LYNN — Annette Sykes, chairwoman of the Curatorial and Programing committees at LynnArts, and Haley Sullivan, gallery coordinator, posed a question: “What does women’s art look like today?”
A large number of North Shore-based artists responded, and the results can be seen at LynnArts main gallery at 25 Exchange St. This eclectic, excellent collection is on view through April 20.
“This might well be our first woman-only show,” said Sykes, a painter and teacher in Lynn Public Schools. “Over 50 years ago, Linda Nochlin, an American art historian, asked ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’ That question needed to be revived, to ‘What does women’s art look like today?’ We are holding this exhibition in honor of International Women’s Day and Nochlin, whose death (in October) was a major loss in the art world and, most specifically, the discipline of art history,” added Sykes.
Sykes said the community responded, as the opening reception was the best-attended gallery show ever. “Many, many women, and a few men, showed up. It was a celebration.
“There are a huge number of women artists on the North Shore today, more than men I would say. Women artists are left out of art history books. Nochlin wrote about that in 1971, and it’s still true today,” added Sykes.
The exhibition is filled with standouts. The talent is off the charts.
Marblehead’s Rickey Schwed’s trio of charcoal on paper portraits of three strong women — her great-grandmother Esther #1 (who was murdered at Auschwitz), grandmother Eva (escaped death by hiding in a Budapest factory) and mother Esther #2 — shows that a personal story can be both personal and social, given the rise in anti-Semitism these days.
Ulrike Welsch’s photographs, especially the stunning “Iceland Mosaic,” are wonderful. Debra Freeman Highberger, founder of the Acorn Gallery School of Art in Marblehead, has exhibited throughout the world; her “Flower Arrangement,” an oil on panel, bursts with color.
Diane McAllister’s three paper-clay sculptures are wonderfully bizarre. “Jack the Ripper Rabbit” is inspired lunacy, with the homicidal hare holding a bloody knife over a body; “Nathaniel Hare-Thomas” and “Fredrique” are equally strange and quirky.
Sykes, better known for her paintings of ocean scenes and Lynn sites, has contributed “Baby … No Baby,” an installation featuring a rocking chair and yards and yards of wool. “When I was younger I kept asking myself, ‘Do I want or not want to have a baby?’ I eventually decided I didn’t want to, but days and days spent knitting had a meditative effect. I decided I didn’t need to have a baby; I needed to make more art.”
VIA, who has a gallery on the third floor of the LynnArts building, uses color to great effect on “1st Date,” an acrylic featuring the seductive face of a young woman whose pouting lips glow in the dark.
Mary Kiene’s trio of storm photos of two daring older women venturing dangerously close to the waves on Lynn Shore Drive in Lynn are spectacular and playful at the same time.
Participating artists, all excellent, are J. Boisvert, Emmanuelle Le Gal, Sheila Golden, C. Burd, Grace Chang, J. Danielle Wehunt, Christine Ryan, Arlene Zubris, Freda Nemirovsky, Charlene McGlame, Luba Shapiro Grenader, Tricia Ocock, Olga Gernovski, Sheila Farren Billings, Emmy Kwong, Janice Koskey, Leslie Fahn Rosenberg, Chrissa Markos, Deborah Gray, AJ Rombach, Tamara Wolfson, Michelle Briggs, Trinidad Martinez, Abigail Nelson and Barbara Gherzi.
After enjoying this exhibition, check out “Frank Benosky: Fine Art Photographer” in the adjacent community gallery, featuring his photographs of the Venetian Carnevale.