PHOTO: Nancy Youdelman (right) with her daughter (left) at the SFMOMA “I Tried Everything” installation.
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City has purchased the installation “I Tried Everything” (1972) created by Fresno State alumnae Nancy Youdelman, Dori Atlantis, Jan Lester Martin, and Suzanne Lacy.
“It took my breath away!” exclaimed Youdelman, alumna, artist and former instructor at Fresno State. “It is exhilarating and so validating to have it purchased by a world class art museum.”
Youdelman described her work as a tongue-in-cheek look at bust improvement in 1972.
“We ordered products from the backs of magazines, and I was the one who tried them out while Dori Atlantis did the photography,” Youdelman explained in a Facebook post announcing the sale to MOMA.
Their work came out of the groundbreaking feminist art program at Fresno State, which started as a class by visiting artist Judy Chicago and turned into a 15 unit program in 1971. The program was housed at an off-campus studio near Downtown Fresno. Rather than focusing on a particular medium, the program organized around feminist “consciousness raising.”
Reflecting on her time in the off-campus studio in the early 70s, Youdelman said, “I am struck by the encouragement and life-changing skills I received from Judy Chicago. By her example, I learned what it took to become a professional artist.”
In 1971, Chicago, along with artist Miriam Schapiro founded the Feminist Art Program at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), which many believe is the source of feminist art education, overlooking the Fresno State program founded the previous year. Following Chicago’s departure, the program was continued by Rita Yokoi for two years before Joyce Aiken ran the program from 1973 until her retirement in 1992.
Youdelman said she kept the artwork in a banker box until 2009, when it was shown in a Fresno State exhibition “A Studio of Their Own: The Legacy of the Fresno Feminist Art Experiment” at the Phebe Conley Art Gallery. In 2019, “I Tried Everything” was displayed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) as part of Suzanne Lacy’s retrospective “We Are Here.”