Women in the Art World

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Recently, I’ve noticed several articles about women in the art world circling and resurfacing on the internet. Rachel Stephens, one of the gallery directors at Wally Workman, where I will have a solo show in November, just commented on this series of interviews from artnet published last Tuesday. Wally Workman Gallery was established in 1980 and is woman-owned and directed. An outlier statistically, 67% of the gallery artists are women.

Also this week, I heard from Erin Holscher Almazan, who has curated a two-woman show featuring my work and figurative prints from Carrie Lingscheit which will be open at Gallery 249 in Dayton, Ohio through October 18. She will be meeting a colleague’s “Art and Feminism” class in the gallery for a discussion of the work and asked that I answer a few questions. Since the request and format were so similar to the artnet piece, I thought I would share my thoughts here as well.

What is the significance and relevance of women’s experiences within a patriarchal art world (woman as subject and image maker; domestic space; children) in your work?

I am definitely aware of feminist critiques of the art world (specifically, what I would consider the top 1% of the art world about which so much is published). Many statistics have illustrated the underrepresentation of women as heads of museums and the subjects of solo museum shows, and financially, have shown that the work of women has not approached the highest limits at auction sales. I support the efforts of the people taking action to make the high-end art world a more equal playing field. I think it should be. However, at the moment, I do not live in that world and neither does my work. I am inclined to think that the affordable art world (and prints, even by well-known artists, are often relatively affordable) is a more egalitarian place in every way.

I think that the two most important things for an artist to have are 1) a clear voice and message and 2) the ability to find the audience for that message. It also matters whether or not one needs to be able to make money from one’s art to continue making it. If the answer is yes, then it is even more important that 1 and 2 align. Happily, there is far more to the art world than just the most exclusive New York galleries or auctions by Sotheby’s (though it is still fun to read about them and ogle both the art and the price tags). People appreciate art of many different genres in many different venues. In this larger art world, I am constantly trying to find, maintain, and grow the connection between my voice and the people who respond to it.

Women have consistently been a subject of my work for the last six years. I think there are two main reasons for this: 1) The overall focus of my work is the study of identity. My print projects often deal with this theme, and because I am female, this is a huge part of my own identity and something I wish to explore. 2) I grew up in a family of all sisters. They say that writers should write what they know, and well, I know what it is like to grow up as a girl, and have witnessed closely other girls growing up as girls. With most of the figurative and narrative prints, I am telling stories and showing emotions that I have seen and felt myself.

Does there seem to be a renewed interest in printmaking fueled by women printmakers?

I do know that there are a lot of women printmakers. The majority of the artists in residence at Kala (the facility in which I work) are women. I also think that there is a flourishing interest in printmaking at the moment, so it follows that women are a big part of that flourishing. But from my point of view, this has not been so much a gendered renaissance as a celebration of print in a community that is, in my experience, a very sharing, open, and supportive group of people. I love printmakers. And I have found that printmakers who are men are often of this same ilk. I like that printmakers often operate in groups and collectives, even while working on solitary projects. This environment is conducive to impromptu critiques and shared experimentation with new materials or techniques. There is often a lot of community feeling in a printshop.

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Four Squared at ARC Gallery

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ARC Gallery‘s annual show in which selected artists present their work in 4×4 grids opened this Saturday. I particularly enjoyed the ceramics of Joseph Kowalczyk, which reminded me of a slightly creepier Where the Wild Things Are. His endearing artist statement sealed the deal:

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What: Four Squared
Where: ARC Gallery
When: August 23 – September 20, 2014
Ambiance: Sixteen mini-shows in sixteen parts

Walton Ford at Paul Kasmin Gallery

By the kind of serendipity that seemed a credit to New York, we walked into Paul Kasmin Gallery to see Walton Ford’s current show just as he started an artist talk. Standing in front of Tigress, one of three large-scale watercolors that fill the first gallery space, he began with a bit of his own history—how his naturalist, narrative watercolors have evolved over time, and critical thoughts on narrative art in general.

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Over the past twenty years, Ford has developed a clear artistic voice by firmly rooting his practice in the well-established canon of natural history illustration and narrative allegory, while also stepping just outside the conventional etiquette of those genres. In the beginning, he said, the process was more formulaic: “take a natural history illustration and subvert it.” Ford tweaks images that we are prepared to see as simply specimens, physically–through scale, and conceptually–through depictions of violence, debauchery, and the juxtaposition of objects and animals that are not usually found in the same picture plane.

But there is more to these works than a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Ford’s compositions are also well-researched. He puts himself into narratives unearthed from medieval bestiaries and arcane fables and permeates his carefully-constructed compositions with the immersive empathy of a method actor. As he is telling us the story behind Tigress, a scene imagined from a Persian manual on kidnapping cubs, my own mother tears up as he describes how the mother tiger is continuously halted in her pursuit. The poachers are instructed to throw glass orbs behind them as they race away on horseback, each one reflecting the mother’s image and confusing her into thinking she sees her babies, until she is lost in an overwhelming accumulation of glass and her own reflections.

