The housewife is kind of a dated concept. Even the word itself is dated when you think about because, well, they don’t exist anymore. In an age where feminism and modernism have collided in (mostly) equal opportunities for all, the “housewife” is now just wife and terms like “househusband” are now a thing: the times have changed. Back then, though? Not so much. Artist Barbara T. Smith had something to say about it, which resulted in her 1981 performance of Birthdaze at Santa Monica’s Tortue Gallery, the subject of Pacific Standard Time’s The Radicalization Of A ‘50s Housewife exhibit.
Up at University Art Gallery on UCI’s campus, the show explores Birthdaze and Barbara T. Smith as a moment in California (performance) art and feminism that is most important because, well, no one else had done anything as vulnerable and personal as she had. Of course, this period in Los Angeles was a heyday of performance art and, most notably, female performance art. As we’ve spoken about with Three Weeks In May and Doin’ It In Public, two other Pacific Standard Time shows centered around feminism, art, and performance art, Birthdaze is unique in that it is a somewhat autobiographical performance piece that breaks down Smith’s life into three roles (“housewife, rebel, spiritualist”).