Being (not) at home: Exiled women artists in postwar New York

Hitting home: representations of the domestic milieu in feminist art

Keywords: Exile, women’s art, home, domesticity, diaspora, migration


In postwar art, the question of exile is the question of home. House defines a space as a locative concept. Home represents a place with a symbolic value of belonging and refers to objects, people, and ideas. Home does not designate a fixed state but rather a relational and transformative site in which individual and collective acts of remembering are embedded. In this article, the author explores the aesthetics of exile in the artistic production of exiled women artists in postwar New York, most notably Ruth Vollmer, Louise Nevelson, and Eva Hesse, who have often been excluded from the discourse around 1960s sculptural practice. The author casts the mode of construction and the viewing experience of their artworks through the notions of home and body. This contribution focuses on the intricate interrelations between women, domesticity, and artmaking associated with the aesthetics of exile and displacement, which significantly challenges any stable and absolute conception of home and place. By drawing on the works of feminist scholars and theorists, such as Sarah Ahmed, Julia Bryan-Wilson, and Iris Marion Young—in their argument that the idea of home and the practices of homemaking support relational identities—the author sheds light on how women artists in exile investigate notions of home, borders (both physical and psychological), diasporic longing, habitation, and uprootedness in a constant state of exchange.