NAWA Presents TRANSPARENCY Exhibit at Arts Club of Washington

Sandra Bertrand


From February 1st to the 23rd, two prestigious arts organizations have joined forces to present TRANSPARENCY, an exhibition to promote the works of professional women artists nationwide.  For a century, the Arts Club of Washington has promoted and celebrated the visual, performing, and literary arts in the nation’s capital. What better location could there be for the National Association of Women Artists, celebrating their 130th Anniversary supporting public awareness of visual art by American women, than in the club’s historic I Street mansion? 


Formerly the home of President James Monroe, it provides a perfect opportunity to celebrate NAWA’s founding in 1889.  Since that date, NAWA’s earliest exhibitions have included such early luminaries as Mary Cassatt and Suzanne Valadon, and a rollcall that has boasted the likes of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Louise Nevelson, Alice Neel and Faith Ringgold, among others.


TRANSPARENCY is a challenging theme—it can suggest a translucence or clarity of light shining through a subject to make it more visible.  But it can also provide the artist a rare opportunity of exploring the social or psychological implications as well, such as that which is free of pretense.  Whether handled in a realistic or more abstract style, the 56 artists on display provide a wealth of interpretations.


Jill Baratta’s twin collages, Injustice and Justice, provide the viewer with a splintered image of our nation’s home and another with a shaft of light breaking through the clouds and alighting on the same structure to signify the transparency of truth.  A simple message but a timely one.  Katherine Coakley’s swirl of colors against a black background give us a supernova; destruction and creation in one.  The power of abstraction writ bold is well represented—both in Mimi Herrera-Pease’s Dazzle and Loretta Kaufman’s arresting painting of triangular fragments, the latter creating a geometric puzzle of intricate beauty.  Portraiture and its potential to move us by its everlasting honesty is apparent in Alexandra Mears’ Lady with Fan. The radiance of her Elizabethan costume and the delicacy of the model’s pose with fan manages to make the image both evanescent and enigmatic.


Photography’s ability to both manipulate and elucidate reality is well-served here.  Two photographers have given nature its rightful due.  Susan Phillips’ Ice Art plays with an overlay of ice crystals on a bed of leaves and forces us to examine her subject in extreme closeup.  Carolyn Rogers’ Dreamscape plays with a scene of water, air and a weeping willow in shades of grey that needs no explanation to appreciate its well-defined beauty.


The well-attended reception on the evening of February 1st gave Washington and New York visitors alike a rare opportunity to see the versatility and excellence of women’s artworks in all their transparency.









Artworks: 1. Jill Baratta; 2. Mimi Herrera-Pease; 3. Katherine Coakley; 4. Loretta Kaufman; 5. Alexandra Mears; 6.Susan Phillips; 7. Carolyn Rogers.


 Author Bio:

Sandra Bertrand is Highbrow Magazine’s chief art critic.


For Highbrow Magazine

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Courtesy of NAWA
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