On the eve of her flight to Perth, leading American feminist art curator Catherine Morris is in a flurry. There's a busy family schedule, a 12-year-old daughter to organise, as well as grandparents who are staying to look after her.
It's a case of circling the periphery of the whirlwind aiming to catch some moments of her borrowed time. "My bed is piled high with clothes and I'm not sure how it's all going to fit in a suitcase," she says.
Ms Morris, the curator at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Centre for Feminist Art at New York's Brooklyn Museum, is set to deliver the University of WA's free biennial Salek Minc Lecture tonight before the opening of the first major exhibition from the Cruthers Collection of women's art.
Ms Morris also is the keynote speaker of the two-day symposium Are We There Yet? which gathers international art historians, curators and artists to discuss issues facing women's art. She also will open Look, Look Again at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, which features about 140 key works from the wide-ranging works collected over 40 years by the late Sheila Cruthers, who donated her collection to UWA in 2007, providing the most significant record of female creativity in Australia over the past 125 years.
Speaking from Brooklyn, Ms Morris says feminism is simultaneously more imbedded and more dismissed in our culture. "Feminism has very much been absorbed but is still a flashpoint for some people," she says. "Women have made great strides in the last 40 years but can we call ourselves post-feminist? No. There's room for vast improvements for women the world over."
For the Salek Minc Lecture, she focuses on her centre's current exhibition, Materializing Six Years: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of the Conceptual Art Movement, which references American art critic Lippard's important 1973 book about the development of contemporary art from 1966 to 1972. Running parallel with protests against the Vietnam War and civil rights, the feminist movement of the late 60s intersected with a tumultuous time in history.
Ms Morris says feminism helped define social protest as we understand it today. "It continued into the 1990s in AIDS activism and other movements which were very much part of the visual arts culture in New York."
She is very much looking forward to getting to know the Cruthers Collection, and is thrilled and honoured by the opportunity to have a public conversation about feminist art in Australia.
The free 2012 Salek Minc Lecture is at the University Club from 6pm today. Bookings essential on 6488 3707 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The symposium Are We There Yet? is at the University of WA on Saturday and Sunday. Registrations at reports.eventarc.com. Look, Look Again is at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery from Saturday to December 15.