Writing Female Artists Back into History
For Governors State University Art History Professor Rebecca Siefert, details matter. When she was a student, Siefert heard a professor mention that famous architect Donald Judd dated an Italian architect. This tidbit made Siefert want to dig deeper into the relationship.
“Pillow talk” was how the professor dismissed the relationship, but by then, Dr. Siefert’s research told her that Lauretta Vinciarelli collaborated on architectural projects with Judd for over a decade and had a significant influence on his work. So why was Vinciarelli written out of the scholarship on Judd, Siefert wondered. She realized that Vinciarelli’s story was not unusual in art history.
“Historical erasures like these of female collaborators happen all too frequently; that’s why I was so excited to discover Vinciarelli’s work,” Siefert said.
Recently, Digital Learning and Media Design (DLMD) produced a video of Siefert’s work, “Lauretta Vinciarelli: A Visionary Erased.” The project uses the story of Vinciarelli to examine issues of sexism and accreditation in art history. Siefert said Vinciarelli’s story prompts another important question: “How do we open up space for those who have been ignored?”
Siefert asserts that it’s up to the professors, historians, curators, and scholars to set the record straight on the women that have been overlooked in past scholarship.
Siefert’s book, "Into the Light: The Art and Architecture of Lauretta Vinciarelli," was published earlier this year. Siefert says the book “presents the first comprehensive study of Vinciarelli’s work in art and architecture, offering a unique lens through which to reassess the revival of architectural drawing in the late 1970s as connected to larger theoretical, pedagogical, and political aims to shed new light on this electrifying period.”
For Siefert, her work is more than just recognizing that women have been ignored in art history. It’s about writing them into history and creating a space for their stories in future historical accounts.