Reflecting on #5WomenArtists

There is nothing as fascinating and infuriating to me as women who have been erased by history. I constantly find myself enthralled by women whose accomplishments have been reduced to mere footnotes in books that should have been about them. My obsession began when I discovered that, like most people, I had greatly misunderstood the phase “well-behaved women seldom make history.” The quote, usually found screen printed onto splashy T-shirts and mugs next to pictures of Marilyn Monroe, was actually coined by Pulitzer Prize winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. It was not written in order to encourage women to misbehave in order to be remembered, but to draw attention to the fact that so many women who have made a positive impact on society have been forgotten. Their work may live on, but their names rarely possess the same immortality.

I was very excited to research for the Gund Gallery’s #5WomenArtists project for this very reason. As a Gund Associate, I have witnessed the talent and innovation of several female artists gracing our gallery. From Jodi Bieber’s dreamlike photos of South Africa to the striking the portraits in Rania Matar’s “She” series, I have found myself constantly amazed by how women are changing the world of art.

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Our goal with #5WomenArtists was to find connections between contemporary artists and artists of the past, as well as to shine a light on women whose contributions may have been overlooked. My fellow associates and I worked hard to find a diverse and engaging group of women to research for the project. Narrowing the list down to five was far more difficult than we could have anticipated. Since the number of underrated women in the art world is practically countless, we felt guilty leaving so many out. However, once we had our list of 5 women finalized, we were satisfied.

One of the first artists we added to the list was Louise Nevelson. Nevelson was a Russian-born American sculptor known for her contributions to the abstract expressionist movement. She was monumentally important to the budding Feminist art scene in New York in the 1970s. Using materials (usually scrap wood) she found around her apartment, Nevelson’s work communicated the enormity and diversity of New York City itself. Her sculptures are larger than life, in order to break the assumption that only art created by men could be large-scale. She made a statement simply by taking up the space she felt she deserved.

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Estate of Louise Nevelson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Similarly to Nevelson, Corita Kent, known as Sister Mary Corita, refused to shy away from politics. She was probably my favorite artist to research, simply because her life was so fascinating. Kent was an American Roman Catholic nun, artist, and educator. Her bold, colorful silkscreen pieces conveyed messages of love and peace, causing her to become a popular figure in the movements of social upheaval during the 1960s and 1970s. For years, critics refused to acknowledge how contributional Kent was to the mid-twentieth century Pop Art movement. However, attention in recent years has brought forth a resurgence of appreciation to Kent’s artwork.

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Arthur Evans / Tang Teaching Museum

Faith Ringgold is a Harlem-based artist best known for her narrative quilts, although she is accomplished in many different mediums. Inspired by a trip to Paris, the “French Collection” is a series of quilts that utilizes striking colors and childlike mysticism in order to explore the past and present of peoples of African descent. As France was known as the home of modern art at the time of Ringgold’s visit, Ringgold chose it as a source in which to examine the African American “modern” identity. Ringgold is also notable for her participation in political protests for justice in the art world. In 1970, Ringgold was arrested for her part in protesting a modernist exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art that featured no women or African American artists. Throughout her life, Ringgold has remained an engaging artist and a voice for change.

ACA Galleries, New York

One contemporary artist we chose to feature is Claire Beckett, a photographer who uses her art to examine the relationships between Americans and the Muslim world. Some of Beckett’s subjects include American converts to Islam and soldiers newly enlisted in military training. In a country whose politicians often convey an “us-versus-them” mentality when talking about Islam, it becomes clear why Beckett’s work is so important. In an email to the Gallery, Beckett wrote that “the work can give viewers insights into their own thoughts, to the assumptions and prejudices they carry inside.” By featuring the perspectives of people on both sides of, as well as in-between, the supposed line between Islam and America, Beckett shines a humanizing light on a subject that is so often misunderstood.

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Another contemporary artist we chose to feature is Mickalene Thomas, a New York-based mixed-media artist whose work also includes collage, photo, video, sculpture, and installations. Thomas’ work often celebrates black women and their femininity, surrounding the faces and figures in her art with bold colors, patterns, glitter, and rhinestones to draw in the gaze and emphasize their beauty. Inspired by art history and popular culture, Thomas’ work alludes to sources ranging from 19th-century French paintings to 1970s Blaxploitation films. Thomas wrote that “beauty has always been an element of discussion for black women, whether or not we were the ones having the conversation.” With her art, Thomas clarifies that she has taken back the conversation, and is guiding it in a new direction.

