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Portraits of women, and self-portraits, on view at American Folk Art Museum
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Untitled, c. 1940s-mid-1950s. Gelatin silver print, 10 x 8” (17 1/4 x 13 3/4” framed). Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York. Gift of Lewis and Jean Greenblatt. Photo by Gavin Ashworth, New York.
NEW YORK, NY.- Works by self-taught masters including Paul D. Humphrey, Nellie Mae Rowe, Inez Nathaniel Walker, and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein will be on view at the American Folk Art Museum, 2 Lincoln Square in New York City, from January 24 through May 26, 2013. Women’s Studies will feature images of women as expressed by these renowned artists, including self-portraits and more than 50 photographs. The exhibition is organized in conjunction with an exhibition of early American portraits by artist William Matthew Prior (1806—1873), titled Artist & Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed.

The artists featured in Women’s Studies worked from the 1940s through the 1990s, a time of radical transformation in the lives of women in the United States. Views of the female face and form in fine art, photography, and film changed as more and more women took up brushes, pencils, cameras and other materials. Women’s Studies considers, through the drawings and photographs on view—all by self-taught, or outsider artist—strikingly disparate images that raise questions of intent, portrayal, and self-identity. Are the portraits acts of creation, documentation, or domination? How is the gender divide expressed through these works by self-taught artists?

Paul D. Humphrey’s crayon, ink, and colored pencil drawings of slumbering women explore the theme of “sleeping beauties.” Humphrey manipulated images photocopied from books, newspapers, and magazines, and in an arduous process of copying, embellishing, and ultimately completing the work with colored pencil, Humphrey created works of art that evoke a sense of death.

Nellie Mae Rowe’s drawings depict a fertile imaginary world through saturated color, organic flowing forms, and allusions to the spiritual. Her work is an internal contemplation of a situation rather than an external observation of a particular woman, fusing elements of the physical universe and shadow worlds.

Inez Nathaniel Walker’s drawings are notable for their highly patterned, ballooning figures with oversized eyes ringed with lashes, and densely-drawn hair, which ranges from huge afros to tight waves. The artist, born Inez Stedman, was married to two men, Nathaniel and Walker respectively. It is possible that many of the drawings were made when she was serving time at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, convicted of criminally negligent homicide against an abusive man. Her works convey a sense of control over emotional engagement even as her evident need to make portrait after portrait suggests the desire for human connection.

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein—a man of myriad abilities—worked in many mediums including bone, ceramic, cement, and oil paint, but it is often his prolific photography that is initially most fascinating perhaps because of the overwhelming number of images revealing his relentless preoccupation with his wife, Marie. The photographs of Marie on view were created in the WWII era of pin-up girls, Hollywood starlets, and burlesque, and they clearly imitate depictions of female film stars in promotional posters and other ephemera targeted to male audiences. Marie’s complicity in the making of the photographs is unclear, and although Von Bruenchenhein sexualized his wife as a seducer (ostensibly a position of power), she is subjugated to his vision. The photographs on view suggest awkward role-playing, a lack of emotional engagement, and a sensibility based on vulgar prototypes.

The female portraits provide stark contrast to the early American paintings of William Matthew Prior. Prior’s portraits, in the days before photography, provided invaluable records of loved ones near, far, or departed. One of the country’s first “artist-entrepreneurs,” Prior offered patrons a sliding scale of fees based on the level of detail and nuance in the portrait, thereby making such “likenesses” available to middle-class patrons. He is credited with democratizing portraiture in America’s earliest years.





Last Week News

January 23, 2013

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Morphy's Feb. 8-9 Fine & Decorative Arts Auction brings outstanding fresh collections to the marketplace

Taking Matters into our own Hands: Group exhibition opens at Richard Saltoun

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First UK solo show of works by acclaimed Azeri artist Niyaz Najafov opens at Gazelli Art House

Iconic Louvre work 'Winged Victory' to be restored

Smithsonian curators scout for Obama artifacts

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January 22, 2013

Romanian authorities arrest three men involved in Rotterdam museum art heist

Gustav Klimt 150th anniversary celebrations help Vienna to record tourism year in 2012

The National Museum of Scotland displays a host of treasures from the home of the Vikings

Exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art shows recently acquired pair of Japanese screens

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Art on the go, "Museum Space" courtesy of Paris' Charles de Gaulle international airport

New Jersey library displays Kara Walker drawing of slave having sex with a white man

Carrie Pilto appointed Director of the Matisse Museum in Le Cateau-Cambrésis

Asaph Hyman, Director of Bonhams Chinese Art Department, is appointed to the Bonhams UK Board of Directors

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Skylar Fein's "Remember the Upstairs Lounge" acquired by the New Orleans Museum of Art

£20 picture turns out to be £60,000 power print by Cyril Edward Power for sale at Bonhams

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Human Rights is the focus of four exhibitions at the Ryerson Image Centre

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Columbus Museum acquires twelve panels from Dawn Black's Conceal Project

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Tunisia jails 16 Islamists for one month over art violence

Dallas Contemporary announces major exhibition of Puerto Rican artist DZINE

January 21, 2013

Gallery One: A new, unique and interactive gallery opens at the Cleveland Museum of Art

After DNA testing confirmed the bones, Australian outlaw Ned Kelly buried in cement

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RM Auctions realizes spectacular $36.4 million at Single-Day Arizona Biltmore Sale

Photographer and artist Jack Pierson opens exhibition at Regen Projects in Los Angeles

Carl Solway Gallery opens exhibitions by John Torreano, Hadley Holliday and Diane Landry

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January 20, 2013

Smithsonian celebrates the 2013 Presidential Inauguration with exhibits and programs

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Abbot Hall Art Gallery's first exhibition of 2013 showcases the dazzling images by Uwe Wittwer

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Joseph Beuys inspires slouchy John Galliano show

Michener Art Museum presents major Jerry Uelsmann retrospective

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January 19, 2013

Thirty large-scale works by the Chilean-born artist Matta on view at Museum Frieder Burda

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January 18, 2013

Kunsthaus Zürich presents newly restored version of Ferdinand Hodler's "The Truth"

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Newseum and Hirshhorn celebrate freedom with three-night projection of the art and words of Ai Weiwei

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