The centennial of the 19th amendment that gave American women the right to vote is being commemorated nationwide by organizations and initiatives, and also by museums, which are celebrating the work of women artists.
The numbers can be disheartening for women in the arts. According to a 2019 study done by Artnet News, nearly half the professional visual artists in the country are female, but only 11% of art purchased by museums last year was made by women. Another study last year by the Public Library of Science notes that more than 80% of the work on museum walls is by male artists.
On Long Island, that’s about to change. From the Islip Art Museum’s exhibition “I Am at IAM,” which runs through March 28, to the Nassau County Museum of Art’s summer show, “Heroines of American Art: From Abstract Expressionism to Now,” local institutions are stepping up to exhibit, discuss and spotlight artwork by women past and present. Many events are timed for March, Women’s History Month; all are about increasing visibility and altering perceptions.
For Karen Levitov, director of Stony Brook University’s Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery, inclusivity is a priority. “All the solo shows I’ve presented have featured women,” she says. “I hope that becomes more and more normal, and that eventually things will just even out, without there being an effort on the part of curators.” In the gallery’s current exhibition, “Artists as Innovators,” more than half the works are by women and it features prominent contemporary artists including the feminist collective, The Guerrilla Girls. On Tuesday, Cuban-American performance artist Carmelita Tropicana humorously skewers the concept of “a woman’s place.” March 9 brings a film and talk with artist Howardena Pindell about the all-female cooperative, A.I.R. Gallery. In the 1970s, when she and other women artists wanted to exhibit, no New York City galleries opened their doors, so they launched their own. It’s still operating.
Pindell, who’s received major recognition since, is also included in Hofstra University’s “Nevertheless She Persisted,” which focuses on women artists since the 1800s. Says curator Kristen Rudy, “It’s not a political exhibition. It’s about the idea of women’s persistence and their fight for equal rights and equal recognition.”
Some, like Mabel Dwight and Dorothy Dehner never achieved fame, but had long, impactful careers. “These women artists didn’t have as much recognition, but they kept working. That’s the idea,” adds museum director, Karen Albert.
Parrish Art Museum curator, Alicia Longwell, will give a talk about women in the collection on Feb. 28, with renowned Long Island female artists participating. The Heckscher Museum dedicates an entire gallery to women in the current show, “Locally Sourced,” and in March presents a solo show by Amanda Valdez. “A Study of Flora” this June at Alex Ferrone Gallery presents environmentally inspired work by women. Also in June, Guild Hall debuts a site-specific work by Karin Waisman. Adelphi University’s gallery has an exhibition of prints by Juliana Seraphim slated for March, when they’ll also host the creator of the documentary “1200+” about the epidemic of missing indigenous women in North America.
Perhaps no movement better illustrates Long Island’s place in American art than Abstract Expressionism, when midcentury women worked alongside male counterparts, redefining what art could be. The Nassau County Museum’s July show of Art’s Ab-Ex women features iconic artists like Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, and Elaine de Kooning.
A unique bit of history rolls into the Long Island Museum this fall. “The Spirit of 1776 Suffrage Wagon” that carried banners and protesters will be in their “Art of Politics.” Voting and equal rights are the focus of the Islip Art Museum’s “I Am at IAM.” More than thirty members of Women Sharing Art fill the museum with paintings, sculptures, photographs, fiber and mosaics made expressly for the show. Curator Chris O’Malley encouraged the artists to infuse their works with new meaning. “I asked them to think differently, conceptually. That’s how they moved from a lovely painting of a flower to a botanical representation of an immigrant, coming to this country, as opposed to a native species.” Creating space for women artists in 2020 is about equal representation, but also about changing attitudes, correcting history, including more voices, and changing the future.
EXHIBITS AND MORE
"Artists as Innovators"
WHEN | WHERE Through Feb. 22, 12-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery, Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook University
INFO Free; 631-632-7240, zuccairegallery.stonybrook.edu
"I Am at IAM"
WHEN | WHERE Through March 28, 12-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, Islip Art Museum, 50 Irish Lane, East Islip
INFO $5 suggested donation; 631-224-5420, islipartmuseum.org
"Nevertheless She Persisted"
WHEN | WHERE March 31-Aug. 14, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 12-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Hofstra University's David Filderman Gallery, 1000 Hempstead Tpke., Hempstead
INFO Free; 516-463-5672, hofstra.edu
"1200+" film and discussion with co-creator Sheila North Wilson
WHEN | WHERE 1 p.m. March 24, Campbell Lounge and 6 p.m. March 24, Nexus Building, room 239, Adelphi University, 1 South Ave., Garden City
INFO Free; 516-877-3126, events.adelphi.edu
"Women Artists in What We See, How We See" talk by Alicia Longwell
WHEN | WHERE 6 p.m. Feb. 28, Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill
INFO $12, $9 seniors; 631-283-2118, parrishart.org
"Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack" film and discussion with Flack and Terrie Sultan
WHEN | WHERE 6 p.m. March 6, Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill
INFO $15, $5 students; 631-283-2118, parrishart.org