Views of the Feminine”
Operated under the non-profit umbrella of the Grand Avenue Club (a facility promoting mental health), Gallery Grand just celebrated four years as part of the GAC. Housed within the early 19th century building standing tall on the corner of Michigan and Water Street, the bright 36’x 36’ space is currently filled with the works of female artists pursuing various ideas about the exhibition’s theme: Mystique: Views of the Feminine.
In this case, I’m glad I chose otherwise.
I must admit that many of my art-buddy friends have works in this show, and yes, I’ve written about several of them in the past. Call me biased, but it was swell to see art by Jilandante Glynn, Deb Fabian, Carrie Skoczek and Angel French displayed in friendly proximity to one another. They are, after all, friends, and each one has forever pursued views of the feminine — mystique or otherwise.
On one side of the gallery are three Pitchy Patchy Dolls, constructed by Ms. Glynn. In a word (or two or three), their rag-tag ambiance is terrific. Fashioned from snippets of rectangular swatches stitched and layered onto cast-off forms once used to display kids’ clothing, they are wondrous to behold. I’ve always thought of Glynn as a painter, and indeed she uses the fabrics in a painterly manner. The end result is more sculpture than painting, somewhere between Native American and Aztec folk art.
Near the Pitchy Patchies rests a chair (go ahead and sit in it) beautifully upholstered and embellished by Deb Fabian, who owns and operates Just Chairs, a small refab shop on South First Street. In fact, I’m thinking that the fabric from the Pitchy Patchies perhaps had their origin in Fabian’s upholstery emporium. The chair, titled Grandma’s Lap, conjures thoughts of being read to, being cuddled, being safe and sound in a lap that doesn’t judge. A huge string of pearls (way too big for this grandma/writer) suggests an air of formality, because even grandmas have rules.
But on the other hand, the chair is also curved and soft and comfy, so go ahead…sit.
Ms. Skoczek knows how to crack a painterly whip. Her women are tough, smart, and hip. I’ve know Carrie for years, and she too is tough,smart, and hip. Even though she now dwells in Brooklyn, her work is often seen around town (most recently at the Portrait Society), so she’s not really gone, and certainly not forgotten.
A few years ago I noticed a grouping of crucifixes wrought by Angel French that were hung in an exhibition at Water Street’s Soup’s On. Ms. French seems to have further developed her ideas on the role religion plays in the lives of women, and to good effect I must say. They’re dark and ominous warnings, but not entirely. There’s a cheeky element at play there. One of the pieces was displayed on top of the gallery’s resident piano, and if memory serves me correctly… were those gummy worms draped on the cross bars of the, ahem, cross?
At the north end of the gallery, tucked into a corner like a good tale should be, are Tara Bogart’s intriguing photo composites from her Fable series. Bogart has a hawk’s eye for composition, and I’m a real sucker for fairy tales. They’re beautifully presented in over-the-top frames, and so it was that I got sucked beyond the frames and into her wondering world. Similarly, Ellen Pizer’s touching grouping of photographs of the important women in her life link youth with age and beyond. They’re moving without being schmaltzy.
Janet Roberts’ Trophy Wives depicts five bowlers standing proud somewhere in the 1940’s. The figures are painted on a background of vintage wallpaper, and here and there are photos — memories of the long-gone era when (perhaps) wives took up bowling while their sweethearts served in World War II. Set along the top of the stretcher are miniature trophies, indicating perhaps that wives themselves are often trophies, though I’m not sure that was the artist’s intention.
In July, Gallery Grand will exhibit twenty portraits of GAC members, painted by Colleen Shoop-Kassner, who as the gallery director and artist in residence, and also someone who navigated the travails of bi-polar disease, is doing a bang-up job. My personal thanks go out to The Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee, who helped bring this exhibition to the GAC in honor of International Women’s Day.
And just so you know, the artists who sell work get a nifty 60%, the balance going to keep this excellent effort forging ahead.
Mystique: Views on the Feminine runs through May 13. Gallery Grand (210 E. Michigan Ave) is open Tuesday & Wednesday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday 1-3 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, call 414.795.7108.