Based on the popular blog of the same name, “Women Painting Women” features forty female contemporary realist artists from all over the world, each with a unique take on the feminine form. The show opened on November 5th and will run until November 30th at Robert Lange Studios, 2 Queen St, Charleston, SC.
Although the nuances of the female figure have been a frequent subject matter for painters for hundreds of years, the most well-known interpretations have always been rendered by men, with women historically relegated to the role of modeling. The male dominated nature of the art world has created many misconceptions about the ability of women to succeed in their artistic vision; it is rare for the layperson to know a female artist aside from Frida Kahlo or Georgia O’Keefe, despite the myriad of talented female artists. Shows like “Women Painting Women,” however, help to shatter those unfounded misconceptions, establish the reputations of gifted female artists, and raise the perception of women in the art world as a whole.
Click to read more…
The artists featured in the exhibition, while varied, also include some artists with representation at Robert Lange Studios, such as Kerry Brooks, Ali Cavanaugh, Jessica Dunegan, and Amy Lind, as well as Redux Executive Director and fabulous local Karen Ann Myers. A gorgeous array of realistic portraits adorns RLS’s brick walls. The works on display show the diversity of the women pictured through the exhibited artists’ masterful representation of their personalities and general demeanour. Many of the artists featured in the exhibition excel in rendering light; the first eye-catching piece to greet the viewer is “Star,” one of Amy Lind’s gleaming sfumato filled portraits, depicting a circus performer at rest. Another gorgeously lit Amy Lind piece in the exhibition is “Belle Fleur,” whose subject is emphasized through the chiaroscuro technique of using heavy shadows and brilliant highlights.
Terry Strickland’s “Voice of the Tiger” also uses strong contrast to seem lit from within, but she handles the subject in a very different way; the subject of “Voice of the Tiger” is confident and assertive, while “Belle Fleur” is softly and brightly rendered to reveal the ethereal beauty of the subject. Kerry Brooks’s “The Northerner” immediately drew me to the woman’s luminous face and disaffected gaze. Ali Cavanaugh’s set of watercolour frescoes, “Re-Examine” and “Establish A Small Area of Simplicity” are fresh and very modern in approach, using a starkly bright contrast in value and light washes of colour.Lisa Gloria’s “Universal Mother of Compassion” uses the sfumato technique of soft, smoky shading to create a radiant, warm glow around her beautiful subjects, while Jennifer Nehrbass’s “Typhoon Odessa” glows with the frosty chill of a winter sunrise.
The painters in this show likewise excel in their use of colour. Jennifer Balkan’s “Slipping Away I” and “II” use bold, contrasting colours that support the subject’s defiant gaze.
Karen Ann Myers’s “Untitled (Crown Molding) uses supersaturated colours and intricate patterns in the interior space that seem to reveal as much about the model as the portrait itself. Sharon Knatell’s “Alicia Blue” also uses a colourful, intricate pattern as a background, but here it is strongly contrasted by the model’s defiant red hair and enormous tutu. Knatell also explores hair colour as an expression of individuality in “Emerald Maiko,” whose subject dons a loud teal wig.
The most masterful use of colour in the show is wielded by Candice Bohannon, whose sepia-toned marshes in “Dementia” are contrasted by stark monochromatic water and an elderly subject whose colour, in turn, is slowly fading, a perfect symbol for the fading memories and bleak outlook caused by dementia.
I was most enamoured with the work of Haley Hasler, whose large-scale self-portraits use traditional rendering and symbolism to reveal a greater sense of her identity through her surroundings; featured in the show are “Portrait as Ancestors,” depicting the artist as two decadently-dressed women surrounded by food and children and “Portrait as Champion,” which depicts the artist running in a dress and sneakers, again surrounded by (presumably her) children—two portraits that explore her role as a mother. Her work reminded me of Julie Heffernan, one of my favourite artists, although Hasler’s use of colour and value is more saturated and contemporary.
Each painter in “Women Painting Women” presents a different notion of femininity, of being a woman, and of beauty. Women of all types are represented here: adolescents are alongside elders, ethereal beauties next to confrontational vixens. The women here have true personalities, each as unique as a real, modern woman; perhaps this sensitivity to a woman’s uniqueness rather than using the model as an object is made easier for women themselves to express. This is emphasized in the layout of the gallery, as the paintings are juxtaposed in close quarters, allowing a dialogue to be established between each work and accentuating the individuality of each subject. The exhibition certainly proves that female artists are worthy of just as much adulation and recognition as their more well-known male peers; the exposure alone will undoubtedly be a further stepping stone for these immensely talented women to rise in the ranks of the art world.