“It was like walking inside her head,” says East End curator Janet Goleas of her recent visit to Amanda Church’s New York City studio. “It was such a joy. There was paint everywhere — on every surface, on her clothes.”
Known for her bold, pop-inspired abstract canvases that include references to the human form, Church is among the artists working in a broad range of media and styles selected by Goleas to feature in “A Radical Voice: 23 Women,” on view at the Southampton Arts Center Saturday, Feb. 17, through March 25.
The exhibition venue on the South Fork is a natural fit for the painter, who, over the years, has spent time at a family home there and has based some of the body parts — arms, legs and hands — that crop up in her simple yet curiously uncomfortable compositions on those in photos taken of friends sitting by the ocean.
In some of Church’s other works, the hand becomes self-referential, depicted holding a tube of paint. It is an emblem of sorts for both the elation and the isolation found in the studio.
“There is a lot of self-doubt in making art. Being compelled to continue decade after decade and sometimes in anonymity despite that is extraordinary. It sounds silly, but even standing in front of an empty canvas takes courage,” says Goleas, a practicing artist herself. It is in this sense, and not simply with regard to gender politics, Goleas says, that she views these women as radical.
The exhibition, according to Southampton Arts Center board co-chair Simone Levinson, was conceived as a platform to celebrate established and emerging female artists, and inspired by the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York and by March as National Women’s History Month. “Since deciding on this concept several months ago,” Levinson says, “it has been interesting to see the incredible surge in female empowerment sweeping across the country.”
Staying true to the show’s conception and the curator’s vision, the included artists range from the overtly political to the decidedly not so. Olive Ayhens, for instance, demonstrates her concern for ecological degradation in dreamlike compositions conflating all manner of species, landscape and architecture. In contrast, Bridgehampton resident Laurie Lambrecht contributes embroidered photos of tree bark printed on linen whose larger message, says Goleas, simply “relates to a kind of meditation. The work is about beauty and tactility.”
While the individual works are all compelling, their contrasts and correlations are too. Bringing the idea of connectedness a step further, sculptors Bonnie Rychlak and Jeanne Silverthorne, friends since the late 1980s, offer up their first collaborative piece, combining their respective preferred materials, wax and rubber, and mutual sensibility exploring the strange play between humor and darkness.
“We’ve all been swimming upstream for some time,” says Goleas of the artists’ shared experience, “and now we get to be in a show together.”
WHEN | WHERE Feb. 17-March 25, noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays, Southampton Arts Center, 25 Jobs Lane
INFO Free; 631-283-0967, southamptonartscenter.org