September 23rd, 2020
By Veronica Vale
As a woman-owned and operated business, we at Gallery MAR are especially appreciative of art that celebrates and honors women.
Last month, we were excited to bring artist Jane Maxwell to the Gallery MAR team. Jane Maxwell’s work focuses on women, body image, and the feminine ideal, which has inspired us to think about the strong women in our own lives from our Gallery MAR staff to our artists to our own friends and family. Buzzing with this inspiration, we wanted to delve a little deeper into the feminist work of our Gallery MAR artists.
Here are just a few of our talented artists whose work uplifts and champions women:
Our original inspiration for this post, Jane Maxwell’s work deconstructs the feminine ideal through her mixed media collage work.
Growing up around her grandfather’s garment factory in South Boston, Maxwell has been surrounded by the fashion world her entire life. As she grew older, she began taking a more critical look at the industry and its problematic portrayal of women.
Her complicated relationship with the fashion industry has fueled her body of work. Through her work, she demonstrates a love for fashion and the confidence and power it can instill in women through bold silhouette figures, while simultaneously dismantling the fashion industry’s fetishization of the perfect woman through the use of collaged vintage ads.
Maxwell writes, “The media is inundated with diet advertising and images of an idealized ‘thin’ woman. As a result, there is an epidemic of women unhappy with their bodies. In my work over the years, I have taken the iconic female form — women on the fashion runway, women posing for pictures, pin-up girls – and deconstructed the form to comment on this issue. I’ve taken away the sexy skivvies and skin tight dresses and replaced them with layers of vintage produce labels, old Hollywood posters and related materials.”
Western mixed media artist Maura Allen also uses collaged vintage materials to explore feminism in the West. Allen contextualizes advertising campaigns from the 1950’s by combining them with modern day cowgirl themes.
Her recent work “I Dream I Was” references an old Made in Form bra campaign of the same name. The work’s companion piece, “That True West Fit” makes a compelling commentary on the bravado way that men were (and often are) advertised to in comparison.
“I’m interested in how girls are raised differently than boys,” Allen explains, “In parts of western life, like on ranches, for instance, there’s actually greater equality between the way the boys and girls are raised. Young girls work side by side with their mother, father, uncle, doing the work. They’re out there feeding the horses regardless of gender. In that way, stewardship is equal opportunity work. Ranch work can be equal in that it’s collective.”
While these recent works focus more specifically on feminism in the West, Allen’s entire portfolio embodies the strength, courage, boldness, and resilience of women in the West. As the title of the most recent museum exhibition featuring Maura Allen’s work fittingly reminds us, “Cowgirl Up!”
While Gustlin prefers her work to remain somewhat ambiguous in both form and meaning to allow room for viewer interpretation, her dancing abstract figures, whether intentional or not, champion the strength and grace of the female form.
The captivating poses of these moody figures are constructed from the artist’s own emotions, making sense of the evocative nature of the work. Gustlin says, “When I am painting, I paint with emotion, allowing my own personal experiences to flow through the paintbrush and onto the canvas.”
In Gustlin’s artist statement, she reveals how “the body poses are meant to be thought-provoking and inspirational, creating different viewer experiences.”
How do you interpret the powerful, yet elegant figures in Gustlin’s work?
Recently, mixed media artist Matt Flint has started to introduce portraiture back to his work. These powerful portraits gaze arrestingly at the viewer through washes of dynamic color and rich texture. Matt Flint observes that “the figures tend to be females because of the historical and mythological significance of the female form – Ideas of life giver, nurturer and Mother Earth.”
As a husband and father of daughters, Flint also cites his “own personal relationship with strong women” as a significant source of inspiration for his work.
Feminist art is not limited to figurative or portrait work. Abstract artist Alison Rash pays tribute to her fellow cancer survivors’ strength and resiliency through her series “Beauty from Ashes.” As a stage IV cancer fighter, this portrayal of the resiliency of mind and spirit is personal for Rash.
Despite now facing her fourth round of chemotherapy for breast cancer — and after a fight, insurance is not going to cover this round — Alison Rash has spent the last three months making paintings to help others: from non-profits supporting kids’ services in Nebraska (where she lives) to LA-based Black Lives Matter groups. She has donated thousands of dollars to help others. We’re proud to have such an altruistic artist on our Gallery MAR team.
Thank you to our artists for creating beautiful work that champions women and thank you to our Gallery MAR friends and collectors for supporting them and making it all possible.