An individual’s identity consists of multiple, intersecting factors, including gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality. In fact, some prefer to use the plural word “identities,” emphasizing that identity is fluid and shifts throughout one’s life.
A central aim of the feminist art movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States was to gain recognition for women artists. However, many felt that, during its early years, the feminist art movement privileged white women artists. Cuban-born American artist Ana Mendieta, writing about Howardena Pindell’s work, explained: “As women … came together in the feminist movement with the purpose to end domination and exploitation of the white male culture, they failed to remember us.” The struggle for equality in the art world extended not only to women artists but also to artists of color.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the United States underwent a period of tumultuous cultural tensions that included the AIDS crisis, right-wing conservative social and economic policies under President Ronald Reagan, rapid gentrification, and increasing urban crime. Identity politics—the political debates around shared cultural characteristics such as race, class, and religion—became a way for people to address these issues. Many artists, such as Glenn Ligon, Deborah Kass, and Lorna Simpson, created work in response to their multifaceted identities, suggesting that the problems society faces are a result of intersecting forms of discrimination toward various social groups.
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