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On an entirely gossipy note: Vogue claims that Leonardo DiCaprio might have been the purchaser of this particular piece. And for an even juicier article, the WSJ delivers on anecdotes about the artist—though there’s not too much about his art.

Ford then went on to talk more critically about narrative art, specifically about keeping interpretations open. He used two paintings by Pre-Raphaelite William Holman Hunt as examples of stepping on either side of the very thin line between good and bad narrative. HolmanHunt_AwakeningConscienceThe Awakening Conscience, Ford compared to Norman Rockwell paintings, condemning both for closing all but one door to viewer interpretation. On the other hand, he pointed out that The Scapegoat, by the very same artist, is a masterpiece for communicating emotion, but allowing for endless possibilities when it comes to narrative. Hearing both this and Ford’s own–the real–narrative behind the Tigress, I felt a new appreciation for the piece. Originally, I had thought the crystal balls were stones, or perhaps cannon balls, and even though I wish, knowing the story, they had been painted with reflections and a real sense of light-refracting glass, I think the strength of the piece rests in Ford’s intimacy with his version of the story. It allows him to portray all the details that mysteriously translate an emotion while leaving doors open for the rest of us.

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Another strong ten-foot watercolor in the show was Rhyndacus. This elegantly-composed, satisfyingly enormous, apparently autobiographical allegory was also just plain gorgeous. The press release tells the story behind this one. Here’s a photo of the artist and his work for scale:

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And the admirer inspecting the details for more scale:

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Admittedly, even though I had read the measurements in Taschen’s monograph of Walton Ford, Pancha Tantra (which was my Christmas present this year and is an excellent art book), the scale took me by surprise. It was impressive—especially from far away. Even better, it is also not just size for the sake of size: Ford’s works are often huge because his animals are rendered at a scale of 1:1. The enormous snake by the Rhyndacus river was a 60-foot legend, and tigers and elephants and bears are all huge.

I was glad to be able to see for the first time both the artist and his work. After fantasizing over his book for the last six months, it was a thrill to see the larger-than-life life-sized.

What: Walton Ford: Watercolors
Where: Paul Kasmin Gallery
When: May 1, 2014 – June 21, 2014
Ambiance: Museum of Natural History meets Aesop at an orgy

Upcoming Events: February and March 2014

With Southern Graphics Council’s annual conference taking place in San Francisco this year, Groveland Gallery’s show in Minneapolis, and a three-day workshop in Santa Barbara, February and March are shaping up to be full of the social side of art life.

If you find yourself near one of these venues in the next two months, please stop by!

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Combination Woodcut and Drypoint Workshop
The Rusty Barn, Santa Barbara, CA
February 21-23

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Artist Talk at Carleton College
Northfield, MN
March 7th at 4pm, Boliou 161

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Opening reception for Girls, a two-person show with Duncan Hannah
Groveland Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
March 8th at 2pm

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Intaglio printmaking demo at Kala for the Oakland Museum
Kala Studio, Berkeley, CA
March 11th at 12pm

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Opening reception for Altered States, in conjunction with the SGC conference
ARC Gallery, San Francisco, CA
March 27th from 7-9pm

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Printmaking demo at Kala for the Southern Graphics Council Conference
Kala Studio, Berkeley, CA
March 28th at 12pm

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Altered States artist talks
ARC Gallery, San Francisco, CA
March 29th at 5-7pm

What: printmaking events galore
Where: California and Minnesota
When: February and March 2014
Ambiance: convocation of the last group of Americans to still have use for phone books

Zorn at the Legion of Honor: beautiful people

Just in the nick of time, we made it to the Anders Zorn show at the Legion of Honor. It was worth it for the watercolors alone, which were luminous and lifelike – perfectly balanced on the tension-filled point between being overworked or prettily unfinished.

I thought Castles in the Air was particularly impressive for the face in medium-shadow, the glowing coral fingertips, and the incandescent parasol.

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Another of my favorites was a larger oil in a limited orange and purple palette, The Sisters Schwartz. It sticks in my mind both because of its caption, which stated that Zorn found the sisters – if I remember correctly, “thoroughly uninteresting” and was therefore pleasantly surprised that the painting could have come out so well, and because of the five odd purple brush punches in the lower right corner. It’s almost as if Zorn knew something had to be there for the composition to work, but just couldn’t stand another minute in the room.

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What: Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Master Painter
Where: Legion of Honor, San Francisco
When: November 9, 2013 – February 2, 2014
Ambiance: everyday beauty, from a time when everyday beauty included hats and parasols

Hockney at the de Young: heightened green

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The first day of sustained rain we’ve had in months was the day nif and I went to see the Hockney exhibit.  The pavilion between the Academy of Sciences and the de Young was a splashing silver mess and completely abandoned.  Guards at the museum doors were helping people inside with a sense of urgency and everyone seemed to be filled with the excitement that comes from long-inexperienced weather events.

