Trying to understand feminist art theory can be as confusing as trying humanity itself. Feminist art historian Hilary Robinson writes that "unlike most other "isms" of the art world, the term "feminist art" does not automatically imply a certain approach to art-making, or the use of certain media; nor does it imply what the foremost concern of the artist is in making the piece of work" (1). This serves as a reasonable summation of why feminist art and art theory is a somewhat impossible topic to entirely define. Feminist art and art theory engulfs so much, and manifests itself in so many forms - how is one to begin to understand a single piece of it?.
Laurie Schneider Adams defines the feminist approach to art and art history as being "predicated on the idea that gender is an essential element in understanding the creation, content, and evaluation of art" (79). This one sentence provides a very broad definition of the single thing that could be said to link all feminist art and theory - gender. Feminism in itself contains a number of different, even opposing, ideologies - essentialist, culturalist, Freudian, anti-Freudian the list could go on and on. And then one has the task of differentiating between feminism, feminist theory, feminist art theory, feminist methodologies, feminist politics, feminist art - again the list could go on and on. What brings this multitude of topics together is are the basic ideas that instigated them all - gender, the ways we construct gender, and the implications of this, past and present.
For all of these reasons and more, this paper will present only the most general outline of feminist theory in art. It will appear to weave in and out of art, politics, history, and theory - because all of these things are linked, and when attempting to form a basic understanding of feminist theory in art, they must all be taken together. Any pre-conceptions of a logical and causal history will have to be abandoned.