Monday, April 02, 2007

Tuss on Women’s Work at Nevin Kelly Gallery

By Katie Tuss

Six distinctly talented women younger than 30 have come to the forefront via Nevin Kelly’s current group painting exhibition Women’s Work. Nevin Kelly Deputy Director and the show’s curator Julia Morelli teamed up with five local female artists to create a show of varied sensibilities and styles, yet linked by a woman’s unique touch.

The five young artists include Abbe McGray, Laurel Hausler, Mary Chiaramonte, Molly Brose, and Jenny Davis — who is the youngest in the group at 18. Together they are eloquent, and yet a bit bashful, but all insistent that although they are women, gender does not have to be the central focus of their work.

The artists explained that gender enhances and enriches but certainly does not inhibit them in the larger art arena. “I was thinking about the show in terms of being women’s art, not necessarily feminist art or girly art, but possessing a sense of femininity in the work,” said Morelli.

Some of the artists had never met one another, and the work was created separately.

Brose’s work waxes nostalgic about family, friendships, and significant others in two groups of five paintings with titles all beginning with the directive ‘keep.’

Molly Brose painting

In Keep in Mind, Brose’s two grandmothers are represented precisely in graphite against Brose’s abstracted watercolor ground. A rendering of a classic set of aluminum measuring spoons bridges the empty space between the two portraits. Brose is “trying to measure where I got what from these two people,” she said.

McGray and Davis both contributed portraits to the group effort. McGray explained that she paints people that “may be disadvantaged or looked over.” She wants to bring these people forward and give viewers the opportunity to look at them. Her subjects are inquisitive and somewhat beseeching, yet never asking for pity.

Conversely, Davis paints meticulous watercolors of her friends. The subjects are young women themselves, and are thoughtfully depicted down to the delicate links of a silver necklace or a wind blown strand of hair. Davis’s colors are seductive and her controlled hand impressive.

Mary Chiaramonte’s paintings are intensely personal, Thanks A Lot being a response to a negative response to one of her paintings. Chiaramonte mixes subtle collage elements and a slightly distracting signature with refreshing layers of graphite sketches under a thin paint application.

Laurel Hausler’s five paintings were all made with the show’s title in mind. Hausler’s liberal experiments with beeswax further the mysterious light in which her narratives unfold. Even while uprooting radishes or cavorting with an oversized rabbit, women seem to float through Hausler’s ethereal world with elongated lines, curved figures, and haunting eyes. Hausler concedes that “maybe there is something about storytelling that is inherent in some female art.”

Women’s Work is on view through this Sunday, April 8.

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