Miriam Schapiro, an only child, was born into a creative family of Russian-Jewish heritage that supported her desire at a young age to become an artist. Her father was an artist and industrial designer, who began teaching her art when she was six. At fourteen, she enrolled in WPA evening classes to study the nude model, and while in high school she attended Saturday classes at the Museum of Modern Art. Schapiro continued her studies at Hunter College, majoring in art, but transferred to the University of Iowa (B.A. 1945; M.A. in printmaking, 1946; M.F.A. in painting, 1949). At Iowa she studied with Argentine printmaker Mauricio Lasansky and became his first assistant. She also helped to establish the Iowa Print Group.
Schapiro lived in Missouri from 1950 to 1952, then returned to New York, where she and her husband, Paul Brach, would often socialize with other artists at the Cedar Tavern or The Club. In 1967 she and her family moved to California, staying there until 1975. In 1971 she and artist Judy Chicago founded the Feminist Art Program at the California Insititute of the Arts in Valencia, the best-known product of which is the collaborative project, Womanhouse. Schapiro and Sherry Brody created The Dollhouse for that project. Schapiro's investigations into women's traditional art inspired her "femmages," (see cat. 49 n. 1), and her exhibition of the monumental Anatomy of a Kimono at the Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York (1976), helped reestablish the decorative as a respectable force in the visual arts. Her diverse accomplishments include a large-scale "femmage" for the Orlando Airport, stained-glass windows for Temple Shalom in Chicago, a thirty-five-foot-tall pair of dancers, Anna and David, in brightly painted aluminum and stainless steel, installed in Rosslyn, Virginia, and Rondo, a book of original dance and personal images published by Bedford Arts.
Schapiro has traveled extensively as a visiting artist, delivering lectures and helping to promote a strong women's art movement. She was a founder of the feminist periodical Heresies. In addition to her work at Graphicstudio she has produced editions at Bummy Huss Paper, Inc., in New York, Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Rutgers Center for Innovative Printmaking, Smith Anderson in Palo Alto, and the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles. Among her honors have been the prestigious Skowhegan Award; honorary doctorates from the College of Wooster, Ohio, and the California College of Arts and Crafts; and the Honors Award from the Women's Caucus for Art.
One-person exhibitions of Schapiro's work include one at the Lyman Allen Museum, New London, Connecticut (1966), The Shrine, The Computer and the Dollhouse at Mandeville Art Gallery, University of California at San Diego, Mills College in Oakland, California, and the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse (1975-1976), Femmages at Oberlin College, Ohio (1977), shows at the College of Wooster Museum, Ohio (1980), Kent State University, Ohio (1983), Atlanta Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, Florida (1984), and Artlink Contemporary Artspace, Fort Wayne, Indiana (1986), I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can at Guilford College, Greensboro, North Carolina (1986), and an exhibition at the Phyllis Rothman Gallery, Fairleigh Dickinson University (1990). (Fine/Corlett 1991, 196-197)