Central to Their Lives: Southern Women Artists in the Johnson Collection
Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson
Oct 6, 2018 – Jan 20, 2019
“Art is central to my life. Not being able to able to make or see art would be a major deprivation.” Nell Blaine’s assertion about the centrality—the essentiality—of art to her life has a particular resonance. The Virginia painter’s creative path began early and over the course of her life, she overcame significant barriers in her quest to make and see art, including serious vision problems, polio, and paralysis. And then, there was her gender. In 1957, Blaine was hailed by Life magazine as someone to watch, profiled along with four other emerging painters whom the journalist praised “not as notable women artists but as notable artists who happen to be women.”
Spanning the decades between the late 1890s and early 1960s, this exhibition examines the particularly complex challenges Southern women artists confronted in a traditionally conservative region during a period in which women’s social, cultural, and political roles were being redefined and reinterpreted. How did the variables of historical gender norms, educational barriers, race, regionalism, sisterhood, suffrage, and modernism mitigate and motivate women seeking expression on canvas or in clay? Whether in personal or professional arenas? Working from studio space in spare rooms at home or on the world stage, the artists considered made remarkable contributions by fostering future generations of artists through instruction, incorporating new aesthetics into the fine arts, and challenging the status quo.
After opening at the Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, in June 2018, the exhibition is now on view at the Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, from October 6, 2018 through January 20, 2019. Future venues include the Huntington Museum of Art, West Virginia, March 2–June 30, 2019; the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee, July 28–October 13, 2019; the Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina, January 17–May 3, 2020; the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida, June 23–November 29, 2020; and the Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia, January 30–June 13, 2021.