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Sunday, May 27, 2018

'Women House' closes doors at the Women's Museum

Birgit Jürgenssen, Austrian (1949-2003), Hausfrau.Housewife, 1973, c. Estate of Birgit Jürgenssen, The SAMMLUNG VERBUND Collection, Vienna

Pictured here are a few of the provocative images of the works in Women House, ending its display Monday at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the only venue in the U.S. for the show, organized by La Monnaie de Paris.

Penny Slinger (b. 1947, London),  Ganesh House (Money House), 1977, courtesy of the artist/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Money which Ms. Slinger collected from around the world decorates this house. Ganesh is the Hindu god of fortune and enlightenment. The display illustrates the power of money to make or break you, if you let it.
Rachel Whiteread (b. 1963, London), Modern Chess Set, 2005, courtesy of the artist/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Rachel Whiteread (b. 1963, London), close-up of Modern Chess Set, 2005, courtesy of the artist/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Miriam Schapiro (1923, Toronto-2015, New York), Dollhouse, 1972, Smithsonian American Art Museum/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Dollhouse was an original piece in the 1972 exhibition, Womanhouse, by one of the founders of the landmark show, Miriam Schapiro. The house describes Ms. Schapiro's conflicts as a mother, a wife, and an artist  and contains items Ms. Schapiro collected from women throughout the U.S.
Miriam Schapiro (1923, Toronto-2015, New York), close-up of Dollhouse, 1972, Smithsonian American Art Museum/Photo by Patricia Leslie

In the window are men in coats, ties, and hats staring at the viewer as if to say:  What are you doing?
Miriam Schapiro (1923, Toronto-2015, New York), close-up of Dollhouse, 1972, Smithsonian American Art Museum/Photo by Patricia Leslie

You can see the spider, can't you?  And the unfriendly bear in the window?  Do you think they mean her house is dirty? Or that she needs to escape as quickly as possible to save her life?  The latter occurred to me after the "dirty house" thought, and it makes more sense.  Caution: Don't blow up the bear's face as I did or you may have bad dreams.  Or, maybe need to escape.  The contents of the chair are a conglomeration of ...?
Birgit Jürgenssen, Austrian (1949-2003), Bodenschrubben (Scrubbing the Floor), 1975, c. Estate of Birgit Jürgenssen, The SAMMLUNG VERBUND Collection, Vienna

Look at their facial expressions.  I see boredom, anger, complacency, and surprise.  What do you see?  How do you interpret this?
Birgit Jürgenssen, Austrian (1949-2003), Hausfrauenarbeit (Housewives Working), 1975, c. Estate of Birgit Jürgenssen, Courtesy of Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna

Above the woman irons a male figure right to the ironing board. Is she ironing that man right out of her life?
Birgit Jürgenssen, Austrian (1949-2003), Fensterputzen (Window Cleaning), 1975, c. Estate of Birgit Jürgenssen, Courtesy of Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna

Erasing haunting memories?
Birgit Jürgenssen, Austrian (1949-2003), Hausfrauen Kuchenschurze (Housewives--Kitchen Apron), 1975-2003, c. Estate of Birgit Jürgenssen, Courtesy of Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna

These are self portraits which Ms. Jürgenssen made to show how women focus on the needs of others.

Louise Bourgeois (1911, Paris -2010, New York), Femme Maison, 1994, Collection of Louise Bourgeois Trust/Photo by Patricia Leslie

A locked-up, faceless woman confined to the home. What is your interpretation?
In the center is Femme Maison, 2001, by Louise Bourgeois (1911, Paris-2010, New York), Collection of The Easton Foundation/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Nil Yalter (b. 1938, Cairo), Topak Ev, 1973, Vehbi Koc Foundation, Contemporary Art Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The curator for the exhibition is pictured above with a home for a future bride, made to resemble an Anatolian yurt which can be an enclosed world or a safe house.  Visitors are invited to step inside and experience tomb-like oppression.

"Provocative" is too conservative for some of the pieces which depict in video, sculpture, installation, photography, and painting, the states of contemporary, repressed women, their mothers and grandmothers. (I am not sure younger women can relate.) Overall, a sobering, depressing show which illustrates the sorry mental and emotional state of women for thousands of years. For younger women, a pictorial social history of the frustrations and pentup anger their foremothers tolerated and lived, an awakening and appreciation for the groundwork laid.


The exhibition is the second chapter of the 1972 show in Los Angeles, Womanhouse, by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro which represented women's relationship to the home and was the first "female-centered art installation to appear in the Western world," says NMWA.

Thirty-six artists from around the world have pieces in this show, some artists with several, like Birgit Jürgenssen of Vienna, Austria (1949-2003). Her renderings captured my imagination, and I photographed more by her than any other artist in the exhibition, without realizing they were all by the same person, however, the styles are similar.  The subjects and how she drew them are what attracted my attention for longer study than the other works in the show.

A catalogue is available. 

Monnaie de Paris, a government-owned institution,  was founded in 864 and produces France's euro coins.

What: Women House

When: Now through May 28, 2018. The National Museum for Women in the Arts is open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sundays, 12-5 p.m.
 

Where: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005
 

Admission: Free on the first Sunday each month. NMWA is a Blue Star Museum with free admission for all active-duty military members and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 2018. Otherwise, fees are $10, adults; $8, seniors and students; and free for members and children, 18 and under.

For more information: 202-783-5000
 

Metro station: Metro Center. Exit at 13th Street and walk two blocks north.

patricialesli@gmail.com

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