Sally Webster

I have decided not to write a professional biography and, instead, want to relate how I came to be involved with the Heresies collective and how it changed my life.

My first contact with the collective was through Joan Snyder who I had met at her show at Carl Solway’s New York gallery in 1976, shortly after I returned to the city after living for 4+ years in Cincinnati. Solway also had a gallery in Cincinnati and I had gotten to know him when I was the critic of the Cincinnati Post. I was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Centerwhere Jack Boulton, who some of you may remember, was director at the time. It was at the CAC that I first encountered Joan’s work, as well as Pat Stier’s and Hannah Wilke’s, among others, in an exhibition curated by Marcia Tucker that Jack had brought to Cincinnati.

Knowing that I had relocated, Carl invited me to Joan’s opening where she and I met. I loved her work then, and now, and agreed to write a review of the exhibition for The Feminist Art Journal. Joan and I kept in touch, became great friends and she told me about a group of women who were getting together to publish a new magazine on women’s art and that there was a meeting being held in Soho at someone’s loft.

For the record, I am an uptown girl, and was so labeled. At the time I heard it as pejorative, and perhaps it was, but it was true that I lived in a brownstone on the upper west side, had two children and a husband with a fancy job in the performing arts. In truth middle class comforts and life-style suited me, so I found the first meeting of the collective startling and was not sure I would go to a second. It was then that Joyce Kozloff entered my life, calling and encouraging me to give it another try. I did and over the years I was involved I served as, what I termed, the ‘bag lady,’ the person who wrote the budget, kept the books (for a while), and helped with the fund raising.

I only worked on one issue, the one organized by Joyce and Miriam Schapiro, on pattern and decoration. To my great regret I didn’t write anything for that issue, or for any issue of Heresies. Writing then did not come easily and I was also in graduate school and looking after that family I mentioned earlier. But I went to most of the issue’s meetings and even have in my file the transcript of an interview with Joyce and Mimi that I should dig out one of these days.

While there’s more to report on my time with Heresies, I want also to mention that it was Joyce, once again, who told me to call Mary Beth Edleson, a member of the A.I.R. Gallery because they were looking for a director. I applied and to my surprise, got the job. A.I.R., the first woman’s cooperative gallery, was then on Mercer Street in a narrow store front which is probably today some chic boutique clothing store. But back in 1979 it was in the heart of the then new art district.

I stayed at A.I.R. for two years, continuing to finish my PhD and then working with Barry Rosen for two years as an art consultant. But the lure of teaching, first at Staten Island, and later at Lehman College in the Bronx, where I continue to teach today, led me to end my partnership, sadly, with Barry, to finish my degree and to take up the life of an academic. After three books, many lectures and numerous students, I am now a full professor of modern and contemporary art at Lehman and the Graduate Center CUNY.

But how did Heresies change my life? It’s never been easy to get a full-time teaching job in New York and Lehman hired me because I told them I could teach contemporary art. I had not taken a course in it but from the many years I had spent roaming the galleries of Soho, often and happily in the company of a Heresies companion, I learned contemporary art first hand and on the streets.

I still live in the same brownstone and am still married to Nick, now for 46 years. Both of our children are grown and live, would you believe, in the Midwest; our three grandchildren, by Albert, live in the Twin Cities. While I am happy in my life, and feel extremely lucky that Nick and I have our good health, I miss looking at new art, going to galleries, hanging out, arguing, debating, looking, listening, and the passions of my youth.