For nearly twenty years, Woman Made Gallery has ceaselessly promoted and supported the artwork of women in Chicago. A not-for-profit organization sustained largely by volunteerism, the gallery has nonetheless managed to host regular educational programs, workshops, and exhibitions in its airy, two-story space, and last week it welcomed the public to its 14th International Open.
The opening reception, which took place on Friday, March 4th, was a resounding success. Crowds of art enthusiasts braved wind and freezing rain to admire the works of 37 artists from the U.S. and abroad. Many of the artists were present during the opening, and guests were encouraged to approach them with questions about their work.
Chicago based artist Joanna Moscoco —decked out in a strange ensemble made from second-hand Mary Kay bags—drew a particularly impressive flock of gawkers. Moscoco’s face was almost entirely obscured by her creation, and her arms were completely encased in fabric. According to Moscoco, her piece, Mary Kay Protection Device, makes a cynical jab at the way in which humans often transform objects into non-natural adaptations. “The piece reminds the viewer of the necessity to feel safe,” Moscoco explained. “Mary Kay Protection Device can be used as a normal Mary Kay bag or as a wearable piece that covers the arms, nose, mouth and head.”
Several other Chicago artists were represented at the Open, including Sarah Baranski, Candace Hunter, Tatjana Jovancevic, Kaitlin Kostus, Johana Moscoso, Catherine Schwalbe-Bouzide, Allison Svoboda, Rendella Taylor, and Rosemary Warner. These artists were happy to see so many familiar faces at the Open, and they enjoyed meeting and mingling with artists from further afield.
The works of these Chicago artists seemed oddly at home beside the works of artists from other cities, states, and even countries. In one room, Candace Hunter’s mixed media piece, Yearning, balanced Indian artist Rashmi Trivedi’s Rhythms of Life III, and Catherine Schwalbe-Bouzide’s By Hand looked particularly striking when seen beside Canadian artist Pat Dumas-Hudecki’s Lost in Transition-City.In another room, black and white photographs hung next to bright, acrylic paintings while a display of needlework was placed above a video installation, and in both cases, this clash of styles was refreshing, rather than jarring.
The success of the Open was thanks, in large part, to the efforts of curator Laura Anderson Barbata. Anderson Barbata skillfully selected each of the works on display—though she did admit that the task was initially a bit daunting. “The challenge was far greater than I had expected,” she noted. “The sheer number of submissions was monumental.”
“As I reviewed the submissions, every one of them spoke with sincerity and courage. I was concerned over the inevitable reality that through my selection I would leave out many valuable perspectives. I wanted to include them all in the selection! Nonetheless, given that this was not an option, I carefully and thoughtfully reviewed each work and made every effort to assemble an exhibition that captures the rich diversity of expressions and voices of women artists today.”
Inevitably, the selected works were as varied as the lives of the artists who created them, but it was this difference of perspective that infused the exhibit with a certain dynamism and a surprisingly cohesive energy. Ultimately, the Open represented a range of experiences and perspectives diverse enough to allude to the full spectrum of human experience—no easy task for a gallery under any circumstances.
Woman Made Gallery is located at 685 N Milwaukee Avenue, in Chicago’s River West neighborhood. Its 14th International Open will be on display until April 28th.