The Bay Area Women Artists (BAWAP) Legacy Project’s mission is to highlight women’s historically significant and much under-documented and under-valued contributions to the Bay Area art scene. This thirty women strong organization is working diligently to compile an archive as a resource for future generations that represents the many active and talented female artists who played active roles in the arts over the past fifty years. One of the most engaging components of BAWAP’s practice is the creation of a series of video interviews that explores not only the key figures’ extensive art practice, exhibition history, and active involvement in feminist art groups, but also the challenges they overcame as they staked their territory in a male dominated landscape.
In one particularly compelling dialogue, BAWAP member Susan Leibovitz Steinman engages her former professor and mentor, Mercury Twenty’s Elizabeth Sher, in a frank discussion of her long career trajectory. Sher relates her transfer to Berkeley in the early 60s as a college Junior from the East Coast, and being confronted with sexism and a complete lack of women mentors. The conversation touches upon the struggles Sher overcame balancing the demands of motherhood, her teaching career, and her continued development as an artist. From this experience Sher’s search for community and a new model of engagement with the public ultimately led to a significant, award winning exploration of film-making that parallels her still ongoing multi-media and two dimensional work. The inclusion of Steinman’s video in the BAWAP archive will ensure that Sher’s role as a fine artist with work in major museums and important mentor for many generations of students during her forty-year teaching career at California College of the Arts will be preserved for future generations of art scholars and curators.