Rachel Lachowicz is a conceptual artist whose large-scale installations, floor art, and sculptures explore art, made in the past almost exclusively by men. For her art, she has chosen to use a unique medium specific to women: women’s makeup. This is her primary sculptural medium and is one that has been associated with women for thousands of years. The artist uses makeup – lipstick, face powder, eye shadow, even fragrance – as a way to reference the exclusion of female artists in art history. The term “Lipstick Feminist” came to be used to describe her work.
Lachowicz received her B.F.A. in 1988 from the California Institute of the Arts. She is the Chairman of the Art Department at Claremont Graduate University and had taught at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.
Lachowicz repurposes forms and images used by male artists to question assumptions about gender and to add to the materials used in making art. In her 1992 “Untitled (Lipstick Urinals),” made from lipstick, she revisited Marchel Duchamp’s iconic 1917 “Fountain.” (Duchamp’s piece was also appropriated by artist Sherrie Levine in 1991.)
In 1992, she drew on a naked, muscular man with red lipstick in her performance piece “Red Not Blue.” The man then pressed his paint-stained body onto white paper as a violinist played music for an audience. This was Lachowicz’s appropriation of Yves Klein’s 1960’s “Anthropometries of the Blue Epoch” exhibition, in which three naked female models covered themselves with blue paint and imprinted their images on a white canvas.
Her 1995 sculpture, “Conscious/Unconscious (Running, Standing, Sitting, Crawling)” shows four small red figures in glass cases. This work is made from lipstick, pigment, wax, resin, fabric, fiberglass, and fragrance.
Her 2010 “Cell: Interlocking Construction” is an elegant and complex abstract sculpture, composed of more than thirty transparent Plexiglas geometric shapes with each one filled with a different shade of blue eye shadow. Each shade was created by the artist in her own studio. The sculpture was made from a three-dimensional sketch of abstract cardboard shapes put over the surface of a giant reproduction of Kurt Schwitter’s work “Merzbau,” which incorporated grottoes, columns, and found objects in an immersive environment in Schwitter’s home.
In her 2017 solo exhibition, the artist made an immersive installation “Lay Back and Enjoy It.” She built two life size structures: a church and a Sheriff’s office and painted them lipstick red. These buildings referenced the 1973 movie, “High Plains Drifter,” where the hero, acted by Clint Eastwood, grabs a woman and drags her into a barn to force himself on her to teach her some manners. His rape of this woman does not give her trauma or cause her hatred. Instead she falls in love with him!
Lachowicz received the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation award. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Palm Springs Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Orange County Museum of Art, Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art, The Bronx Museum of Art, the Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna’s Palais Lichtenstein, and others.