During her school years in Berlin and Hamburg, Renate Stendhal pursued studies of music, singing, painting, and dancing. She majored in literature at Hamburg University, then moved to Paris in 1966 to focus on classical dance. After an engagement at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, she returned to Paris in 1970 and joined an experimental theater group. From 1975 to 1982, she worked in Paris as a cultural correspondent for German radio and press (Frankfurter Rundschau et al.) – an occupation she picked up again in 2005, writing cultural reviews for the international magazine Scene4. In Paris, she also worked for many years as a personal assistant for surrealist painter Meret Oppenheim.
With the beginning of the French and German feminist movements, Renate Stendhal became an activist and co-created (with Danish painter Maj Skadegaard) the first feminist multimedia show in Europe, “In the Beginning . . . of the End: A Voyage of Women Becoming” (1980). A year later, the show was recorded on film by Studio D of the Canadian film Board and shown at women's festivals and international film festivals. While touring with the film, Renate Stendhal started giving workshops, lecturing on women's creative and erotic empowerment. Her essays and articles appeared in major feminist magazines including Feministische Studien and Emma.
During the eighties, she became the first German translator of feminist authors Susan Griffin, Audre Lord, Adrienne Rich, and others. In 1984, she accompanied Audre Lorde as a translator on a reading tour of Germany and Switzerland. She translated Gertrude Stein's only mystery novel, Blood on the Dining-Room Floor, into German, and in 1989 created a photobiograhy with parallel visual and textual readings of Stein's life, Gertrude Stein: In Words and Pictures. The English edition (Algonquin Books, 1994) earned a Lambda Award. In 2009, the photobiography was republished and served as an inspiration for the exhibition Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories summer 2011, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco and The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Renate Stendhal was involved in the educational programming surrounding the show and the parallel exhibition The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde, at SFMOMA. Her blog Quotinggertrudestein.com followed the preparations, the "Summer of Stein" and the aftermath of the epochal exhibitions.
Since her move to California in 1986, she earned a degree in clinical psychology and became a counselor. Simultaneously, she began building up a private practice as an editor and writing coach. In 2002, having finished her Ph.D. in psychology, she became a provost at UIL (University of Integrative Learning), guiding students through MA and Ph.D. programs that reward students for their lifelong learning. Her own experience as a learner and now provost of UIL is captured in: "Harvesting Life." In 2010-2011, she became a certified hCG practitioner in the Dr. Simeons weight-loss protocol based on hCG amino acids.
In the States, Renate Stendhal published Sex and Other Sacred Games (Times Books, 1989), co-authored with Kim Chernin, with whom she also co-authored the portrait of a young opera singer, Cecilia Bartoli: The Passion of Song (HarperCollins, 1997). She wrote and illustrated a novel for young adults, The Grasshopper's Secret: A Magical Tale (EdgeWork Books, 2002), and continued her reflections on women's psychology and eros with True Secrets of Lesbian Desire: Keeping Sex Alive in Long-Term Relationships (North Atlantic Books, 2003), originally published as Love's Learning Place: Truth as Aphrodisiac in Women's Long-Term Relationships (EdgeWork Books, 2002).
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