Of Women, By Women: A Peek at Reclamation

“She has arrived,” said former midwife, now painter and co-curator August Burns, referring to the exhibition Reclamation, newly opened at the Helen Day Art Center. After 9 months of gestation, this show of women artists painting women subjects will be spending the summer in Stowe VT. 

Cottonfield by Hung Liu

It is two galleries of figurative paintings of women, some tender and many fierce. The subjects include pregnant women, old women, a woman with her mother, a woman and her male significant (or maybe not) other. There is a stylized portrait of Trayvon Martin’s mother (one of a series of paintings of mothers of African-American men killed by the police), a self-portrait of a woman addressing appetite with an ice cream cone. For reasons that are not always easily and precisely stated, at first glance and without knowing for sure, you’d guess that the artists were women, not men. The male gaze is gone. 

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Sometimes I can walk into an exhibition and decide upon a favorite. In this one I found myself continually immersed, compiling a list to come back to that just kept getting longer. At my age, I was drawn to paintings of older women, like Defiance of Erebus by Ellen Cooper (below). Cooper met her subject serendipitously on a walking tour of New York City, and found her “gutsy” and “formidable.” In the autumn of her life, I saw this woman pondering her own life’s arc, with a trace of sadness.

Daryl Zang’s Roots (featured photo, top) was one of two paintings in which she tried to portray her sometimes conflicted feelings about motherhood. Nancy Hollinghurst’s Engaging the Noose was inspired by a conversation in which she bemoaned how her life choices were being strangled by her student loan debt. 

Engaging the Noose by Nancy Hollinghurst

Auntie by Aleah Chapin (below) is a nude, unconventional in the age of its subject, stunning in its complex beauty.

Spend some time in the company of these women. Reclamation runs through September 8. For more information, go to the Helen Day Art Center website by clicking here.

And while you are there . . . Stowe has a beautiful and tranquil bike and walking path that you can access from Main Street. Celebrate summer while you can. 

With a bench or two for contemplation or to rest those sore knees.

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