There is so much to love about Anita Steckel, the loud and boundary-pushing feminist artist who worked in New York in the seventies and eighties. She saw the city as a backdrop for sexual exploration and expression — and every building a possible platform from which to dangle a phallus. Anita of New York, a show that closes today at the Suzanne Geiss Company, is comprised of paintings from two of her most famous series: Giant Woman (1970-1973) and New York Landscape (1970-1980). Giant penises balance on skyscrapers, spraying projectiles; enormous female nudes float along the East River; and, in one provocative image, a nude folds over the Empire State Building, her stomach punctured by the spire.
In the canon of feminist artists, Steckel (who died last year) is a towering, if sometimes forgotten, figure. Her detailed paintings are rich with clues and commentary on what it meant to be a woman in New York in the seventies and eighties — but at the time, her work was (unsurprisingly) controversial: The Feminist Art of Sexual Politics, her solo show of sexually explicit paintings in Suffern, New York, was met with uproar when it opened in 1972. Over the course of her career, Steckel established a group of feminist artists called the Fight Censorship Group, countered the male-dominated Pop Art movement with her own series, Mom Art, and famously once said, “If the erect penis is not wholesome enough to go into museums, it should not be considered wholesome enough to go into women.” Click through our slideshow to see highlights of her work from Anita of New York.