Shigeko Kubota performed her Vagina Painting on 4 July 1965 at Cinemateque, East 4th Street New York during Perpetual Fluxus Festival.
In an act both evocative and critical of action painting, Kubota attached a paintbrush to the back of her short skirt and squatted to make painterly marks on a large piece of paper on the floor. In this way Kubota challenged the assumptions still prevalent in the art world at the time which connected masculinity with creative genius. This work is one of many feminist takes on abstract expressionism, a genre characterised by macho male practitioners.
Kubota’s work was part of the Fluxus movement, an international network of artists, composers and designers, including Yoko Ono and George Maciunas, noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines. Fluxus takes its name from the latin word meaning ‘flow’ and is indebted to the Japanese movement Gutai which emphasized the artist’s body, gesture and the beauty of destruction and decay.
Further feminist performance works dealing with the expressive use of paint can be found within the ‘Action Painting‘ category and include: Carolee Schneemann’s Eye Body (1963), Helen Almeida’s Inhabited Painting (Pintura Habitada) (1975), Linda Benglis’ Blatt (1968-70) and Niki de Saint Phalle’s Fire at Will (1961-63) among others.
Kubota’s Vagina Painting was re-enacted by Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen in her piece Never Mind Pollock performed in various exhibitions worldwide including at “Once More with Feeling” at Tate Modern on 27 June 2009 and Re.Act Feminism at the Akademie der Kunst in Berlin in January of the same year.
Wark, Jayne, Radical gestures: feminism and performance art in North America, Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2006, pp. 46-48