Women: By, Of, About
by Jessica Rowshandel
I was walking in Chelsea, on my way to another show when the Nancy Hoffman Gallery caught my attention and lured me into a u-turn. The window read, Women: By, Of, About. I was immediately intrigued and crossed the street.
The gallery’s press release explains that it has “long supported women artists” and “[t]hroughout the years, the gallery roster has been heavily weighted with women artists. Gender has never been an issue for the gallery.” While men still outweigh women on their current roster, it seems that in over 35 years of existence they have actually acknowledged and somewhat addressed the gender divide in the art world.
While the show includes feminist art, you will find art by women that explore other avenues and also art by men about women. That being said, when you walk into the gallery, you are immediately greeted by a ceramic sculpture of a giant, naked, woman: Viola Frey’s Stubborn Woman, Orange Hands. The sculpture is powerful, literally larger than life, and with an incredulous look on her face, questioning your intentions; you know she isn’t budging, not because she is inanimate but, rather, because it is her choice not to. She is not leaving the center of the room, in front of the door, anchored by those distinctive hands. Maybe she is saying “Welcome, this is a show by, of, and about women and I am not budging from here until you understand the enormity of that… and me…because such acknowledgement is long overdue.”
Linda Mieko Allen’s mixed media painting, Atmospheric XIX (ultraviolet), took me to the exact place where I wanted to be, starkly away from where I had been the minutes before I entered the gallery or where I was going after I left. This piece offered me refuge in a beautiful ether where I existed without time, space, or earthly preoccupations. It is evocative. It is technically and aesthetically sophisticated with its purposeful layers and textures that draw you into a galactic depth, and sacred geometry that organizes the nebulous as we travel the cosmos she conjured.
Another favorite is Purdy Eaton’s An Old Man’s Reminisces. Not only did I love that she co-opted the pastoral scene and turned it into what seems like a marriage between comic book aesthetic and watercolor in the best ways possible of both styles (though it is an oil painting collage), but she brought the painting into the 21st century by adding a video display in the canvas, an inventive way to juxtapose the pastoral ideal, which reminds us that we live in a new kind of world.
The show succeeds as a celebration of women and women artists, and as a reminder that women artists are fully equipped with technical skill, sophisticated messages, and innovation. The recognition is much needed for a group who have been historically marginalized in this boy’s playground we call the art world.
To see more images from the show and learn more about the artists, please visit the Nancy Hoffman Gallery website.