Norton Museum of Art

West Palm Beach, Florida



Exhibition Focuses on 20th Century America Women Artists


The strong presence of women in 20th century American art is the focus of the exhibition "Arbus to Zynsky," on display at the Norton Museum of Art from June 7 to August 24, 1997. Utilizing the Norton Museum's permanent collection, this exhibition examines the works of such early 20th century female artists as Mary Cassatt, Helen Lundeberg, Georgia O'Keeffe and Jane Peterson, as well as the later works of Joan Brown, Diane Arbus, Alison Saar and Toots Zynsky. Working in a variety of media, each of the artists in "Arbus to Zynsky" shows an unwavering commitment to their craft, as well as to their individual artistic visions.

(above: Carrie Mae Weems, Sea Island Series, 1992)


Female artists throughout the centuries have been challenged to contend with different sets of expectations and obstacles than their male counterparts. However, they have also had the great advantage of seeing and experiencing the world as women, and have often put those visions to work in ways that only women can. In the range of works represented in "Arbus to Zynsky," some artists employ their creative powers to counter the biases of conventional thought, while others draw great strength and inspiration from the deep roots of strong traditions. In their choice of subject matter and technique, many of these artists encourage us to focus attention on their identities as women.

(above: Georgia O'Keeffe, Pelvis with Moon, 1943)


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) has been recognized as an early and influential leader of American modernism. Pelvis with Moon, 1943, a bleached-white bone floating in deep space assumes a mystical quality reflective of the Southwestern landscape and Native American traditions that so inspired O'Keeffe. Helen Lundeberg (1908- ) was a founder of Post-Surrealism, one of the first modernism movements in American art to originate on the West Coast. In Self-Portrait in a Tree, 1950, we see her delicate coupling of the subjective content of Surrealism with a more classical interest in structure and form. Viola Frey's (1933- ) stocky, massive sculpture places the flatness and color of Abstract Expressionism on three-dimensional forms which tower over the viewer. Susan Hauptman (1947- ) applies a technical mastery to her Self Portrait, 1990, a mastery which does not distract the viewer from the very personal feelings of vulnerability and self-possession with which the artist portrays herself. The works of Alison Saar (1956- ) are often created from salvaged materials, a medium crucial to her work since Saar believes materials retain an accumulated, essential energy which she must tap into in order to create art with power and presence. An artist of African, Native-American and European descent, Saar applies the religious forms of the African Diaspora to Rio Dulce, a piece which celebrates the natural forces of the land, and the crucial role those forces play in the African-American experience of the deep South.

(above: Susan Hauptman, Self-Portrait, 1990)

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1997 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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