Nancy Youdelman is a mixed media artist and pioneer in the feminist art movement. Born in 1948 in New York City, Youdelman studied at the California Institute of the Arts in the early 1970s and became a member of the Feminist Arts Program under Judy Chicago. The program aimed at addressing gender inequities in art education, and the art world in general. Students in the program like Youdelman were encouraged to create artwork that specifically dealt with female gender identity and issues related to it. This program led to Youdelman’s involvement in the landmark 1972 feminist installation and performance space Womanhouse, the first public installation of feminist art.
As an artist, Youdelman is best known for her sculptural assemblages which combine women’s and girl’s clothing with a variety of organic materials and other mixed media. The assemblages tell poignant stories that pull from personal and allegorical sources, reminding viewers of the way clothing can function to construct our identity. However, all of Youdelman’s work reflects a distinctly feminine perspective and forces the viewer to confront issues of gender bias. In one recent example, Self Portrait as Ophelia, Youdelman subverts the literary trope that women are romantic victims by referencing Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who threw herself into a river and drowned as a result of grief-induced madness. In Youdelman’s version, Ophelia seems to emerge from a bed of flowers, renewed and, perhaps, resurrected.
Youdelman received her first solo exhibition in 1974 and has been exhibited widely ever since. Recent solo exhibitions of her work include, Clothing, Metaphor & Memory, Mohr Art Gallery, Community School of Music & Art, Mountain View, California (2006); The Dearest Allen Series, Letters to Allen and Who Was Betty Potter?, Gallery 25, Fresno, California (2012); From There to Here: Nancy Youdelman, Four Decades as a Feminist Artist, Pennsylvania State University (2014); Nancy Youdelman: Fashioning a Feminist Vision 1972-2017, California State University, Northridge and Fresno Art Museum, California (2018). She has also been the recipient of numerous awards including grants from the Pollock/Krasner, the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb and the Tree of Life Foundations.