Sheila de Bretteville: Viva Participation & Process!

March 23, 2010

I have been watching a lot of forty year old videos of designer, teacher, and public artist, Sheila de Bretteville, as part of my research for my Women’s Building video archive project. What a thrill, a delight, a deja-vu to see her as a rip-roaring, as eloquent as ever, in the flesh presenter (last week at Oxy)! In the 1970s, de Bretteville left Cal Arts to co-found the LA Women’s Building with Judy Chicago, Arlene Raven, and others, and in the uncountable hours of black and white videos they shot of their process, boldly developing a feminist arts education based on consciousness raising and its role in responding to women’s victimization, voicelessness and invisibility, she was a predictable beacon of intelligence, clarity and theoretical wisdom.

At 70, she shows a life’s work dedicated to including other people within the creation of meaning, a feminist and humanist commitment to participation and process. She says, “the way a work is made is part of what it means.” She thinks all humans have the right to leave a trace of their lives, thoughts, and experiences in the environments where they have lived, and just getting through a day without doing harm is the most powerful demonstration of heroism, deserving of a monument or perhaps a less austere trace (of public art) all one’s own.

Her gracious, generous, and self-effacing talk included the wonderful work of her students (above).

One Response to “Sheila de Bretteville: Viva Participation & Process!”


  1. […] yet strive to meet them whenever I can, to support their work, and hear their voices (see recent post on Sheila de Bretteville). I look to them as I suppose younger women look to me: to have visualized […]


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