A history of women-only art collectives and collaboration in Australia 1970-2010

Download files
Access & Terms of Use
open access
Copyright: Mayhew, Louise
The history of women-only artistic collaboration in Australia is rich and diverse. However, it is largely unwritten. Its protagonists and their practices are missing from accounts of Australian art history for the twofold sins of being female and working in groups— twice removing them from the myth of the artist as a lone, male genius. As an original contribution to knowledge, this thesis writes the first history of women-only collective and collaborative art practices in Australia c.1970-2010. As a first history, via primary research and interviews, I record key facts including names, dates, locations and projects. In line with contemporary investigations of collaboration —outlined and reviewed in Chapter 1, —I study groups in terms of the motivations for, and implications of, collaboration. More specifically, I consider the reasons for, and consequences of, collaborating with other women. This thesis is structured chronologically. Each chapter is dedicated to one decade. In each chapter, group practices are discussed in light of their social, political and artistic context. Attention is paid to contemporary, and changing, attitudes to, and interpretations of, collectivism/collaboration and feminism/femininity. In each chapter, I ascertain the qualities and characteristics of group practice pertinent to that decade. Throughout this thesis, I discover a variety of group structures and authorship models, including large collectives, participatory and delegated practices, community art projects and long-term collaboration. I establish that women-only groups were deliberately formed, in light of feminism and separatism, and yet are also the result of friendships, sisterhood and coincidence. I explore practical and ideological reasons for collaborating, from the simple desire to share skills to an interest in forming anti-institutional enclaves. Finally, I determine the implications of collaboration, such as the enabling of confidence, authorial excess and anonymity. In doing this, I chart the movement of women artists, and concurrently, collaborative models, from the periphery of the Australian artworld to its very centre. This thesis concludes that despite being under-researched and under-recorded, women’s collaborative art practices have been present, vibrant and vital since the 1970s. Chronicling these practices is a significant step towards re-writing a more complete history of Australian art.
Persistent link to this record
Link to Publisher Version
Link to Open Access Version
Additional Link
Mayhew, Louise
Best, Susan
Conference Proceedings Editor(s)
Other Contributor(s)
Corporate/Industry Contributor(s)
Publication Year
Resource Type
Degree Type
PhD Doctorate
download public version.pdf 22.74 MB Adobe Portable Document Format
Related dataset(s)