Melissa Miller honors Miriam Schapiro for Women’s History Month

Melissa Miller discussed feminism as it relates to quilting to honor Women’s History Month in the Contemporary Art Gallery. She focused on the works and influence of deceased artist Miriam Schapiro.  At the end, Miller displayed quilts made by her and her grandmother. 
File Photo

Melissa Miller presented the lecture “Miriam Schapiro: Feminist Art and the American Quilt” to honor Women’s History Month at the Contemporary Art Gallery. 

The lecture was part of the “Let’s Talk: Art” series and was aimed at sharing information about the art world. On Mar. 15, Miller discussed quilts, Schapiro’s works, such as ‘‘Dollhouse’’ and ‘‘Barcelona Fan’’ and Schapiro’s impact on the feminist movement. 

Miller is a part-time art history concentration student and full-time worker at the St. Tammany Parish Library Covington Branch. She chose Schapiro as the subject of her research paper when she noticed similarities between the artist, her grandmother and herself. 




“She just resonated with me,” said Miller. “It’s like her story and my story were very similar. I had to pick her. Plus, I love her work. Her work is fabulous. It’s colorful. It tells a story about women.” 

The  lecture series started in 2008 as the collaboration project between Director of Sims Library Eric Johnson and Associate Professor of Art History Dr. Irene Nero. It is sponsored by the university’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts, the Hammond Regional Arts Center and Friends of Sims Library. The series progressed from an educational opportunity to a community event, drawing artists and people as far as Baton Rouge. 

“We did it originally for students first, just to have something else to get outside of a classroom,” said Nero. The next thing we did was we were doing it so that the university and Hammond also had some things to do, so that’s how we got involved with the Hammond Regional Arts Center.”

Schapiro was an important figure in the feminist art movement and quilting. 

“People like Schapiro really came on the scene with so much power and conviction of what they were doing by using women’s techniques to take on the guys as it were that I really realized how brave and courageous it was,” said Nero.   

Schapiro advocated for women’s rights until her death in 2015. 

“She remained a lady through all of this,” said Miller. “She was a little more soft-spoken than some of the other feminists in her group. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that her personal way was never compromised.” 

The talk addressed quilting as a fine art used before and during the feminist art movement. It related the works of feminist artists like Schapiro to more open expressions celebrated during Women’s History Month. 

“I’m glad that women have this month to express themselves and celebrate the people who worked hard and fought for women’s rights,” said Tharius Lebeaux, a freshman art major. 

For some, it was a reminder of why Women’s History Month is celebrated. 

“We think of the art world as one of such freedom and inclusion, and this shows us that it has not always been so,” said art history instructor Timothy Silva. “Even well into the 1960s, which we think of as an era of such diversity and openness, the high art world, where of course there is a lot of money at stake and careers, was, as she said, a man’s world. It was closed. It was for a select few and these women are fighting those boundaries.” 

Nero will present “Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao Museum in Spain: 20 Years Later” on Wednesday, Apr. 26 at 5 p.m.