2018-08-02 / Around Town

Strong Female Viewpoints Mark ‘The Fairer Sex’

By Loren King

Nancy Grace Horton, “Ironing Bored” photograph Nancy Grace Horton, “Ironing Bored” photograph There’s nothing demure about “The Fairer Sex,” the new show at Jessica Hagen Fine Art + Design running through Aug. 19.

The exhibition features 24 contemporary women artists whose work is represented by painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry, ceramic and furniture. The title of the show is ironic, Hagen said, but it’s also meant to acknowledge the very real gender gap in the art world.

“I have always wanted to have an all-women’s show and given the events of the last year and a half, from the women’s march to the #metoo movement, it seemed like the time was definitely right to host this exhibition,” Hagen said.

She was pleased to discover that her own roster of artists was a perfect 50/50 split between men and women. But that isn’t often the case. Hagen said many women artists, even accomplished ones, are under-represented within the art establishment.

Jill Madden, "Sachuest" oil/linen 12" x 12" Jill Madden, "Sachuest" oil/linen 12" x 12" Nothing winks at the title of the exhibition more than two color photographs by Nancy Grace Horton that play with ideas of femininity and traditional women’s roles. In “Ironing Bored,” which was included in the “Domestic Affairs” show at the Newport Art Museum earlier this year, the high-heeled-clad feet of a woman stretch across an ironing board in a vintage-looking satire of domesticity.

“Independence” offers the tattooed torso of a woman clad in red, white, and blue who’s holding a burning cigarette lighter. Whether one thinks of this faceless woman as fierce or frightening, she’s certainly not weak.

A striking bronze sculpture by Narragansett-based painter and sculptor Anne Mimi Sammis stands outside the gallery, with a smaller bronze statue inside. Sammis is renowned for work that echoes Rodin and Degas in its solidity, delicacy and sense of movement. Her sculptures of angels and dancers also celebrate life and the human spirit.

Victoria Mele, “Peony” photograph/ aluminum 45” x 40” Victoria Mele, “Peony” photograph/ aluminum 45” x 40” In the center of the gallery is Judith Davis’s tabletop creation, “Ode to the Middle East,” made from found objects that appear to be metal knobs and spindles. These are colorfully painted and arranged like the crowns of royalty. Next to this is a case with elegant metal jewelry by Jamestown artist Didi Suydam that Hagen describes as “sculptural with a sense of strength.”

The hand-crafted, walnut stacking tables designed by acclaimed woodworker Mira Nagashima, who had a show at Hagen’s gallery in June, are also on display.

Another renowned artist, Jane Bloodgood-Abrams, who is from the Hudson River Valley School and an inductee into the National Association of Women Artists, is represented by her oil painting “Twilight,” which showcases her signature use of shadow and light.

Nancy Grace Horton, “Independence” Nancy Grace Horton, “Independence” Respected local artists in the exhibition include photographer E.A. Kahane, whose stark image of a blizzard in New York’s Central Park appears to be a white-out until one looks more closely. Then, tall trees along a distant horizon begin to emerge.

Equally compelling is the muted color of Jeanne Tangney’s lush still lifes; Diana Bunting’s vibrant abstract paintings; Victoria Mele’s nature photography; and Jill Madden’s en plein air landscapes.

Jolie Stahl of Newport and Brooklyn is represented by three pieces that showcase her trademark style of combining found materials and ceramic tiles to create colorful mosaics. These include “Night Swim” (2017) and “Rescue at Sea” (2016), which depicts a figure in a horizontal position and a tile mosaic of a swimmer, all affixed to what appears to be the rear of a boat.

It’s playful and, like all the artwork in the show, has a strong point of view.

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