The Sister Chapel (1974-78) was an important collaborative installation that materialized at the height of the women’s art movement. Conceived as a nonhierarchical, secular commemoration of female role models, The Sister Chapel consisted of an eighteen-foot abstract ceiling that hung above a circular arrangement of eleven monumental canvases, each depicting the standing figure of a heroic woman. The choice of subject was left entirely to the creator of each work. As a result, the paintings formed a visually cohesive group without compromising the individuality of the artists. Contemporary and historical women, deities, and conceptual figures were portrayed by distinguished New York painters-Alice Neel, May Stevens, and Sylvia Sleigh-as well as their accomplished but less prominent colleagues. Among the role models depicted were Artemisia Gentileschi, Frida Kahlo, Betty Friedan, Joan of Arc, and a female incarnation of God. Although last exhibited in 1980, The Sister Chapel has lingered in the minds of art historians who continue to note its significance as an exemplar of feminist collaboration. Based on previously-unpublished archival materials and featuring dozens of rarely-seen works of art, this comprehensive study details the fascinating history of The Sister Chapel, its constituent paintings, and its ambitious creators.
Andrew D. Hottle, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Art History at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, USA.
’In Sister Chapel, Andrew Hottle rescues from scholarly neglect a major collaborative project of the Feminist Art Movement. Embodying the feminist concept of non-hierarchical sisterhood, thirteen women artists created a stylistically diverse yet cohesive circular environment of female heroes, from a feminine-form God to Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug. Deliberately alluding to the Sistine Chapel, they subtly mocked that icon of masculinist theology and challenged its values from the new perspectives of feminism. Hottle’s richly detailed text provides an invaluable historical record, with fascinating exchanges among artists and organizers and energetic documentation of every planning stage of this groundbreaking project.’ Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard, editors of The Power of Feminist Art
'Thanks to Hottle, 8 of the 11 original paintings for The Sister Chapel are now part of the permanent collection of art at Rowan University, ensuring that, together with this book, the work will continue to be preserved and studied. Recommended.' Choice