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The Body in Art

Discover how artists represent and use the body to investigate their relationships to gender and identity.

The Processes and Materials of Abstract Expressionist Painting

Discover the innovative tecniques of Abstract Expressionist painters

Up to and Including Her Limits

Carolee Schneemann
(American, born 1939)

1973. Crayon on paper, rope, harness, super 8mm film projector, video (color, sound; 29 min.), and six monitors, Dimensions variable

Carolee Schneemann is largely associated with her performance art of the 1960s and 1970s, in which she boldly addressed feminist and political issues in ways that shocked and engaged viewers. But she has always maintained that she is a painter, a fact often overlooked in discussions of her larger body of work. At the heart of her approach is her ongoing exploration of the boundaries of painting and drawing, as in Up to and Including Her Limits.

On the genesis of this physically demanding work, Schneemann writes that it was “the direct result of [Jackson] Pollock’s physicalized painting process,” referring to Pollock’s active engagement of his whole body as he flung, dripped, and poured paint over canvases spread on the floor.1 Dubbed “action painting” by art critic Harold Rosenberg, Pollock’s technique was a touchstone for Schneemann. She developed her own approach to art making in dialogue with action painting, seeking to insert her own body and her own perspective into a historically male-dominated arena.

“I am suspended in a tree surgeon’s harness on a three-quarter-inch manila rope, a rope which I can raise or lower manually to sustain an entranced period of drawing—my extended arm holds crayons which stroke the surrounding walls, accumulating a web of colored marks,” Schneemann writes, describing Up to and Including Her Limits. “My entire body becomes the agency of visual traces, vestige of the body’s energy in motion.”2

Schneemann performed Up to and Including Her Limits nine times between 1971 and 1976, eventually turning it into an installation. The work is a record of the lines her suspended body made in space as she moved it up, down, and across expansive sheets of paper placed on the walls and floor of a corner of a room. Alongside the drawing, stacked video monitors show recorded footage of her performances, while the harness and rope that held her body hangs in the center of this display.

Carolee Schneemann, "Up to and Including Her Limits 1973–76,"
Carolee Schneemann, "Up to and Including Her Limits 1973–76,"

A term describing moving-image artworks recorded onto magnetic tape or digital formats, or generated using other mechanisms such as image-processing tools, and available for immediate playback.

One who applies paint to canvas, wood, paper, or another support to produce a picture.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

A work of art made with a pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements, often consisting of lines and marks (noun); the act of producing a picture with pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements (verb, gerund).

A closely woven, sturdy cloth of hemp, cotton, linen, or a similar fiber, frequently stretched over a frame and used as a surface for painting.

The method with which an artist, writer, performer, athlete, or other producer employs technical skills or materials to achieve a finished product or endeavor.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).

A term that emerged in the 1960s to describe a diverse range of live presentations by artists, including actions, movements, gestures, and choreography. Performance art is often preceded by, includes, or is later represented through various forms of video, photography, objects, written documentation, or oral and physical transmission.

A long mark or stroke.

A form of art, developed in the late 1950s, which involves the creation of an enveloping aesthetic or sensory experience in a particular environment, often inviting active engagement or immersion by the spectator.

The perceived hue of an object, produced by the manner in which it reflects or emits light into the eye. Also, a substance, such as a dye, pigment, or paint, that imparts a hue.

Art critic Harold Rosenberg coined the term “action painting” in 1952 to describe the work of artists who painted using bold gestures that engaged more of the body than traditional easel painting. Often the viewer can see broad brushstrokes, drips, splashes, or other evidence of the physical action that took place upon the canvas.