Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Seamstress, Women Painting Women: (R)evolution

Here's my second painting for the show, opening Friday, Sept 20, 2013 at Principle Gallery. Do women paint women differently than men do? All the WPW shows are giving us a chance to see these paintings in a collective way and giving us an opportunity to contemplate the question.
The Seamstress, 39x32, oil on canvas over panel.
I have painted a male model wearing this superhero shirt many times but never painted a woman wearing it and decided the Women Painting Women:(R)evolution exhibit was the perfect time to do it.

This is one of those paintings that for me began as a story inspired by an individual and personal story but has transcended into a universal theme.

The model is my daughter, Carly. Rather than wait for her time to come this young heroine is taking her destiny in hand. Who doesn't want to be a superhero? ‘Tis better to create her own reality, even though at times it may feel as though she’s holding it all together with safety pins. She can be in charge and look feminine and sexy as hell at the same time.

Click on Read More below to see details of the paintings and musings.

This is my grandmother's sewing machine. Her name was Willie Avenell. We often speculated that she was named Willie because her father was so hoping for a boy. She came of age during the depression in the rural south. She was one of 5 daughters born to a share cropper, who also cut railroad ties to feed his family. She was married at the age of 14. 

Carly is the only one in the family with her dimples. She also inherited Avanell's love of sewing. I originally designed this without the sewing machine but eventually added it. I didn't really think about it being a connection between my grandmother and my daughter in a conscious way. It just felt right. So often painting is that way, if I let my conscious mind do it's thing it will come up with some interesting connections.

During the course of the painting and after it was finished, I have been thinking of the disparity between my daughter's life and my grandmother's life. The differences were mostly attributable to the economics of their upbringing, but there is also the difference in a woman's place in the world, as understood in the 1930's, when my grandmother got married and now 75 years later.

The changes during the years between have given my daughter innumerable opportunities for education and life choices. I'm grateful to those men and women that have fought long and hard for change. Yet, did you know that the Equal Rights Amendment is still not part of the US constitution? Me either, till I was doing research for this post. 

This is me, with my daughter and daughter-in-law, at a Women's Rights Rally on the steps of the State Capital in Montgomery, AL last year. It was the first and only time we'd ever done anything like this and it was enlightening. 

Birmingham, AL skyline in a shout-out to the place I live.
So would a man have made this painting of his daughter? Maybe, how would it look different? How would it be the same?
From the press release for this show:

While the feminine muse has historically been captured by male artists—deeply informed by their own point of view—today, things are changing. For example, concepts of female roles come in vastly different forms. And while we can credit this to a changing cultural landscape, we cannot overlook that this development is also due in part to a change in authorship. Women are painting women. And for over forty years, they have helped redefine the sphere of feminine influence.
This shift and its architects already live in the art history books. History has shown us that paying attention to both sides of an idea is a way of getting a more honest view of it. The limitless nuances and variations, including the gender of the artist, are a way of more fully familiarizing ourselves and our culture with the truths and constraints associated with such substantial ideas as Myth, Narrative, Metaphor, Human Existence, and in turn, Women.
I love close-ups, they are such a record of an artist's journey through a piece. 

If you are in Alexandria, VA, stop by and see us! Many of the 32 artists in the show will be in town for the opening. 
American Art Collector, Sept issue, by Rochelle Belsito

American Art Collector in which The Seamstress appears, Sept 2013.

Fun links:

My other superhero paintingsother posts about the WPW:(R)evolution, other posts about the Women Painting Women. Catalog for the (R)evolution show at Principle Gallery.


  1. It seems that most Americans think Susan B. Anthony cast some illegal votes and marched a little and bam, the right to vote came to women. In truth, a group of brave women called the National Women's Party, DECADES after Susan B. Anthony, were wrongly imprisoned for "blocking traffic" to save Wilson the embarrassment of being picketed by women during wartime. They were treated terribly—fed worm-infested food, forced to sleep next to un-flushed toilets, given blankets that were only washed once a year, forced to work in stifling heat— and for her hunger strike, Alice Paul (their leader) was sleep-deprived, beaten, force-fed, and made out to be a psychopath. When word of what was happening leaked out of the prison, they were pardoned and Wilson supported the 19th amendment purely out of fear of what would happen if the foreign presses picked up the story. The right for women to vote was hard fought, and Mississippi didn't even ratify it until 1984.

    When I see that Alice Paul's dream is still incomplete so many decades after it was passed through congress, it makes me sick.

    1. Thanks for adding those details Amy. I'm so glad women of your generation are bringing it to the forefront of social media and encouraging dialog about it.

  2. Love your paintings, Terry, and hoping I might be able to participate in the Women Painting Women event when it happens again...I have been painting women my own way since art school days!
    Amy's details on the events leading up to women finally being given the vote is fascinating and disturbing. It seems everything truly worthwhile has to be won with blood, sweat, and tears, doesn't it?

  3. Thank you Karen. Next year there will be more WPW shows and some of them will be juried competitions as the Townsend Atelier, and the Richard J Demato one were this year. Yes, you are right, change is a turbulent and painful necessity. Happy painting.



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