Celebrating Women, Celebrating Art
By Jean West Rudnicki
There is an art to celebrating art, and if the excitement that is already evident for the "10 Women, 10 Perspectives" exhibit scheduled in November is any indication, then The Arts Alliance Center of Clear Lake has a masterpiece in the works.
"I have never signed up with any event so fast as I did with this," admits Shirley Terry, CEO of Beyond Beaute. She, along with Carla Medlenka, Publisher of Change magazine and leader of the "Change Empowerment Series for Women," are co-sponsors of the exhibition, which will feature the works of ten emergent women artists from this area.
"'10 Women, 10 Perspectives' is an excellent venue to promote originality and creativeness on many different levels," says Carla. "It serves as a reminder that art is a powerful and moving force."
The show is the inspiration of Debra Kendrick, Curator of the Arts Alliance Center. Amid a busy schedule of assembling and disassembling exhibits, logging art works in and out, reviewing portfolios, and staying atop a myriad of details, Kendrick discussed "10 Women, 10 Perspectives," a show that holds a special place in her heart.
Her idea originated five years ago when she first joined the Arts Alliance staff. "Traditionally, women artists have been underserved, their works under-acknowledged and recognized," says Kendrick, who is an artist herself and former art educator at San Jacinto Community College. If you doubt her word, take this short quiz. First, quickly jot down the names of famous male artists you know. Now, jot down the names of famous women artists. If you are like me, you are hard pressed to get beyond Georgia O'Keefe.
Kendrick explains that in earlier times women were not allowed access to learning, and especially not studios with nude, male models. Typically only daughters of famous artists received such training, such as 17th century Roman artist Orazio Gentileschi and daughter, Artemisia. When women did paint they were relegated to doing family portraits and landscapes suitable for enhancing home décor. While the situation improved in modern times, a noticeable bias continued.
In 1985, The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art featured an exhibition of the most significant contemporary works. Out of the one hundred and sixty nine artists featured, only seventeen were women, giving rise to a colorful and flamboyant protest group known as the Guerilla Girls. Donning gorilla masks to hide their identity and protect their art careers from further limitations, the women adopted humor as a means to raise awareness. When it was discovered that less than 5% of the artists in the modern art section were women yet over 85% of the works depicted nude females, Guerilla Girls' billboards and placards asked, "Do women have to be nude to get into the Metropolitan Museum?"
While progress continues to be made, Kendrick believes there is room for improvement. As curator she realized she could help make a difference, even if only a small one. "How could I do less?" she asked.
She included a show with a similar theme on her first tentative gallery calendar for 2003. The idea didn't make it that year, nor in the ensuing years as it was continually bumped and shuffled around. But Kendrick, steadfast in her goal, never dropped the show from her list. In her mind, it represented another step in the Arts Alliance's mission of progressive objectives to identify, show, and grow area artists.
When Director Lisa Hamilton joined the organization last year, Kendrick again proposed her "10 Women" show. Hamilton is an ardent believer that the Arts Alliance should be a reflection of the community it serves. To this end a "Geek Art" show is scheduled this spring recognizing the technical influence of the NASA aerospace community. Similarly, the area's abundant waterways will be celebrated in a "Waters" theme exhibition planned for 2008.
"This community is fortunate to have many strong, strong women," Hamilton says. She endorsed the show as did the Board of Directors, and Kendrick's long envisioned dream of showcasing women artists is now in full motion. "People are glad we are doing it," Hamilton adds. "They're excited when they see it."
"Supporting women in any venue, when it comes to living out their passion, is one of my passions," Terry says.
Several activities will complement the "10 Women, 10 Perspectives" show. A Wearable Art fashion show and luncheon honoring the Clear Lake Area Woman of the Year is being planned as a fundraiser, according to Carol Wicklander, Special Events Chairman. Wearable art features individually designed pieces of handmade clothing as artistic expressions. It is colorful, fanciful and exciting. The luncheon will recognize and honor one woman whose outstanding service to the community has made a significant difference.
The Rose, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring all women access to mammograms, will also be spotlighted throughout the event. It's another way to use art to raise community awareness.
