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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 6:29 pm | Fair 55º


Public Invited to Celebrate Female Modernist Artists at Sullivan Goss

For 1st Thursday in May, Sullivan Goss will present an exhibition that focuses on the art of strong women modernists active between 1915 and today.

The exhibit will have a particular focus on Santa Barbara modernists like Lyla Harcoff (1883-1956) and Grace Vollmer (1884-1977), but it will also feature a fine selection of works by East Coast modernist Betty Lane (1907-1996). The gallery will round out the selection with the works of other important California modernists and a few contemporary artists whose works share aspects of the iconoclastic spirit of their predecessors.

At the beginning of the modernist movement, it was unseemly for women to travel alone, and perhaps even more difficult for them to get professional training, because making art could get in the way of being a wife or a mother. Selling art meant that making it became a job (when it was still a radical idea for women to earn an income. Modern art — whether Post-Impressionist or totally abstract — was in itself radical.

So what did these women do? They found ways to get good training. They traveled to Europe, to Mexico and elsewhere; Dorr Bothwell spent a year in Samoa, relocated throughout Europe and finally settled in San Diego. Bothwell and others worked to establish an identity beyond the titles “wife” or “mother,” even though many of the artists in this exhibition were both. They made work that pushed the limits of good taste. They chose to pursue the modern, the new, the avant garde. The nerve!

"The Declarations of Independents" celebrates that nerve.

An exhibition curated around gender is necessarily contentious. Is there any point to an exhibition that focuses on women artists? Doesn't such an exercise perpetuate a difference that feminism seeks to erase? That is a good question, and one without an easy answer. Sullivan Goss has never particularly focused on gender diversity, and yet finds that nine out of fourteen of its contemporary artists are women, but only six out of its eighteen estates are women. So, this exhibition focuses on a historical period in which women braved an indifferent and/or hostile art world in increasing numbers. It recognizes their talent, their courage, and the likely role these Independents played in creating a world where a gallery like Sullivan Goss can "accidentally" claim such a strong representation of art by women today.

Artists in the exhibition will include Mabel Alvarez, Dorr Bothwell, Phoebe Brunner, Marge Dunlap, Lyla Harcoff, Sohpie Harpe, Nell Brooker Mayhew, Angela Perko, Edna Reindel, Elise Seeds, Henrietta Shore, Nicole Strasburg, Dorothy Winslade, Beatrice Wood, Grace Vollmer and Betty Lane.

Sullivan Goss is located at 7 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara and is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week.

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