: News and Views of the World of Art," Artgallery Magazine (June 1974): 12.

[57] Perreault, np. 

[58] Semmel, 3.

[59] Stayton, 8.

[60] Simon Taylor and Natalie Ng, in Personal and Political: The Women's Art Movement, 1969-1975, exh. cat. (East Hampton: Guild Hall of East Hampton, 2002): 35.

[61] Nemser, “Four Artists of Sensuality,” 74.

[62] Norma Broude, Mary D. Garrard and Judith K. Brodsky, The Power of Feminist Art: the American Movement of the 1970s, History and Impact (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1994): 207.

[63] Nemser, “Four Artists of Sensuality,” 74.

[64] Minor, 162.

[65] Nochlin, 485. 

[66] Stayton, 8.

[67] Broude et al., The Power of Feminist Art: the American Movement of the 1970s, History and Impact, 207.

[68] Nemser, “Four Artists of Sensuality,” 74.

[69] This notion will be discussed further in the following chapter on the ‘male gaze.’

[70] Taylor, 35.

[71] Ibid, 35.

[72] Edward Lucie-Smith, Eroticism in Western Art (New York: Praeger, 1972): 162.

[73] Nemser, “Four Artists of Sensuality,” 74.

[74] Chave, 59.

[75] In this chapter, I am taking the position that Horizontal is a depiction of a penis or a symbolic phallus. John Pierron can be considered a representation of all men in this position.

[76] Sigmund Freud, "The Passing of the Oedipus Complex," International Journal of Psychoanalysis 5 (1924): 419-424.

[77] Steve Twomey, "Objectionable Work Banned From Civic Center," The Philadelphia Inquirer 22 March 1973: 1-C.

[78] Excetera, 12.

[79] Jonathan Takiff, "Is it Art, Or Is It Porn?," Philadelphia Daily News 22 March 1974: np.

[80] Lawrence Alloway, Clement Greenberg, and Linda Nochlin et al. "Censorship of Judith Bernstein's Horizontal." Letter to 85 Artists in the Show, Critics, and Magazine Editors. 1974. MS. Philadelphia Civic Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

* This petition was never published. It was given to me by the artist.

[81] Nemser, “Focusing on Focus,” 22.

[82] Excetera, 12. 

[83] Salome was also banned due to the old law that forbade the depiction of biblical characters on stage. For the purpose of my argument, only the censorship for sexual content applies.

[84] As a side note, both of these instances deny the institution of freedom of speech that is of central importance to artists and authors.

[85] For the purpose of my argument, the biblical element will be ignored.

[86] Sigmund Freud, Sexuality and the Psychology of Love (New York: Collier, 1963).

[87] Cornelia H. Butler and Lisa Gabrielle Mark, "Hard Target: Male Bodies, Feminist Art, and The Force of Censorship in the 1970s," in WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, exh. cat. Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2007: 368.

[88] Carey Lovelace, "Art & Politics I: Feminism At 40," Art in America 91.5 (2003): 68.

[89] Ibid, 68.

[90] Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Screen 16.3 (1975): 14-26.

[91] Martha C. Nussbaum, “Objectification,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 24.4 (October 1995): 249-91.

[92] John Perreault, “A New Turn of the Screw,” The Village Voice (November 1, 1973): 34. 

[93] Mulvey, 20.

[94] Perreault, "Judith Bernstein," np.

[95] Semmel, 2.

[96] Ibid, 3.

[97] Julie Nicoletta, "Louise Bourgeois’ Femmes-Maisons: Confronting Lacan," Mary D. Garrard Norma Broude, Reclaiming Female Agency (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005): 361-371.

[98] Ibid, 369.

[99] Hilary Robinson, Feminism-Art-Theory: An Anthology 1968-2000 (Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 2001): 582.

[100] Ibid, 582.

[101] Nick Stillman, "Judith Bernstein," Artforum International 46.8 (April 2008): 373-374.

[102] Nemser, “Focusing on Focus,” 22.

[103] MoMA PS1, Exhibitions, GNY, Rotating Gallery 3: MoMA PS1, 31 July 2010, 20 August 2010 <http://ps1.org>.

[104] Ibid, np.

[105] Nemser, “Focusing on Focus,” 22.

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