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MickaleneThomas.com

In researching #5WomenArtists, our team was not specifically looking for revolutionaries. We chose our artists because of their place in history and the significance and skill of their work. However, we wound up with 5 artists that choose to use their respective mediums to communicate political messages close to their souls. Maybe this is because the act of women creating art is inherently political in one way or another. Maybe this is because we, as young artists and art-lovers ourselves, are drawn to work that stirs us, inspires us, and makes us think. I have learned so much through this project, and will forever be grateful to the 5 amazing artists for teaching me about their movements and causes. I have learned a lot about myself through them. I hope our research can help others learn to appreciate women who have made significant contributions to art, regardless of whether they were “well-behaved.”

Mae Hunt ’21

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New Year, New Blog

Happy start of the school year, folks! We just wanted to keep you updated with some of the organizational shifts at the Gund Gallery.

Our social media branch combined with the video/media group to create the Digital Outreach team. We’ll be working together to cover the Gallery’s social media accounts and blog, as well as interviews, discussions, and video essays of visiting artists and curators.

We’re so excited to be the leaders of this new collaborative effort. Here’s a little bit about us:

Amy is a senior English major, Art History minor from Dublin, Ohio. This is her second year working at Gund Gallery. She also is a tour guide and Admissions Fellow. After graduation, she will be working as a Communications Specialist at Cardinal Health.

Henry is a senior Studio Art and Russian double major, Art History minor from Phoenix, Arizona. This is his fourth year working at Gund Gallery. He is also a Russian AT and contributes to the cartoon section of The Collegian. After graduation, he plans to work with digital media and illustration.

A sneak peek of what’s to come on this blog includes:

  • Travel posts from Gund Gallery associates
  • Behind-the-scene looks at installations and exhibitions
  • In-depth interviews with artists and curators
  • Cool highlights of current events at museums around the world
  • Etc. etc.

Be sure to check the blog weekly for new posts!

Amy Shirer ’18
Henry Uhrik ’18

Museum Trends: Museum Apps

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A screenshot of the Louvre app, available for both iPhone and Android

For decades now, museums have listed phone numbers on wall labels that guests can call for more information about select works of art. Special audio guides have also been standard for quite some time. However, more recently, certain museums are launching their own apps, which provide GPA maps and other visitor information, as well as stunning pictures of the artworks with detailed written descriptions.

The Louvre’s app highlights over 100 of the museum’s masterpieces, including the Mona Lisa. The app offers close-up photographs of details, as well as text. A map of the Louvre shows where each work is located in the museum, making it easy to find the most famous pieces. Other apps, like the one for the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, takes downloaders on a virtual tour. The app for the Museum of Modern Art in New York goes so far to include audio and video podcasts.

Apps allow visitors to have a more unique museum experience, and also allow people to “visit” the museum without having to travel.

For more information, please visit: https://www.thebalance.com/top-fine-art-museum-apps-1296025.

Amy Shirer ’18

 

 

 

Gund Gallery Student Showcase: “Self-Portrait” by Emma Brown

Emma Brown is a Studio Art Major from Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Her piece, Self-Portrait,  is currently on view at the Gund Gallery.

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What is Self-Portrait?

Emma’s piece is, in her own words, “painted on a Japanese-style folding screen with a number of scenes from my life and from events that influenced me.” She put a lot of thought into theming these moments.

As she explained to me,

“the first panel chronologically takes place on June 23rd, 2004. All of my panels were inspired by journal entries. So on one side of the panel, you hear about and see the charming things I did as an eight-year-old in 2004. The opposing side of the panel is a scene from the Iraq war, which was also taking place at that time, in 2004. In doing that, I just wanted to juxtapose the path of my own life and growth and development with events that were going on in the world and how I gradually became more involved and interested in, basically, international life…affairs…the fate of the planet.”

The Medium:

The silk-screen medium is unique. Brown chose it deliberately, to express her background. “I am half Japanese. The medium I chose was just very symbolic because oil on canvas is a typical, European, art form, and the folding screen or byōbu is an iconic Japanese art form.”

Artists Who Influenced Brown’s Work:

Brown took inspiration from the atmosphere and painting style of Hayao Miyazaki movies, as well as the work of Maira Kalman, an illustrator who draws magazine covers and illustrated narratives. both of these artists, “do a lot of visual art which is interspersed with text,” a style which occurs in Self-Portrait as well.

Maira Kalman - The Impossibility of February

The image above is from one of Kalman’s illustrations that was published in the New York Times.

Inspiring Professors:

According to Brown, “This piece was half-painting and half-sculpture so, besides my comps advisor Reed Baldwin, I also got advice from Sandra Lee, the sculpture professor, and from Craig Hill, who I took painting with.” Brown also worked with “Ellen Sheffield, who is the bookmaking professor, because [she] made, essentially, a very large book.”’

Lastly, Brown gave one piece of advice to current Studio Art Majors who might be nervous about comps: “Start daydreaming about it, like now. That’s what it comes out of. Dream big.”

