FOR 30 YEARS, a Belén home sat vacant on North Fifth Street, slowly becoming a time capsule of mid-century modern decor. From a well-kept lime shag carpet and floor-length doorbell chimes to a bubble-gum-pink bathroom and yellow daisy wallpaper, it recalled an era when interior design was bright and sunny, yet a woman couldn’t apply for her own credit card without a man’s signature.
Purchased last year by Megan Malcom-Morgan, executive director of artist Judy Chicago’s Through the Flower Art Space, and her husband, Jerah Cordova, the 1926 structure has been reborn as Wo/Manhouse 2022 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s groundbreaking art installation in Los Angeles.
An arts pioneer, Chicago created the country’s first feminist art program, at California State University, Fresno, in 1970, and worked with students and co-educator Miriam Schapiro to transform a dilapidated Hollywood home into Womanhouse, an interactive art piece dedicated to the hopes, fears, and thoughts of women. Her focus stays true today. “Feminism will be relevant—and important—until there is gender equity all over the world,” says Chicago. “And we are a long way from that.”
For Wo/Manhouse, 19 New Mexico artists were selected to create immersive art in the Belén home’s living areas—including two bedrooms, two bathrooms, three closets, a hallway, and a pantry—that examines social issues affecting people across the gender spectrum. An outdoor area by the pool will host daily art performances. “It’s Meow Wolf with activism,” Malcom-Morgan says of the exhibition, which runs through October 9.
Nancy Youdelman, the project’s facilitator, was in Chicago’s first class and one of the original “Fresno girls,” as Chicago called them. “It was life-changing,” Youdelman remembers. To create a connection with the original project and build community among the Wo/Manhouse 2022 artists, she led a three-day workshop that included a roundtable exploration of the concept of home and issues of connection, parenting, power, socioeconomics, and gender roles.
These ideas percolate in Wo/Manhouse. In the formal dining room, for example, Belén’s Ana June collaborates with her husband, Chris Riedel, and teenage son Graysen Riedel to depict a family with screens for heads sitting for dinner—a representation of the distractions that pull us away from one another at today’s table. In a bedroom closet, Albuquerque’s Apolo Gomez uses wallpaper adorned with words like “gay” to convey the experience of growing up LGBTQ+ in a religious family.
Guinivere Mayse, of Los Lunas, evokes the original Womanhouse by painting the pantry bright pink, then scrawling modern etiquette and safety rules for girls on it, for an updated twist. “I am trying to express the anxiety and fear that is linked with leaving the house and how to be safe in the society we live in,” says Mayse. “The rules are all ones that have both suppressed me and saved me.”
Through the Flower Art Space presents a complementary exhibit, Looking Back at Womanhouse, which includes a reinstallation of Chicago’s Menstruation Bathroom and a screening of filmmaker Johanna Demetrakas’s 1974 documentary about Womanhouse.
“There is a sense of having gone full circle from Womanhouse to Wo/Manhouse,” says Chicago, “as it has involved bringing the same pedagogical methods I pioneered in the early 1970s to both men and women. The male participants are definitely learning that feminist values offer freedom to them as well as women.”