On Friday, April 21, the Fairfield University Art Museum opened its newest exhibit, entitled “In Their Element(s): Women Artists Across Media.” This exhibit showcases nearly 50 pieces from various contemporary female artists, emphasizing the untraditional and modern techniques used to create their art. The artwork displays female power, resilience and beauty, while also exposing harsh realities that come along with being a woman.
While the pieces in the exhibition are undeniably powerful and compelling, I think that the most amazing thing was that it was completely curated by an undergraduate student, Phoebe Charpentier ‘23. This marks the first time in history that an undergraduate student fully developed an exhibition for the Fairfield University Art Museum. I was extremely impressed with Charpentier’s dedication to this exhibit, and her passion for it definitely shines through the pieces on display.
I got the chance to see this exhibit on opening day and I was quite moved by each of the pieces. Seeing the different approaches and techniques that each artist used to depict womanhood was very powerful, and I felt very drawn in by each piece on display.
Upon first walking into the museum, the piece that caught my attention immediately was a painting entitled “Room on East 89th Street” by Ethel Fisher. The bright colors in this painting seemed to jump off the wall and grab my attention, so I instantly walked over to take a closer look. This piece is an oil painting on linen, and is somewhat abstract. It depicts a woman laying in bed, with random items strewn across the messy room. There are colorful posters on the wall and the blue sky is peeking out from the window curtain. The bright colors and messy room gave me a sense of chaos, yet the woman comfortably sprawled out on her bed in the middle of the painting gives a feeling of comfort. I really liked this painting because these contrasting feelings of comfort and chaos seem to coincide, and makes it appear as though the woman is powerfully claiming the chaos in her life.
Another piece that I was especially intrigued by was “Fantastic Attractions” by Scribner Ames. This piece is a collage on paper, and depicts a photo of a naked woman posing powerfully in a chair with quotes from newspapers and books collaged around her. This piece struck me as one of the most powerful in the collection, as the quotes demonstrated traditional and sexist views towards women. The title of the piece, “Fantastic Attractions,” is also collaged above the woman, implying that she is an attraction to be looked at. However, the powerful body language of the woman in the photo seems to claim her natural beauty in a fierce way. In this way, rather than viewing her body objectively, she proudly shows the power and natural beauty of the female body which I thought was very moving.
Among the many beautiful works of art, there are also pieces that are not so enjoyable to look at. There is a section of the exhibit dedicated to domestic violence and includes many troubling images. Although these photos were very unsettling to view, I think that displaying such an important issue as domestic violence on the art gallery wall forces viewers to acknowledge this issue rather than turn a blind eye. It brings awareness to domestic violence while also breaking down the stigma of discussing it.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with the variety of artwork on display and all of the different techniques that were used. This exhibition does a phenomenal job of showcasing woman artists and promoting an empowered female view. This exhibit will be on campus in the Bellarmine Hall art gallery from April 21, 2023, to July 25, 2023, so definitely make sure to stop by before the semester comes to an end!