Benton Exhibit of Women Artists to Confront Portrayal and Recognition

Objectifying Myself explores work by women artists, created between 1968-2005, which serve, to some degree, as self portraits. The exhibit opens March 23.

Opening March 23, 2017 to coincide with Women’s History Month, three new exhibitions at the Benton highlight women artists.

Objectifying Myself explores work by women artists, created between 1968-2005, which serve, to some degree, as self portraits.  But these “self portraits” employ surrogate objects rather than depictions of the artists’ faces or bodies. Artists in the exhibition include Judy Chicago, Louise Bourgeois, Miriam Schapiro, June Wayne, Louise Nevelson, and Kiki Smith. These works are on loan from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia (PAFA) which was founded in 1805 by painter and scientist Charles Willson Peale, sculptor William Rush, and other Colonial artists and business leaders. We thank PAFA, and especially David Brigham, Executive Director of PAFA and University of Connecticut alumnus, for their generosity in collaboration.

Liz Whitney Quisgard was one of the few women artists represented by eminent gallerist Andre Emmerich in NYC in the 1960s.  Her career spans six decades and the work in this installation features an environment of patterned textiles and sculpture created in the last two decades.

Work It features paintings by Ellen Emmet Rand and other women artists in the first half of the 20th century—how they fought for opportunities, paid their bills, and found ways to have their art and creativity seen and taken seriously. Featuring several works by Ellen Emmet Rand, as well as pieces by Dorothea Lange, Violet Oakley, Mary Foote, Eudora Welty, Lois Mailou Jones, and Imogen Cunningham, “Work It” features the diversity of styles and subjects that helped women achieve both recognition and security as working artists.

Ellen Emmet Rand (1875-1941) was arguably one of the most important and prolific American portrait painters of her time but likely you have not heard her name before. This is in spite of the fact that during her career, she painted portraits of famed author Henry James, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and over 800 other notables. Her early career was meteoric: she studied with William Merritt Chase; by eighteen she was a regular illustrator for Vogue; at twenty she was encouraged by John Singer Sargent and Stanford White to study in Paris. She returned to the US in 1901 and set about painting the most famous and important people who could afford her fees. Moving between diverse patrons—from state governors to opera singers—Rand carefully balanced changing social mores and fashions with her clients’ need to project authority, intelligence, and beauty through their portraits. For Rand, as with the other artists in this show, portraits, illustrations, advertising and fashion imagery paid the bills and supported families. Yet this work also, simultaneously, suggested that these women were not “real” artists, and instead only worked for money, not love or creative commitment. This exhibition looks to confront the complexity of the careers of women artists who had to work to have their art seen but also had to work for money.

The exhibitions are on view March 23 through July 30, 2017. The exhibition’s opening reception is on Thursday, March 23, 2017 from 4:30-6:30pm.  Murderous Chanteuse will perform at the reception. Free to the public.