BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
As a coda to Women’s History Month, a Long Island City art gallery curated a varied exhibit honoring women and meditating on women’s issues.
The Conception Gallery in Long Island City’s Falchi Building held its opening night for the exhibit, called “Woman Up,” last Friday. Curated by Rachel Wilkins-Blum and Mike Wolf, “Woman Up” displayed dozens of paintings, sculptures and multi-media pieces, while opening night featured performances including music from the all-female Afro-Brazilian drum group, BatalaNYC.
“When we thought about Women’s History Month, there were so many ways we could take it. We didn’t want to just necessarily put ourselves in a box,” Wilkins-Blum said, adding that curators asked for work about iconic women, meaningful relationships with women or women that have had an impact on artists’ personal lives.
“So we really got a whole host of different subjects, which is really interesting,” she added.
The pieces span abstract paintings to portraits to sculpture, and themes run the gamut from romantic to political. While most pieces were displayed salon-style across the gallery’s wide walls, two larger works balanced the room: Gino Miles’s tribute to the women codebreakers of WWII – a steel sculpture representing morse code – and to two large pieces inspired by the hundreds of school girls captured by Boko Haram in Nigeria last year, by artist Mary Mihelic.
Artist Senia Crespo, who goes by Crespo professionally, said she appreciated the opportunity to participate in such a diverse exhibit.
“I was really blown away by the interpretation of the theme by other artists,” she said.
For Wilkins-Blum, the exhibit also offered an opportunity to address the particular challenges faced by women in the arts, including lower pay and weaker representation in galleries and museums. Even as a curator, she noted, she receives more submissions of work from men than from women.
According to Wilkins-Blum, 53 of the exhibit’s 64 artists were women.
“As a female business owner in the arts and as an artist myself, of course there were struggles,” Wilkins-Blum said. “It’s something that I’m always conscience of. I think that we have to make noise. We have to keep pushing the envelope. We have to keep demanding that our work is treated equally.”
For her part, Crespo called the struggles faced by female artists “Herculean,” and said they led directly to her use of a pen-name.
“I didn’t even want to put the first name,” she explained. “I wanted to just give myself a chance in submitting art.”
The artist added that she believes “Woman Up” had a positive impact on these and other women’s issues.
“There were many pieces that were really imaginative in concept, that can also take someone outside of the box,” she said. “I think [the audience] is going to come away with different ways of seeing women.”
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.