Yes, there is still time to experience WOMAN-MADE: A Celebration of Female Artists in the Collection at the beautiful Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art at St. Petersburg College (LRMA). This exciting exhibition showcases internationally acclaimed women printmakers and sculptors including Miriam Schapiro, Alison Saar, Howardena Pindell, Esther Gentle, Susan Gott, Marjorie Greene Graff and many other women artists successfully creating in mediums once dominated by men.
To recognize the centennial of women being granted the equal right to vote, WOMAN-MADE opened in 2020 to celebrate women artists who have been pioneers in the arts that inspire them. Their work has paved the way for other women artists to follow their creative paths, whatever the medium.
“This has been one of my favorite small-but-mighty exhibitions,” says Curator Christine Renc-Carter. “The whole idea was to celebrate powerful female artists. Miriam Schapiro is certainly a draw. A founder of the feminist movement in contemporary art, she is internationally renowned, and she also had local ties with the Berghoff-Cowden Editions, a women-owned screen-printing workshop.
“In selecting these artists, I was looking specifically for those who were really making headway in their field. Schapiro’s art is so bright and colorful – it exudes positivity. You really find a sense of happiness in her work.”
Miriam Schapiro (1923—2015) is perhaps best known for establishing the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts with Judy Chicago. In collaboration, they created Woman House in 1972, a feminist art installation and performance space in Hollywood. She also coined the term “femmage” to describe feminist images and icons she wove through her artwork.
Linda Berghoff, whose work is currently on view at the Leepa-Rattner through February 7 in the SPC Visual Arts Faculty Exhibition was instrumental in working with Schapiro to produce the screen prints shown in the WOMAN-MADE exhibition.
“The show is exceptional,” says Berghoff. “It presents many different forms of printmaking – screen prints, relief, etching and some very experimental things. The artists are from different cultures, backgrounds and all ages.
“I worked with Miriam on those prints at Berghoff-Cowden Editions. That beautiful fan [In the Heat of Winter] is the largest one she’s ever printed. We’re very proud of that piece.”
Marjorie Greene Graff taught drawing, painting and printmaking for 21 years at St. Petersburg College. “I loved it. Best job in the world,” she says. Recently retired, Graff now focuses on her printmaking studio and collaborative projects. Her reduction woodblock print, Blooming, is displayed next to an etching by Howardena Pindell, which Graff considers an honor.
“I’ve been printmaking since 1972. It has been a male dominated medium, but we’ve come a long way. As a woman printmaker, having a lot of people view my work is wonderful and having my work shown alongside women like Howardina Pindell, Alison Saur and Miriam Schapiro, is pretty amazing.”
On the sculpting side, the WOMAN-MADE exhibit presents a variety of sculptures created by accomplished women sculptors from near and far. Susan Gott’s cast glass sculpture, Dancing Shaman is one of many standouts.
“My main focus is cast glass – I blow glass, too,” says Gott. “I’ve been working in glass for 30 years. I built, own and operate my own studio, and my work is in galleries all over the world. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of public art. ”
Gott’s studio is in Tampa’s Seminole Heights. Examples of her public art sculptures include the Peace Pole on the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg campus. And in collaboration with the Steward-Mellon Company, Gott’s remarkable 51-foot-long art glass and terrazzo bench, Sand and Sea, was recently installed in Tampa’s Channelside District.
Gott explains that casting glass is a labor-intensive process in which molten glass is scooped with a large, long-handled ladle and taken directly from a furnace that has been fired up to 2300° F. That molten glass is then poured carefully into a carved sand mold. She emphasizes that perfect timing, temperatures and teamwork are vital to this process.
WOMAN-MADE: A Celebration of Female Artists in the Collection opened on January 25, 2020. It was well attended, with 1,160 visitors through March 7 when museums and other public spaces closed during the pandemic. On August 18, 2020 LRMA reopened on Tuesdays through Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m., with social distance protocols in place. LRMA has welcomed more than 596 visitors since the reopening and guests’ feedback on the show has been positive. In addition, the virtual exhibition created for the LRMA website logged more than 17,000 hits for the WOMAN-MADE show from March 2020 to date.
Although viewing any virtual art exhibit differs from admiring artwork live inside a museum or gallery, the online shows expand the potential audience for the artists and their work to a worldwide arena. So, both ways of seeing offer benefits.
When public spaces could not be available safely to prevent COVID-19 exposure, creating and managing online options taught many people new communication skills that may continue to be combined effectively with future live events. How challenging was that pivot?
“The first thing we did was to get this show online,” says Renc-Carter. “We wanted to keep it going to maintain that visibility because a lot of people are celebrating women right now. It worked out well, and the artists’ audience expanded.
“When we reopened, we were able to extend this exhibition. The live setting with social distance protocols in place inside the museum is also working very well.”
Yes, there is still time to come in to the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art and experience the art, history and evolution represented in this collection of women artists. Masks are required, advance ticketing is not. Social distance protocols are listed on the website.
February 7 is this show’s last day inside the museum, but the virtual exhibition will stay on the LRMA website.
“What’s really so wonderful about the WOMAN-MADE show,” adds Renc-Carter, “is honoring the power of the female voice in contemporary art.”