The exhibit began with an almost overpowering deluge of color.  The gallery walls were dark chocolate brown and many of the recent Hockney landscapes (they opened with several series of large oils and bright portraits) seemed to glow internally.  I particularly liked the palette of Winter Tunnel with Snow (below), which filled the bottom right corner of a grid of six large landscapes.

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In reproduction, Hockney’s portraits hold up very well, but the size and depth of the landscapes make them more powerful in real life.  I had always been a bit suspicious that the colors might be a little too out-of-the-tube – but they absolutely were not.  The palettes are intense, but in no way store-bought and all well-considered.

There were excellent portraits as well.  The luminous series of careful pencil drawings after Ingres with a camera lucida were displayed across from the “Great Wall” of art history.  Hockney writes extensively on this series in his book, Secret Knowledge.

Heck_HockneyTatePosterI’ve always loved Hockney’s portraits.  Part of this love might come from the poster of his show at the Tate in 1980 that has been on a wall in my parents’ home for as long as I can remember.  Later, I discovered it featured one of his many portraits of Celia, but in my early years, I had always suspected that it was supposed to be a portrait of my mother.

The exhibition is huge – over 300 works, and while one of the biggest topics of discussion has been Hockney’s embracing of digital media (particularly iPad drawings that are blown-up, printed, and mounted in a room all their own), what most inspired me was his freedom to try, to work prolifically (nearly everything has been done in the last few years), and his ability to maintain and develop his voice over a lifetime without being trapped into one particular style.

When we emerged from the exhibition, the rain had nearly stopped, and everything seemed so weirdly green.  At first, I wondered if Hockney’s color vibrancy had somehow skewed my vision, but I think the shellac of long-absent rain added to the effect.  Regardless, it gave me a new understanding of the word ‘saturation.’

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What: David Hockney, A Bigger Exhibition
Where: de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA
When: October 26th, 2013 – January 20th, 2014
Ambiance: saturated abundance, heightened green

David Lance Goines and Friends at the Hillside Club

Seven Berkeley artists (of which I am pleased to be one) will be exhibiting and selling work this weekend at the Hillside Club. It’s a cohesive group of printmakers with shared representational tendencies and a subtle touch with color. Come on over this beautiful weekend to see stunning pieces from some iconic Berkeley artists!  Forty percent of the proceeds to benefit the Hillside Club.

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Berkeley Horticultural Poster by David Lance Goines.

What: David Lance Goines and Friends Hillside Club Benefit Art Sale
Where: 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley CA
When: November 9th 10am-5pm, November 10th 10am-3pm
Ambiance: the Arts and Crafts ballroom – rich wood, rich woodcuts

“The Edition and the Open Window” in CMA’s Gallery One

Gallery One

From now through April 2014, The Edition and the Open Window will be on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gallery One as part of the show Artists at Work.  It will also be part of their interactive app, ArtLens, with a curator’s statement and step-by-step look behind the scenes at the four woodcuts that make up the print.

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The Edition and the Open Window is part of the Place and Process series of prints, each of which was modeled after a printmaker working in the Kala studio with me in 2011 and 2012.

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The museum’s Gallery One has a forty foot multi-touch microtile screen that displays images of over 3,500 objects from the museum’s permanent collection.  You can use it to research and plan your tour of the galleries by dragging your favorite works to an iPad.  They also have several other interactive consoles where you can interact with the art in completely new ways.

You can also use the wall to find another of my prints in the CMA’s collection: The Robe, from the Plus a Century Portfolio.

What: The Edition and the Open Window at CMA’s Gallery One
Where: Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
When: October 2013 – April 2014
Ambiance: The future meets the past and they have a rockstar love child.

IPCNY: New Prints/New Narratives

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New Prints/New Narratives selected by Andrew Raftery opens tonight at International Print Center New York. The center is showing 50 printmedia projects, including my diptych, Girl and Garland I and II. I cherish the mission of this organization, and am pleased to finally be a part of one of its shows.

Here are two more prints from this show that I particularly love: On the left is Yuji Hiratsuka’s Wings, which is the richest color intaglio I’ve seen in a long time. On the right, a still from Lynn Peterfreund’s Storm in a Teacup, a short film made up of 124 unique monotypes.

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Also on view is this collection of ten photopolymer/monotypes, The Road Traveled by friend and fellow Kala artist in residence, Jenny Robinson. Printing next to Jenny is always a treat, and I’m looking forward to learning a lot from her at an upcoming residency in Nevada City at the end of the month!

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It looks like the curatorial essay has yet to go up on the IPCNY website, but here is a small blurb from Raftery: This exhibition explores visual narrative and the powerful presence it has had in printmaking since its origins. The prints shown here reinvent this tradition for contemporary viewers, and were selected through careful observation of specific details and then arranged into narrative categories such as direct address, layered narrative, aftermath, layered time, and implied communication.

What: New Prints / New Narratives
Where: IPCNY, 508 West 26th Street, New York
When: June 13 – August 9, 2013
Ambiance: from inky presses country-wide to white walls, vinyl letters, New York