A scavenger hunt for art by Frida Kahlo, more women
Women artists face a lot of hurdles. Even during Women's History Month, it can be challenging to find an exhibition featuring females. So, in the tradition of women artists, what can't be found can be handmade. By hopping from one museum to another, we'll trace the paths of several women, mapping a line of great art that stretches from Nassau County to the East End.
STOP 1: HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY MUSEUM OF ART, HEMPSTEAD
Hofstra's museum director Karen T. Albert has worked to make exhibitions inclusive for years. "In order to be an artist, women had to persevere," she says. "There were a lot of obstacles. … Everything from education and resources, to access to the art world through galleries, to being overlooked because you're married to a more famous male artist. Most women artists, even in the latter half of the 20th century, just weren't getting the same attention."
In "When We All Stand" a show focused on social justice, see "Orion" by Emma Amos, a New York and sometime East End artist, who died in 2020 at 83. Hardwired to excel, Amos noted that her college-educated parents both had fathers who were born enslaved. Like many women, she had a distinguished career in education, but her artwork languished until recently. Echoing the night sky, the subject of "Orion" is a Black man, his hourglass stance recalling the constellation. He stands proudly, wearing athletic garb like an Olympian, surrounded by African cloth, a contemporary picture of strength.
STOP 2: NASSAU COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART, ROSLYN
From Hofstra, it's a short trip to the Nassau County Museum of Art, where "Eye & Mind: The Shin Collection," opening March 18, includes artworks by several major contemporary and modern international women. Along with director Charles Riley's encompassing vision, he credits associate curator, Jennifer Haller, and the museum's many women, from volunteers to board members, for "putting great art by women on the wall in the right, prominent, places and presenting the history of art with a strong feminist awareness."
WHAT "When We All Stand"
WHEN | WHERE Through July 28, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 12-4 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University, 1000 Hempstead Tpke., Hempstead
INFO Free; 516-463-5672, hofstra.edu/museum
WHAT "Eye and Mind: Selections from the Shin Collection"
WHEN | WHERE March 18-July 9, 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, Nassau County Museum of Art, 1 Museum Dr., Roslyn Harbor
INFO $15, $10 ages 62 and older, $5 students and ages 4-11, free age 3 and younger; 516-484-9338, nassaumuseum.org
WHAT "Raise the Roof: The Home in Art"
WHEN | WHERE Through next March, 12-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, The Heckscher Museum of Art, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington
INFO $5 suggested donation, free ages 12 and younger; 631-380-3230, heckscher.org
WHAT "Revisiting 5 + 1"
WHEN | WHERE Through March 31, 12-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and by appointment, Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery, Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook University
INFO Free; 631-632-7240, zuccairegallery.stonybrook.edu
WHAT "Kahlo: An Expanded Body" and "An Expanded Portrait"
WHEN | WHERE Through April 2, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill
INFO $16, $12 seniors; 631-283-2118, parrishart.org
Hong Gyu Shin, part of whose collection is on view, champions diverse artists, said Riley. Here you'll find a rare look at the work of Gerda Wegener (1886-1940), whose story was the basis of the film "The Danish Girl." Riley noted, "Her work is absolutely important in the history of the representation of LGBTQ+ subjects, including her transgender partner, Lili Elbe."
STOP 3: HECKSCHER MUSEUM OF ART, HUNTINGTON
Next up is the Heckscher's "Raise the Roof: The Home in Art." Curator Karli Wurzelbacher made sure that women made up half of the artists on view. Among them are two notable Long Island artists: Huntington's Helen Torr (1886-1967) and Miriam Schapiro (1923-2015), who lived in the Hamptons.
Torr's "Quince on White Hand Dish" resembles Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings. Torr and her husband Arthur Dove were friends with O'Keeffe; all are considered foundational to American Modernism. Schapiro helped build the feminist art movement of the 1960s and '70s. Her "Berthe Morisot & Me" includes a visual dialogue with both an earlier woman artist and art history, itself. Find out how she challenged the idea that art had to be chiseled marble or painted canvas by elevating flowery fabrics and swatches of lace into a powerful, monumental work.
"She didn't try to fit the mold. She broke it," said Wurzelbacher, "Deliberately challenging what is good art, she gave new values to historically female forms of creativity."
STOP 4: PAUL W. ZUCCAIRE GALLERY, STONY BROOK
At Zuccaire's "Revisiting 5+1" exhibit, see Alma Thomas (1891-1978), whose work hangs in the White House and major museums. In 1972, Thomas was the first African American woman to be given a solo exhibition at The Whitney Museum of American Art. "Carnival of Autumn Leaves," is an ebullient abstraction of vibrant colors layered, interacting, and harmonizing on the canvas. “Through color," she said, "I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness.”
LAST STOP: PARRISH ART MUSEUM, WATER MILL
Finally, head out east to spend time with one of the world's most beloved women artists at the Parrish's "Kahlo: An Expanded Body." The exhibition looks at Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and how her life, loves and losses informed her work. The complementary show, "An Expanded Portrait" presents 16 contemporary Long Island women artists, considering how they portray themselves and others.
Cindy Sherman, who grew up in Huntington, is internationally known for her probing self-portraits. By donning accouterments of stardom, gender, social status and culture, then turning her camera on herself, Sherman simultaneously presents and questions women's roles while functioning as a kind of everywoman.
Each exhibition presents more women than we've highlighted. Still curious? Excellent. That's really all that women artists ask.