When this critic hears the words “The Women,” Clare Booth Luce’s 1936 play of the same name comes immediately to mind. It’s a classic work, having survived in various revivals throughout the years on stage, film and TV. Superficially, the play pokes fun at affluent women and their relationships with their female friends. Yet there’s substance lurking behind Luce’s theme when some characters muster courage and experience a rite of passage.
Given this reference to The Women, viewers might look for a similar theme concerning females in the current exhibit at Bridgehampton’s Peter Marcelle Gallery. For example, how do the works reflect relationships between women? However, according to gallery owner Marcelle, that was not his intention. Instead, he wanted to pose the question: Do women artists interpret things differently than men? Such a consideration is certainly legitimate, noteworthy and deserves to be pursued.
Yet the exhibit does not address this question of interpretation. What it does confront is the idea that the women artists on display do creative, imaginative work, particularly regarding aesthetic technique. Marcelle is to be given credit for knowing good art when he sees it.
That said, what else does this exhibit possibly address, if anything? We’d say it’s defining the nature of women through metaphor. One outstanding example is Gina Gilmour’s “War Bride,” where a woman dressed in white and holding flowers, overlooks a group of miniature soldiers. (It recalls Monica Bank’s work featuring tiny figures lying in a heap shown at a Guild Hall Annual Members Exhibition.)
While Gilmour’s depiction of female innocence and comfort is apparent in her piece, Louise Peabody’s metaphor in “Nocturne” is more subtle. Here the sleeping female body is no doubt also innocent and comforting, but such traits exist in the folds of her bed sheets, not in her sleeping position. The blanket is so well articulated that it is transformed from an ordinary object to a piece of sculpture.
The same can be said about a charcoal and pastel drawing by Sue Ferguson Gussow, “Dance Gown 1V.” The dress hanging in mid-air resembles sculpture as well, the folds suggesting another metaphor: women’s sensuality.
Lori Hollander’s still life of toilet paper also gives focus to “folds,” although the artist probably had some other meaning in mind. The sculptural character of the objects is well defined, too, as is the delicate unraveling of the tissue.
Metaphors aside, the show also includes art that does not relate to a specific theme. Consider the striking composition of works by Michelle Murphy, which feature the Pollock Krasner House, Kryn Olson’s abstraction, “Stronghold,” figurative images by Susan Lazarus-Reimen, Linda Capello (“Tattoo Lady”) and Anna Jurinich ( “Saving Her Face”).
Truth be told, every work in the exhibit has something going for it, proving that each piece should be judged for itself and by itself. Perhaps we should forget the themes after all.
“The Women, Part I” will be on view until Jan. 20 at Bridgehampton’s Peter Marcelle Gallery ( 2411 Main Street). “The Women, Part II” will open on Feb. 9. Call 631-613-6170.