Joan Semmel (b.1932) has centered her painting practice around issues of the body, from desire to aging, as well as those of identity and cultural imprinting. She studied at the Cooper Union, Pratt Institute and the Art Student’s League of New York. In the 1960s, Semmel began her painting career in Spain and South America, where she experimented with abstraction. She returned to New York in the early 1970s, where her practice turned towards figurative paintings, many with erotic themes in response to pornography, popular culture, and concerns around representation.
Semmel became involved in the feminist movement and feminist art groups devoted to gender equality in the art world. She has been a member of the Ad Hoc Committee of Women Artists, the Fight Censorship (FC) group, Women in the Arts (WIA), and the Art Workers Coalition (AWC).
Semmel's works are found in museum collections including: the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; Orange County Museum of Art, CA; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY; the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE; the Jewish Museum (Manhattan), New York; and the Brooklyn Museum, New York.