NAWA Celebrates Its 130th Annual Members’ Exhibition

Sandra Bertrand


Since the evening of January 31, 1889, when five innovative women artists met in the Washington Square studio of Grace Fitz-Randolph to discuss the formation of a women’s art organization, the nation’s women artists have been very busy.  It’s a good thing, because 130 years later, there’s still a lot of work to be done.  Promoting the public awareness of so many talented women is no easy undertaking but the National Association of Women Artists (NAWA) is more than up to the task. 

NAWA’s recent exhibition at One Art Space in the heart of New York City’s Tribeca district was a testament to their tenacity and truly something to celebrate. The diversity, originality and sheer excellence of artworks on display were a stunning achievement. 

Although a sizable number of awards are given out every year, it’s a daunting responsibility for the highly professional curators chosen for each annual.  For many of the artists who choose to exhibit, it’s enough reward to come from near and far to share the commonality and camaraderie of being creators together. 

Five Medals of Honor were presented in five categories, and this year those recipients are as follows:  For Painting, Leslie Tejada for Inscape #9: The Storm, is an auspicious work of detail and texture, suggesting in its minimalism the power of its subject.  For Works on Paper, Karla Leopold’s charcoal and acrylic Generational Women Bonding to Get Her to Move Forward gives the viewer a haunting view of the social power in numbers.  In the Mixed Media/Collage category, Rhonda Urdang’s Liberation of Harriet Tubman (1867) is an intricate and introspective treatment of her historical heroine.  For Photography/Printmaking/Digital entries, Jill Sneidman’s  photograph Vast Wasteland is a moving gray landscape; and for sculpture, Betty Usdan-Zwickler’s Cable News (a humorously wry title) is a delightful pastiche of a wall hanging, made up of mixed fiber, stainless steel and brass washers, hex nuts, and cable ties.

A considerable number of other memorial and institutional rewards were given out, too numerous to mention here.  A traditional approach for some, along with an excellence in execution can be its own award. 

Katherine Coakley’s Sailing the Back Shore provides an impressionistic technique, particularly rewarding for its off-center subject of three sailboats in the distance.  Nina Maguire’s Tribute to Gulf War Heroes gives us an evanescent but affecting image of an urban march, almost disappearing before our eyes.  Dawn Dahl’s Ariadne is an exquisite study of a female nude (a figure painting award winner) serenely quiet in the reserved pose.

Imagination in free play has its days with several entries. Michiko Smith’s painting, The Beings, gives us pure enjoyment in its colorful, agitated swirls.  Roberta Millman-Ide magnetizes the viewer with a surrealistic take of her fantastical bird, observing its own image in It’s What We See in the Mirror.  Sculpture unleashed is apparent in the vibrant and expressionistic porcelain Firebird from Natalia Koren Kropf, which received the Celia Kaufman Award for Innovative Ceramic Sculpture.  The Esther M. Bjeldanes Memorial Award was given to Val Brochard for Survivor I, a supremely elegant and lifting figure in steel. 

With so much talent in women’s art at work in the U.S, there should be little doubt that NAWA will continue to embrace its mission—making the major galleries, museums and collectors here and abroad aware of the great gift right under their nose.








Featured artists: Leslie Tejada, Karla Leopold, Rhonda Urdang, Jill Sneidman, Betty Usdan-Zwickler.


Author Bio:


Sandra Bertrand is Highbrow Magazine’s chief art critic and a member of NAWA.


For more information about the organization, visit: NAWA.


For Highbrow Magazine

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Photos courtesy of NAWA
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