Partnerships

Special Online Loan Exhibitions
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Two Online Exhibitions due to launch on our website on Friday, January 22


Women Picturing Women: From Private Spaces to Public Ventures

(Online Preview of an exhibition to open at the Loeb Art Center on February 6, 2021)

 

Hilda Belcher (American, 1881-1963), The Checkered Dress (Portrait of O'Keeffe), 1907.
Watercolor and gouache on cream laid paper. Bequest of Mary S. Bedell, class of 1873, 1932.1.5

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Organized by the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, the forthcoming exhibition Women Picturing Women: From Private Spaces to Public Ventures studies the key themes that emerged when selecting only images of women by female artists. In this exhibition from the permanent collection, women artists from the seventeenth century to the 1960s frequently communicated the idea of an intimate or sheltered enclosure, even though they participated in a more public arena to show or even make their work. Other women artists relayed the idea of venturing into a public place, or into the public, intellectual world of a narrative found in religion, mythology, or social critique. The exhibition looks at works through these private and public lenses, with the circumstances of the artist, her training, and the content of the work in focus. The display includes drawings, paintings, samplers, prints, sculptures, and photographs, and is featured here with the drawings in the exhibition.

Portraits appeared frequently in this survey, as did domestic scenes. Indeed, the idea of the domestic sphere held great sway from the eighteenth century into the twentieth century, subverting an earlier regard and interest in women's intellect. Female artists imagining harmonious episodes in the outdoors propelled them to make peaceful, sometimes fantastical landscapes, a genre that was almost always tied to domestic situations. On the other hand, some artists embraced opportunities for entering into the fray of contemporary discourse, areas considered to be more suitable for the interests of men. Women Picturing Women ends just before the 1970s, when the feminist movement began casting a brilliant light upon art made by women. The exhibition and forthcoming catalogue receive support from the Friends of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center Exhibition Fund.

Patricia Phagan
The Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

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Challenging Tradition:
Teaching with Drawings by Women in a College Museum

 

Nancy Pukingrnak Aupaluktuq, Inuit, Qamani'tuaq (Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada), b. 1940,
Untitled, 1973, Graphite and colored pencil on paper.
Gift from the Edward J. Guarino Collection in honor of Kathleen Guarino-Burns. 2011.34.56

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The collecting of works by women, including drawings, has a long and rich tradition at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. The weight of that tradition, however, comes with challenges. The nineteenth-century founding and subsequent history of Vassar's art museum has resulted in a drawings collection that does not align fully with the curriculum today or with the museum's own priorities. Even the number of drawings by women, while significant, remains a small percentage of the museum's holdings. Within that group, works by women of color comprise an even smaller portion. An important aspect of our current work is to give focused attention to these drawings and to ensure their accessibility to students and faculty.

As classes from across disciplines use the collection, drawings by women--and by Black, Indigenous, and women of color in particular--serve as invaluable connections between the museum and coursework, while also allowing the institution to tell more inclusive narratives of art history. Beyond their individual significance, such works also provide undergraduates an entry point into other areas of the drawings collection and invite fascinating dialogues with them. A commitment to acquiring and displaying drawings by artists from under-represented groups is essential to maintaining the relevance of drawings to today's teaching and to the student body in general.

Highlighting and continuing to build these areas of the collection--work that must intensify but has begun thanks in large part to the support of Vassar alumni and others--is key to addressing longstanding inequities manifest in museums and their collections. Moreover, it is a crucial part of instilling a love of the tangible immediacy of drawings in future generations. For the drawings collection of an academic museum to remain dynamic and vital, work by women, and women of color in particular, must not be the counterpoint to tradition; it must be the tradition.

Elizabeth Nogrady
Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Academic Programs
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

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