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December 14, 2000

Calvin Hosts Art on Feminism

Feminism is a loaded word. That's exactly the reason a pair of Calvin College art professors wanted to do a gallery exhibit addressing the theme of feminism.

"We thought that with a visual arts exhibition of photographic images and ceramic works we could get people to think about feminism in different ways," says Calvin professor Jennifer Steensma Hoag (pictured), one of the two curators (along with professor Anna Greidanus Probes).

The result is "Disclosures," an exhibition in which all of the artwork addresses the theme of feminism from the point of view of equality and justice regardless of race or gender. It will run from February 15 to March 16 in the Center Art Gallery at Calvin, intentionally spanning both Black History Month and Women's History Month.

The exhibit is being partially supported by a $3,000 mini-grant from the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids through the State of Michigan and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA).

"The purpose of this exhibition," says Steensma Hoag, "is to show a diversity of ideas about what feminism is and can be. We hope the exhibition of high quality, dynamic images from experienced artists will excite and engage the community, inspiring people to investigate their own notions of feminism."

Along with the exhibition plans also are underway for a variety of educational opportunities, including a February 22 artist lecture at Kendall College of Art & Design, a February 23 artist lecture at Calvin and a panel discussion with exhibiting artists at Calvin on February 23 as part of the Opening Reception.

The February 23 lecture promises to be particularly interesting. Photographer Carla Williams will speak on "The Black Female Body in Photography." Williams, who has a book forthcoming on the same topic, will discuss her recent research into photographic images of black women, using slides to illustrate her talk. Williams will look at a variety of ways in which black women have been depicted, including the "national Geographic," the "mammy" and the "noble savage" theme.

Steensma Hoag and Greidanus Probes researched and invited all of the artists. Steensma Hoag is a photographic artist, while Greidanus Probes is a ceramic artist; the exhibition feature artwork from both photographers and ceramists.

Says Greidanus Probes: "We selected nine artists to provide a variety of approaches to feminism in style and content. Each artist will be expected to exhibit a number of artworks. In this way, the audience can see how an artist consistently and deliberately explores an idea. The exhibition is not intended to be an exhaustive display of current feminist work, but rather to function as an introduction to feminism."

The four photographers participating in the exhibition will be Carla Williams, Chuck Samuels, Darlene Kaczmarczyk and Donna Pattee-Ballard.

Williams is a photographer from Santa Fe, N.M. whose artwork is heavily influenced by historical images of black women and how black women are represented within culture, while Samuels is a photographer from Montreal, Canada, who remakes historical art photographs made by well-known male photographers, substituting himself for the female model. Michigan's Kaczmarczyk, an assistant professor at Kendall, photographs dollhouses and figures with a pinhole camera, staging stories about gender differences. Pattee-Ballard, also a Michigan artist and an adjunct instructor at Kendall, in the past has addressed the negative ways in which women are viewed by society. Her new body of work for the exhibit will be more positive, highlighting the strength of women.

Ceramic artists include Janis Mars Wunderlich, Kathy King, Wendy Withrow, Barbara Sansing and Karen Orsillo.

Mars Wunderlich, of Columbus, Ohio, investigates the dualities of her roles as mother and artist, as well as wife and artist, in clay forms that are "arresting and humorous." King is a ceramist and professor at Georgia State University whose work addresses issues about gender and sexuality using the conventions of the comic book artist on surfaces of storage containers. Withrow is a West Michigan artist and a recent BFA graduate from Grand Valley State University who uses delicately formed unglazed porcelain. Sansing, from Amherst, New Hampshire, earned her BFA degree in ceramics 40 years after graduating from high school and represents a generation of women whose images and voices add depth to the ongoing development of feminist thought. Orsillo of Kittery Point, Maine will exhibit hand compressed, colored clay vessels that pulsate mesmerizing patterns referencing fabrics, traditionally made by women.

"There has not been an exhibition in West Michigan that addresses feminism for at least a decade," says Steensma Hoag. "This exhibit is long overdue."

The barrier-free Center Art Gallery, located on the lower level of the Spoelhof College Center, is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday. There is no admission charge.

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Contact Phil de Haan.