Gallery Reboot: Domestic Affairs

Beatrice Wood, Gold Chalice, 1985; Earthenware, 12 x 8 7/8 x 8 1/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts; Gift of John Deardourff and Elisabeth Griffith; © Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts/Happy Valley Foundation

Beatrice Wood, Gold Chalice, 1985; Earthenware, 12 x 8 7/8 x 8 1/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts; Gift of John Deardourff and Elisabeth Griffith; © Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts/Happy Valley Foundation

The museum’s newly reinstalled collection emphasizes connections between historical and contemporary art. Organized by the themes of the body, nature, domesticity, fabrication, and herstory, each gallery delves into a topic explored by women artists through time and around the world.

The domestic sphere, with its daily activities and feminine associations, serves as a rich source of inspiration for many women artists. They draw subjects and materials from the domestic realm in order to uphold—or upend—cultural traditions, gender roles, and boundaries between art and craft.

Beatrice Wood (1893–1998), known as the “Mama of Dada,” gained renown for her luminous luster-glaze ceramics. Wood discovered pottery classes in the 1930s, when she wanted a matching teapot for a set of teacups from the Netherlands. Her work in ceramics and in creating a signature luster glaze earned her acclaim. Her works were featured in many solo museum exhibitions and fetched high prices at auction. Wood crafted Gold Chalice (1985) when she was 92 years old.

Angela Strassheim, Untitled (Prayer), 2005; Chromogenic color print, 30 x 40 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Angela Strassheim

Angela Strassheim, Untitled (Prayer), 2005; Chromogenic color print, 30 x 40 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Angela Strassheim

American photographer Angela Strassheim (b. 1969) portrays suburban life in the American Midwest, while making references to religion and art history. Strassheim was raised in Iowa to a born-again Christian family, whose beliefs she denounced as a teenager. Her photographs’ Christian undertones are presented matter-of-factly, but there is often an unsettling quality to the work. Strassheim’s background in forensic photography also informs her calculated compositions. Her works display recognizable scenes from daily life, but suggest that there is more than meets the eye in family life.

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Apron, 1997; Cedar, stain, and graphite, 46 x 28 x 12 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the Tony Podesta Collection; © Ursula von Rydingsvard

Sculptures by Ursula von Rydingsvard (b. 1942) often take the form of domestic objects, such as Apron (1997). The artist’s medium of choice has been cedar for more than 35 years. Apron represents a traditionally feminine object wrought in a traditionally masculine medium. Like Strassheim, von Rydingsvard uses her family history as inspiration. The subject matter and medium are all carefully chosen. Household objects became dear to the artist when she moved around refugee camps with her family in Europe during and after World War II. In addition, aprons are a symbol of domesticity and comfort in many cultures. 

Women artists explore the theme of domestic affairs in various, unexpected ways. Visit the museum to see these works in the third floor galleries. Can’t visit in person? Browse #GalleryReboot on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more collection highlights.

—Meghan Masius was the spring 2017 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: August 7, 2015

“To me, they are art world royalty,” said a Whitney Museum curator about the famous feminist art collective.

The Guerrilla Girls posted a video of themselves celebrating their 30th year. Several members, including those with the pseudonyms “Frida Kahlo” and “Käthe Kollwitz,” talk to The New York Times about the continuing gender inequities in the art world.

The New York Times charts the Guerrilla Girls’ evolution. After three decades, their mission for equality is far from over. The group first collaborated in 1985 in response to a MoMA exhibition featuring 165 artists—less than ten percent of whom were women.

Joyce Kozloff recaps her meeting with Georgia O’Keeffe in the artist’s home in 1972.

Artnews visits sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard in her Brooklyn studio.

Hyperallergic finds only five public statues of historical women in New York City.

In honor of the Tate Modern retrospective of Agnes Martin, Artnews posts a throwback article about the artist’s minimalist grid paintings.

A new anti-street harassment mural is unveiled outside a Brooklyn grocery store.

The New Yorker article “A Ghost in the Family” shares how artists Clare Rojas and Barry McGee formed a family around McGee’s daughter by his first wife, artist Margaret Kilgallen, after Kilgallen’s tragic death.

Artist Maxine Helfman’s “Historical Correction” series re-creates old Flemish portraits by replacing the posed subjects with men and women of color.

A new study says women make up 60% of museum staffs, but minorities only account for 28% of positions.

“Word to The Woman”—Solange Knowles’s newest collaboration with Puma—features 14 innovative women from different backgrounds.

Artnet celebrates artist Hedda Sterne’s birthday with six of her most famous quotes.

The Independent analyzes the role and prevalence of female comics in Hollywood.

Here She Comes Now: Women in Music Who Have Changed Our Lives features essays by 22 writers, most of them women.

The Guardian reviews five female-friendly comic book film adaptations.

Covered in Ink surveys numerous ways women in [tattoo] culture are marginalized.”

The Guardian posts an obituary for film noir star Coleen Gray.

Shows We Want to See

Curators Day + Gluckman features 24 women artists that provide “a snapshot of the evolving conversations that continue to contribute to the mapping of a women’s place in British society.”

One of the newest contemporary art galleries in Los Angeles exhibits works by eight women artists.

Swedish artist Hannah Liden’s bagel sculptures are installed at three New York locations.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.