Through March, the Warwick Museum of Art (WMOA) is honoring female artists hailing from the Ocean State with its latest exhibit, Celebrating Rhode Island Women in the Arts.
The exhibit, which is in spirit of Women’s History Month, features 84 works by established and budding painters, photographers and sculptors.
On Thursday evening, a reception was held in their honor and nearly a dozen women earned awards. North Kingstown landscape painter Stephanie Marzella, a member of the West Bay Open Studios Tour, which is well known for featuring acclaimed artists, selected the finalists, as well as the winners, from more than 120 submissions.
When she juries a show, said Marzella, she always takes her time and looks at every entry from a distance, as well as close up.
“This show had a very diverse selection of entries which was very exciting to see,” she said. “I knew which pieces I thought were the strongest right away.”
Providence artist Eleanor Sabin, 27, won “Best in Show” and $300 for her wooden house sculpture, “We All Stand Together, Everyone Stands Alone.” Sabin, who teaches full-time at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and works part-time at Rag & Bone Bindery in Pawtucket, said she was thrilled of her win.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “This is such a wonderful show with so many wonderful artists. Women have been underrepresented in art, but I feel that that’s changing. Shows like this celebrate women’s creativity.”
Marzella agreed. She said it’s important for female artists to come together to celebrate, recognize and inspire one another.
“Women have a natural tendency to offer their support behind the scenes to everyone around them, but often go unsupported themselves,” said Marzella. “Exhibitions focusing solely on women give women an opportunity to be recognized for the unique perspective they bring to their art and step into the well deserved spotlight for their achievements.”
Moreover, Marzella said she chose Sabin’s piece as top prize because it instantly stood out from the rest. Via e-mail, she described it as “different, original, intriguing and whimsical.”
“[I] wished I could go inside it and hang out,” said Marzella.
Sabin’s parents, Nelly and Bob, attended the event. They said they are “very proud” of their daughter.
“She is so committed to her art and works so hard,” said Nelly.
Honorable mentions were awarded to three-dimensional artists such as ceramic and mixed media artist Allison Randall for “Pale Shell;” sculptor Saberah Malik for her creation, “What Will I Be;” Patricia Wager’s piece, “Autumn Leaves – Carved & Etched Gourd;” and ceramic sculptor Robin Kolb’s craft, “Homemaker with Yellow Pitcher.”
Kolb, who lives in Pawtucket, said she was thrilled not only to be acknowledged but also to be a participant.
“It’s very important to have a voice and be heard,” she said. Further, she said she loves working with clay.
“It’s really direct,” said Kolb. “It does amazing things. It tells you what it wants to do and where it wants to go.”
Two-dimensional honorable mention winners were photographers Maria Scaglione for “Denise” and Jo Ellen McLindon for “Here’s Looking at You.” Also, painters Patricia Marcaccio and Lorena Pugh won for their pieces, “Snowy River,” and “Pear #33,” titled respectively.
Jillian Barber of Jamestown, who studied at RISD in the 1960s, took home a $100 prize for her clay mask, “Emily in Ivory.” Barber said she is thankful to the WMOA and loved the way the gallery was set up.
“Each of the panels are beautiful,” she said. “You could tell they gave it a lot of thought.”
Karen Baker, her childhood friend, was at the show. Baker praised Barber’s work.
“She has incredible talent,” said Baker. “I’ve been watching her draw since second grade.”
Before and after the award presentations, which were conducted by WMOA Program Director Patty Martucci, Board President Michelle Place Gleason and Assistant Program Director Lisa Kretchman, many artists praised the level of talent in the gallery. Artists Deborah Carlson of Pawtucket, Heather Adels of Providence and Cynthia Whalen-Nelson of Narragansett were among them.
“This is such a fantastic show,” said Carlson. “All the work is really strong. I’ve been to a lot of shows here and I’ve never seen the room so full and so vibrant.”
“It’s one of the best shows I’ve seen,” she said, while Whalen-Nelson said celebrating female artists is a “really nice idea.”
As part of the exhibition, which was made possible by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, the WMOA will be hosting events for artists each Thursday for the rest of the month.
This Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m., the museum will hold a panel discussion centered on the theme, “The State of Women in the Arts in Rhode Island.” Speakers include winners Kolb and Malik, as well as Carlson, plus Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson.
For WMOA Board Member Deb Mercer, it’s an opportunity for women artists to come together and talk about what some of the issues are.
“We are also engaging the audience because they can ask questions and get answers,” she said.
The following week, March 22, they will have various showcases from 7 to 9 p.m. Topics include how to effectively market art with owner of Providence Picture Framing, Geoff Gaunt; how to write an artist biography with pyrographic illustrator Cate McCauley; build a user-friendly website with my02818.com creator Chuck Newton; tips on using social media by “The Economic Gardener,” Tuni Renaud Scharter; and selling art online with a local photographer, who is yet to be named.
“Artists are so busy creating they don’t really have time to market themselves,” said Mercer.
Also, there are “Drop-By-And-Try-Art” workshops on March 29 for those who wish to explore their creative sides. Workshops will focus on pastels, watercolors, sculpting, drawing, and mixed media.
“We’re hoping some of those classes will translate into adult classes so we can utilize our new space downstairs,” said Martucci.
In November, the WMOA was awarded a $55,245 grant from the Champlin Foundations and the museum underwent renovations to improve the facility. They designed a new art classroom, kitchen and storage space, with the main goal of enhancing educational programs and improving their rental space.