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Pictorial Essay: A Celebration of Female Artists
Les Femmes Folles: TALES is a group exhibition at Monongalia Art Center in Morgantown, West Virginia (running thru May 30, 2015) themed around the 2015 Les Femmes Folles Book, The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters: Ten Tales, written by Laura Madeline Wiseman. The book explores themes of girlhood, coming-of-age, beauty, and the female body and is illustrated with art by Lauren Rinaldi, who is the featured artist of this exhibition. Full Disclosure: I am the founding editor of the Les Femmes Folles organization, co-curator of this exhibition, and exhibiting artist in the exhibition. This pictorial essay is celebratory, not critical, and, as the exhibition, is another platform to display the strong work of these fifteen artists from around the nation and work to further enrich audiences with their artistic perspectives.
One of eight of Rinaldi’s smaller “sketches,” and perhaps the least overt to the theme, How To Be A Wife is perhaps my favorite, leaving viewers with a sense of exhaustion for the work that not only goes into such domestic chores, but with it, always, beauty—the woman lies in high heels, floral dress and apron. It could be dated, a photo of a woman in 1950s-60s when this was a more explicit situation and now we know as a stereotype; but it also speaks to the now, as women still try to do it all, and grow up thinking as such; viewers wonder in this mysterious scene; will it continue? What happened to make her finally fall, and what will she do when she picks herself up?
Retro mystery and haunting or challenging nostalgia for the naïve past is also felt in Launa Bacon’s Flare Element of Fraunhofer II as paint is smeared across this apparent done-up 1950s schoolgirl.
And a vulnerable collapse is echoed as well in Courtney Kenny Porto’s These Walls Were Black; no scene interpreted, the young woman is alone with her body, her thoughts, herself, but the strength and contrasted brightness of her limbs suggests she will move on.
Vulnerability and strength and revealed in the surreal atmosphere of Tracy Brown’s Beware as a woman with a turquoise face, and bright white skin, clad in yellow garb with a matching caution-sign purse, strides away in chunky matching heels amongst a murky sand beach; are we to beware of her, or is she to beware of where she is going?
Perspective is completely obscured in Sheila Grabarsky’s Meadow Romp; as feminine colors weave floral forms in and out, we wonder; is this what is left after a frisky time?
Kim Darling’s Sustenance is active too. Our eyes weave around the expressive lines, body limbs, illegible cursive writing and geometric forms. Stepping back, viewers query, do these broken fragments together create a functioning being?
Christie Neptune challenges viewers directly, with her photograph of a young woman, watery eyes looking out, holding her chin in her hand. The soft fabric of the sweater and soft look give off a vulnerability combined with an intense depth and vigor, resoluteness and assurance that although it’s tiring, she will carry on with the work behind her, and viewers will see her, take note.
Jacqueline Ferrante brings it back to the abstract, the minimalism of the decay questioning the nature of our bodily challenges.
Though it’s hard to see in the photograph, Marisa Lewon’s Feet enlarges and makes a perhaps forbidden body part blatant, but softens with lines of embroidery thread across the canvas, challenging projections of prevalent objectification.
Cheryl Angel’s I Miss You This Much I, too softens with floral background and pastel blue, but is too, hauntingly nostalgic with blurred lines, and a straight direct look of the youthful subject; is it a ghost, warning? Is it a solemn memorial of someone lost, or of the past innocence?
My (Sally Deskins) collaged body-print, Teen self-reflection through photog, reading and writing (Go, Ask Her) too looks to the past with my teen diaries, self-portraits and favorite books of my past. The expressive paint over and current body print work to challenge and work through the past with the present, as we still have our teen selves within us.
The figures in Chuka Susan Chesney’s Brooke, Michael, and the Lady in the Mirror seem to look with hope to the viewers, tall teeth, strong and direct eyes and bright, expressive hair and garb evoke optimism in themselves and in perhaps, what the viewer might too, bring to the table.
Inner strength is exuded with a reference to the ambiguous yet hopeful future as well in Marlana Adele Vassar’s radiant The Visionary.
Michelle Furlong’s lush pink Femme is too, triumphant and hopeful in its shining pink glow.
Cathleen Parra’s Bra of the Exquisite Truth Series, although a bit darker and more subdued, is too, triumphant in its strength of vulnerability and, when taken together, evidence of ascending.
Or, perhaps, I’m totally wrong; the meaning could be my own perspective; what I hope this show and these selections of imagery from the exhibition (I’ve only brought a few!) relay is the power of the art and perspectives of these fine artists, a small but mighty testament against the myth of the outlier woman artist.
Of course, everyone grew up different, had different experiences; one of my teen journals on display akin to an open blank journal welcomes visitors to express their own serious or silly teen angsts, and also invites visitors to take their own journal if they are so inspired.
Too, visitors are invited to bring in-kind donations of purses, new women’s undergarments or make-up for the Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center of Morgantown.
#TheReal #Review #Artists #Feminism #LesFemmesFolles #Painting #Photography #Collage #Poetry #Woman #Girl #Empowerment
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