Miriam Schapiro was a founding figure of the Pattern and Decoration movement that paid homage to traditional arts such as quilting, embroidery and lace making. To describe her artworks, as well as the activities they reference, she used the term “femmage,” a word she invented to suggest a continuity between high art collage and works created by anonymous women. From the 1990s, Schapiro’s works incorporated figurative elements, and the femininity alluded to in her abstract works became personified, and emerged as exuberant dancing women.
Miriam Schapiro exhibited extensively in individual and group shows, and received numerous awards including the Ford Foundation Grant, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1971 she and Judy Chicago co-founded the first feminist art program at the California Institute of the Arts, and in 1972 created Womanhouse, a collaborative feminist art space. She was a founding member of the Feminist Art Institute in New York, co-founder of the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art and co-founder of the feminist journal Heresies.