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Favorite Contemporary Artist: Charles Traub

Charles H. Traub is an American photographer from Louisville, KY. In the 1980s, he traveled throughout Italy and the snaps he took there were compiled into a compendium, Dolce Via. The series alludes to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, a sensuous portrayal of Italian decadence, yet nonetheless, a compelling black and white film. As a contrast, the Sweet Way teems with bursts of color and sheds a pleasant light on leisure.

Looking through Dolce Via, it almost seems like he carefully curates the scenes. Instead, he just has a savvy eye for the casual verve of color that flows throughout the urban landscape. I really appreciate how the photos spontaneously highlight the beauty of simple moments and the ordinary.

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Jacqueline Sanchez ’20

Museum Trends: More Diverse Exhibitions

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Faith Ringgold (right) and Michele Wallace (left) in 1971. Image from the Huffington Post.

The first exhibition ever to showcase the work of exclusively black female artists was in 1971. Today the Brooklyn Museum is presenting We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women: 1965-1985, a new exhibition about black women artists of that time period. Those who participated in a movement to increase the visibility of black women artists from the 1960s to the 1980s aligned themselves with the black arts movement over the women’s liberation movement, as the latter was mostly led by white, middle-class women. The exhibition includes works from 40 artists who aimed to show the implications of being a woman artist of color.

Female artists are vastly underrepresented in museums in general, but especially when they are also black, which is why exhibitions like the Brooklyn Museum’s are so important. Efforts to increase the number of women artists, especially women of color, is a topic of discussion at many institutions.

To learn more about the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition, please visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/14-extraordinary-black-women-artists-are-now-on-view-in-brooklyn_us_58fe540de4b00fa7de16bfb3?ir=Arts&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000030&section=us_arts.

To learn more about the lack of women artists in museum collections, please visit: https://www.apollo-magazine.com/inquiry-wall-flowers-women-historical-art-collections/.

Amy Shirer ’18

Gund Associate Team Spotlight: Curatorial

The Gund Associate Curatorial team is ending the spring semester with a bang by organizing one of the last exhibitions of the academic year, Zapatista: Imagery of the Peasant Revolutionary. A student-curated exhibit spearheaded by Curatorial Associate Leaders Jenna Wendler, Rose Bishop, and Natasha Siyumbwa, Zapatista focuses on Mexican folk-nationalist iconography in the early twentieth century and the social-political climate that fueled its development as a human rights movement. The Curatorial team also put together a student-curated exhibition earlier in the year, Black Women/Black Lives, where student leaders worked directly with art institutions and archives in Brooklyn, New York.

Museum Trends: Book Clubs in the Galleries

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A Toledo Museum of Art docent giving the book club a tour. Image from: https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/issue/1202/art-museums-1.phtml

The average museum visitor only spends seconds looking at a work of art, so joining a book club is an effective way to really analyze a specific piece or an entire gallery. Art museums around the nation are either forming their own book clubs, or bringing existing clubs into the galleries. After reading the text, members discuss it with a museum guide, and then view an exhibition or collection associated with the book. Book lists vary depending on the museum, but certain lists contain everything from artist biographies to fiction to classic literature.

Certain museums, like the Cincinnati Museum of Art, have even teamed up with their local public libraries to promote both art and reading. As an English Major, Art History minor, I am all for this museum trend.

To learn more, please visit: https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/issue/1202/art-museums-1.phtml.

Amy Shirer ’18

 

Favorite Contemporary Artist: Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Born and raised in Nigeria, artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby currently lives and works in America.  Her art is often a combination of collage, painting, photo transfers, and drawing.  In her work, Akunyili Crosby often depicts scenes of everyday domestic life, such as scenes in living rooms and bedrooms, which are reminiscent of our own lives in America.  Yet in those universal scenes, Akunyili Crosby also pays homage to her Nigerian heritage by layering her photographs of Nigerian culture, Nigerian magazine images, and wedding album photos in the backgrounds of her art.   Her juxtaposition of domestic scenes with intimate images (via photo transfers) chronicles her identity as a Nigerian woman living in America and disputes the all too common stereotype of an “authentic African.”  Through her work, Akunyili Crosby reconciles the complexity in her sense of “home” and belonging as both Nigeria, her birthplace, and America, where she lives now, are both home to her.  Although extremely personal, her work is relatable and accessible to many others, such as immigrants or international students, who have left their original home for America.  Lastly, Akunyili Crosby references classical art, as evidenced in her realistic painting and compositions, yet through photo transfers and the collaging of fabric, she alludes to Nigerian culture and tradition.  Her ability to draw on her personal experiences to create art that speaks to a wider audience is something I greatly admire.

Check out her website to see her portfolio:

http://njidekaakunyili.com/

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Caroline Chang ‘18