Anita Steckel (1930-2012) was a feminist artist whose career spanned roughly 50 years. She was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 24, 1930 to immigrant parents from Russia. She lived and worked most of her life in New York City with early adventures to the West Coast and South America. She studied art at Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art, Cooper Union, Alfred University, and the Art Students League where she also taught from 1984 until her death in 2012. She considered American painter Edwin Dickinson to be one of her most influential teachers.
Throughout her career Steckel showed at galleries, universities, and museums both in the U.S. and abroad. She was awarded such prestigious grants as the NEA painting grant and the Pollock Krasner Grant. Steckel first gained critical notice when her series Mom Art (1963), a collection of photocollages and montages dealing with issues of race, war, and sexuality, which were exhibited the Hacker Gallery in 1963 in her second solo show. In 1970 she moved into Westbeth Artists’ Housing in the West Village. There she completed two large-scale series, New York Skyline series (1970-1980) and the Giant Women series (1969-1973) both of which were included in an exhibition at Rockland Community College in 1972 that attracted attention from the press and the art world when it was threatened with censorship for sexual content. After this incident, Steckel formed the Fight Censorship group, an advocacy group defending women’s sexual art that included Louise Bouregois, Martha Edelheit, Eunice Golden, Juanita McNeely, Joan Semmel, Hannah Wilke and others. During the 1970s, Steckel’s work was published in all the major feminist art publications, and she was a member of various feminist groups and exhibitions.
Although Steckel worked primarily in collage and montage mediums, she also produced many paintings and a limited number of sculpture, ceramic, and photographic works. In addition to issues of gender and sexuality, her body of work also deals with such subjects as art history, political leaders, jazz, anthropology, and animals. Throughout her career, Steckel continued to create political and personal works, and her final series, Revisions on a Photo Album (2011-2012), demonstrates the intensity and critical eye for which she is known.