Celebrating the acquisition of a new collection, the Rowan University Art Gallery
presents Groundbreaking: The Women of the Sylvia Sleigh Collection and selections from the Sister Chapel installation - including Bella Abzug by Alice Neel - are on view through October 1, 2011.
The collection, a group of nearly 100 works by more than 50 women artists, was amassed by Sylvia Sleigh (1916-2010), a pioneering feminist and well-known painter of portraits and male nudes. Shortly before her death last year, Sleigh offered to donate her entire collection to the Rowan University Art Gallery.
Although many artists own works by their peers, Sylvia Sleigh was quite unusual in her extensive acquisition of art by other women, notes Dr. Andrew Hottle, professor of Art History in Rowans Department of Art, who was instrumental in bringing the collection to the university. Her own paintings are generally categorized as realism, yet she collected representational, abstract and nonobjective works by other women.
By purchase and exchange, Sleigh accumulated the paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs. Her interest in the art of accomplished women, regardless of commercial success or critical acclaim, allowed her to assemble a significant and varied group of works. She hoped to encourage the artists and recognize their achievements, which led her to exhibit selections from her collection at SoHo 20 Gallery in 1999.
The collection has substantial breadth and depth, which makes it an excellent educational resource for students and an engaging experience for the public, Hottle adds. It is also an important record of our recent past, when women had to fight often without the recognition they deserved to overcome the restrictions of a male-dominated art world.
The artists in the collection include many of international acclaim and include: Cecile Abish, Anne Abrons, Dotty Attie, Helène Aylon, Roseanne Backstedt, Emily Barnett, Linda Bastian, Judith Bernstein, Blythe Bohnen, Louise Bourgeois, Diane Burko, Ann Chernow, Barbara Coleman, Rosalyn Drexler, Martha Edelheit, Audrey Flack, Ruth Ann Fredenthal, Joan Glueckman, Shirley Gorelick, Nancy Grossman, Jane Henry, Phyllis Janto, Lila Katzen, Irene Krugman, Diana Kurz, Bibi Lenček, Marian Lerner Levine, Jill Mackie, Cynthia Mailman, Rosemary Mayer, Katherine Miller, Sabra Moore, Vernita Nemec, Betty Parsons, Stephanie Rauschenbusch, Ce Roser, Phyllis Rosser, Lucy Sallick, Rhea Sanders, Lisa Schwartzberg, Rosalind Shaffer, Susan Sills, Eileen Spikol, Michelle Stuart, Paula Tavins, Selina Trieff, Audrey Ushenko, Pegeen Vail, Freda Wadsworth, Marjorie Wadsworth, Marie Warsh, Louise Weinberg, Jacqueline Wray, Sharon Wybrants
The Sister Chapel installation, is a series of nine-foot canvases including Alice Neels Bella Abzug (1976) and Sleighs Lilith (1976) which were part of a historic 1978 collaborative installation (The Sister Chapel) by 13 women artists. Conceived by Ilise Greenstein as a secular, nonhierarchical circle of monumental paintings that celebrate heroic women, the contributors were Edelheit, Gorelick, Kurz, Mailman and Wybrants, all of whom are represented in the Sleigh collection, as well. Lilith was donated to the gallery by Sleighs estate and Neels Bella Abzug was recently gifted by an anonymous donor.