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Karras (Maria) collection of Woman's Building papers and photographs
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Maria Karras collection of Woman's Building papers and photographs
    Date (inclusive): 1972-2018, undated
    Number: 2018.M.16
    Creator/Collector: Karras, Maria, 1950-
    Physical Description: 10.9 Linear Feet (18 boxes, 4 flatfile folders. Computer media: 57.1 GB [751 files])
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    Business Number: (310) 440-7390
    Fax Number: (310) 440-7780
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The collection presents a record of the historic first years of the Woman's Building in Los Angeles and the women involved with it, including Feminist Studio Workshop founders Judy Chicago, Sheila de Bretteville, and Arlene Raven. Maria Karras's photographs are joined by related ephemera, correspondence, posters, and other documentary materials, together with a selection of original artwork by Karras and her peers.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record   for this collection. Click here for the access policy.  
    Language: Collection material is in English.

    Biographical Note

    Maria Karras was born in New York City in 1950 and received her BFA in printmaking from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1973. Inspired by a two-day workshop led by Judy Chicago that she attended before graduating, Karras decided to enroll at the Feminist Studio Workshop (FSW), which opened later that year in the fall of 1973. She arrived in Los Angeles that September, and became part of the inaugural cohort at the FSW, where she attended the first classes held at co-founder Sheila de Bretteville's home and helped to transform what had been the Chouinard Art Institute on South Grand View Street near MacArthur Park into the first home of the Woman's Building, which opened to the public in November of that year. From 1973 to 1980, Karras documented the daily life of the Woman's Building while also taking part in the Feminist Studio Workshop and the Women's Graphic Center. During this time, she also obtained her Master of Arts in art education from Goddard College and produced her own feminist photography and books addressing gender roles, especially in relation to race and ethnicity and her Greek-American heritage. In the late 1970s, she received a Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) grant, which she used to create a project for the city's bus system titled Both Here and There. This project was later included as part of the group exhibition Issue: Social Strategies by Women Artists, curated by Lucy Lippard for the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London.
    Karras became certified as a registered biological photographer and worked in that capacity at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center and the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center from 1980 to 1988. In 1983, Karras opened Maria Karras Photography, a creative portrait studio in Pasadena, California where the artist continues to work.
    In addition to the ICA London, Karras's work has been shown at the Woman's Building, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Brooklyn Museum. In 2011, she and Marguerite Elliot published The Woman's Building and Feminist Art Education, 1973-1991: A Pictorial Herstory in conjunction with the Getty's initiative, Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA, 1945-1980.
    Elliot, Marguerite, and Maria Karras, eds. The Woman's Building and Feminist Art Education, 1973-1991: A Pictorial Herstory. Los Angeles: Otis College of Art and Design, 2011.
    Maria Karras collection of Woman's Building papers and photographs, accession no. 2018.M.16, "Collection background and historical perspective," 2017, Box 16, Folder 10.
    Tain, John. Acquisition Approval Form for "Maria Karras (American, 1950-), Collection of Woman's Building Photography, 1973-1980," accession no. 2018.M.16, September 6, 2017.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers. Born digital content is unavailable until reformatted. Contact reference for reformatting.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Maria Karras collection of Woman's Building papers and photographs, 1972-2018, undated, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2018.M.16.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Maria Karras, BFA, RBP, MA. Acquired in 2017.

    Processing Information

    Rachel Poutasse processed the collection and wrote the finding aid in 2019 under the supervision of Kit Messick and Sarah Wade. Photographic materials were preliminarily processed in 2019 by Beth Ann Guynn. Digital materials were processed by Laura Schroffel in 2019. Further processing is required for remaining digital content.
    Of the 751 digital files, 22 files are digitized contact sheets that feature events described in both Series I and Series II. These 22 digital files are included in the file count and size for the extent of both series.

    Digitized Material

    A portion of digital reference images from Series IA are available online

    Related Archival Materials

    Woman's Building records, 1971-2016, Getty Research Institute, 2017.M.43.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Maria Karras collection comprises ephemera and photographic documentation of the Woman's Building and affiliated groups such as the Feminist Studio Workshop, as well as projects by Maria Karras and other Woman's Building artists. Series I comprises photographic materials that document activities at the Woman's Building, especially from 1973 to 1980, and various Woman's Building ephemera collected by Maria Karras from 1973 to 2007, such as posters, articles, publications, and promotional materials. Series I also includes artists' books, mail art, and exhibition posters and announcements by individual artists affiliated with the Woman's Building. Series II consists of Maria Karras's own work from her period at the Woman's Building, as well as her 2011 collaboration with Marguerite Elliot on The Woman's Building and Feminist Art Education, 1973-1991: A Pictorial Herstory . Karras's 1978-1979 project that documents the experiences of thirteen bicultural women living in Los Angeles, Both Here and There, is especially well-represented. For both Series I and Series II, most sheets of negatives and slides are accompanied by corresponding digital files.


    The collection is arranged in two series: and Series I. Woman's Building papers and photographs, 1972-2018, undated; Series II. Maria Karras's projects, 1973-1980, 2006-2018.
    Born digital materials are integrated into their corresponding series based on content. The original order of the files is retained in our digital repository.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Chicago, Judy, 1939-
    Raven, Arlene
    De Bretteville, Sheila Levrant

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    Woman's Building (Los Angeles, Calif.)

    Subjects - Topics

    Women artists -- Archives
    Women artists -- California -- Los Angeles
    Women artists -- United States -- 20th century
    Feminism and art -- United States

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Black-and-white prints (photographs)
    Color prints (photographs)
    Black-and-white negatives
    Color negatives
    Color slides
    Born digital
    Printed ephemera
    Contact sheets
    Photographs, Original


    Karras, Maria, 1950-