This week I had the opportunity to visit the excellent exhibition "Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today" at the Nation Museum of Women in the Arts, which closes today. Organized and originally installed at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, the exhibition was curated by Jennifer Scanlan and Ezra Shales.
The museum described the exhibition as presenting "dynamic women designers and artists from the mid-20th century and today making groundbreaking commercial and industrial designs, maintaining craft traditions, and incorporating new aesthetics into fine art.
In the 1950s and ’60s, an era when painting, sculpture, and architecture were dominated by men, women had considerable impact in alternative materials such as textiles, ceramics, and metals. Pioneers in these fields—including Ruth Asawa, Edith Heath, Sheila Hicks, Karen Karnes, Dorothy Liebes, Alice Kagawa Parrott, Lenore Tawney, and Eva Zeisel—had tremendous influence as designers, artists, and teachers.
Their artistic practices varied widely—some exhibited in New York City galleries, others took part in the regional handicraft scene in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and still others collaborated with corporations such as General Motors. The exhibition also illustrates parallels between women creating work in the United States and Scandinavia, where craft often served as a pathway to Modernist innovation.
Guest curators Jennifer Scanlan and Ezra Shales also consider contemporary female artists and designers whose work builds upon that of their midcentury counterparts. Polly Apfelbaum and Michelle Grabner are represented by installations centered on woven and knitted patterns, while Anne Wilson’s work focuses on the processes of textile manufacture. Magdalene Odundo and Christine Nofchissey McHorse adapt traditional techniques and absorb influences from global sources. Furniture and fixture designers Vivian Beer, Front Design, and Hella Jongerius have also expanded the repertoire of making, while Gabriel A. Maher looks at the ways gender is constructed by the clothes we wear." The official online page for the exhibition can be viewed at http://nmwa.org/exhibitions/pathmakers
The topic of female designers has been an academic interest of mine for many years, and walking through the gallery I was delighted to find many names previously unknown to me side by side with the well known designers such as Eva Zeisel. The comprehensiveness of the the curatorial selections was impressive and provided me with a long list of names to look up and learn more about. I started writing down all the names as I walked through the gallery and my list is below in the event it will be helpful for others to gain exposure to designers previously unknown to them. My list may be missing a few names but I tried to capture everything:
Alice Kagawa Parrott
Vivianna Torun Bulow-Hube
Margaret de Patta
merry renk (the lack of capitalization is on purpose)
Olga de Amaral
Christine Nofchissey McHorse
Gabriel A. Maher
Marie Zier Chino
Mary Walker Phillips
Vuokko Eskolin Nurmesniemi