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Joan Semmel papers, 1949-2013, bulk 1960-2013

Biographical Note

Joan Semmel (1932- ) is an abstract painter working in New York City and Easthampton, N. Y. Semmel's work explores erotic themes and the female body. She taught painting at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University from 1978-2000.
Born in New York City in 1932, Joan Semmel studied at the Cooper Union, the Art Students League of New York, and received her BFA in 1963 and MFA in 1972 from Pratt Institute. Semmel moved to Spain in 1963 and exhibited her abstract expressionist work in galleries and museums there before returning to New York in 1970.
Upon Semmel's return to New York, she became involved in the feminist art movement. One of the original Guerrilla Girls, Semmel was involved with several feminist activist art groups devoted to gender equality in the art world. Semmel spent years researching a book about women's erotic art. At the same time, her painting style shifted to incorporate more figurative imagery and she began working on series that explored the themes of the female body, desire, and aging. Each series consisted of 10-30 paintings, produced over several years, among them First and Second Erotic Series, Self Images, Portraits, Figure in Landscape, Gymnasium, Locker Room, Overlays, and Mannequins.
In addition to her teaching career at Rutgers University as a tenured Professor of Painting, Semmel taught briefly at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, Skowhegan, and the Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, Germany. Over the years she served as a visiting artist, critic, and lecturer at many colleges, and participated in numerous symposia, panel discussions and conferences. She has received several grants and awards including Macdowell Colony and Yaddo residencies.
Semmel has exhibited widely and prolifically in the United States, Spain, the Netherlands, and South America, in addition to curating two exhibitions, Contemporary Women: Consciousness and Content (1977) at The Brooklyn Museum of Art School and Private Worlds - Art in General (2000). Her work is represented in the permanent collections of many museums including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Chrysler Museum, Guild Hall, Museum of Women in the Arts, Parrish Art Museum, and Vassar College Museum.
Joan Semmel continues to live and work in New York City and Easthampton, NY.