Kendrick recently announced the first five artists selected for the exhibition and will announce the remaining five in early fall. When selecting, she sought artists with a body of strong and compelling works, identifying many through their participation in the Arts Alliance's juried and theme shows. She wanted to encourage and promote their work, and reward their support of the Arts Alliance's programs, demonstrating the Arts Alliance's mission in action.
Among selected artists are mother and daughter, Georganna and Saralene Tapley of Galveston, Gabriella Nissen of Houston, Rebecca Etcheverry of Cypress and Amy Guidry of Lafayette, Louisiana.
It will be the first time Georganna and Saralene Tapley have exhibited together on this scale, and they are both thrilled. Their joint participation is certain to bring an interesting heritage and generational perspective and depth to the exhibition.
Georganna's featured work will include several installation pieces as well as many of her figurative works. She was a self-taught artist and an art instructor for many years teaching in Venezuela, China, and Ireland. It was not until age 50 that she decided to pursue an art degree. As she entered her first year at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, Ireland, her daughter, Saralene, was completing her fourth year at the same school.
"My work," Georganna explains, "has always been based on the past is the present is the future and now it seems as much about preciousness of the moment…and sharing time…The choice of media in my work may appear mundane and simple but it is true. It is as simple as it is complex." Georganna's "White Lace, Ghosts and Promises" exhibition is scheduled March 17 - April 22 at the Galveston Arts Center.
Saralene has lived on four different continents while growing up. She is currently seeking a master's degree at the University of Houston, Clear Lake, having graduated from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. There she received the CAP Foundation Studio Award, which allowed a year of work in a Dublin studio and an exhibition.
Saralene, who began painting portraits as a child at her mother's side, creates large, bold, expressive figurative paintings. "My art is about freeing the human spirit…in each piece my goal is to achieve harmony between the interior and exterior of the being, physically and psychically."
Gabriella Nissen is a professional photographer who worked as a fashion photographer, art director and designer for Foley's, and now does freelance work. After years in the commercial world shooting specific projects with a targeted look under a tight deadline, she enjoys the open-endedness and freedom of creating her own personal works. She was a 2006 entrant in Lawndale Art Center's prestigious The Big Show, and won Honorable Mention in the Texas Photographic Society's Members Only Show, which opened in San Antonio in February. Her photography is surreal and colorful. She has been working on her "Botanika" series since 2002. "I'm very attracted to nature's themes of regeneration and transformation. I love the interaction between the models and the botanicals. As the people merge with the botanicals they seem to morph into new life forms that have a language all their own."
Rebecca Etcheverry grew up in New York State, but has lived in nine states, Puerto Rico and Canada. Her work experience is equally diverse including real estate broker for historical properties, apartment owner and manager, and horse breeder in the Adirondack Mountains. She received an art degree from State University of New York at Albany, studied drawing at Murray State University in Kentucky, and in 2001 arrived in Houston spending two years attending the Glassell School of Art before opening her own studio. She has been in numerous shows and competitions including the prestigious Houston Assistance League's Texas Art 2006. Her works are typically large, non-objective pieces using captivating colors and shapes to create detailed focal areas that lead the eye across the canvas. "My work is an interaction: I make marks, the canvas dictates the next step. I have only the loosest concept of what each painting will be; rather, I start out with familiar shapes or make lines and let the process lead me."
Amy Guidry was born in Slidell, Louisiana. Her art interest began with her first set of crayons, growing and flourishing with the years. She received the Loyola University Art Scholarship, and a Bachelor's degree in Visual Arts - Graphic Designs. Her work consists of a series of portraits and figure work just shy of photorealism. "I feel this style allows me to show the detail of the subject while bringing out the vast array of colors and shapes found in the faces and figures. Through the emphasis of color - some subtle, some embellished - I am able to relay the personalities of the individuals as I see them. By distilling the subjects to faces and bodies of colors and shapes, I am able to offer the viewer an intimate look into the essence of the person." Guidry's work was recently on display at the Heymann Center for the Performing Arts in Lafayette.
The final five artists will be announced in early fall. In the meantime, "10 Women, 10 Perspectives" continues to take shape, ignited and fueled by one woman's vision, dedication, creative energy and passion. An art form of its own, it will touch, move and inspire all who come in contact.