Connecticut Post

WHY NOT?! New HCC exhibit focuses on asking tough questions

By PHYLLIS A. S. BOROS
Staff writer

The most provocative and meaningful art forms often are those that ask big, tough questions — questions about the human condition and the artist’s role in society.

That’s the premise of “ Why Not?!” — a juried exhibition that is on view at the Burt Chernow Galleries at the Housatonic Museum of Art in Bridgeport’s Housatonic Community College.

Sponsored by the Connecticut Chapter of the Women’s Caucus for Art and the museum, the exhibit features 94 works from 88 female artists from New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

“Art is at its best when it asks questions — open ended ones that allow a multitude of answers from a global audience,” writes art consultant Helen Klisser During of Weston, the show’s sole juror, in the exhibit’s brochure.

During said she chose the participants from a pool of more than 300 entrants based on how well the works reflected the show’s theme. “ For this show, I’ve chosen works that pose open- ended thoughts, suggest unorthodox juxtapositions, formulate new visual conversations or simply create works that I am drawn to esthetically,” she added.

Connecticut artist Barbara Vogel, a WCA member and one of the exhibit’s coordinators, is responsible for the theme.

Vogel said the title suggests breaking through boundaries, freedom and defiance of the status quo, with “ Why not?” being an emphatic response to being told that something is not plausible or possible.

Robbin Zella, museum director, said the exhibit has been in the planning stages for about 18 months, the brainchild of Janet Luongo, the museum’s education coordinator and founder of the WCA’s Connecticut chapter in 1990.

When approached by Luongo, Zella agreed that such an exhibit would provide “ a wonderful chance for a state museum to host an organization that is dedicated to Connecticut women artists.”

In her notes on the exhibition, Zella points out that the WCA has been promoting women artists for several decades.

“ When, in 1971, feminist art historian Linda Nochlin posed the question, ‘ Why have there been no great women artists?’ a new direction was forged for art history — one that included the contributions of women artists across time.

“ The Women’s Caucus for Art, an outgrowth of the College Art Association, was founded in 1972 to address that question, and to ensure exhibition and publication equity for artists, art historians, educators and museum professionals.”

Both Zella and During said last week that they were pleased with the fresh quality and variety of the works in the show.

Included are paintings, photographs, charcoal drawings, bronzes, ceramics, assemblages, found objects — reflecting a host of styles including abstract, non­objective, representational and figurative.

Winner of the $ 500 First Prize is Constance Old, of New Canaan, whose “ Receipt Rug” uses “ the detritus of our consumer economy” — tiny pieces of paper sales receipts — “ to comment on . . . its excesses.” From afar, the work looks like a rug, embroidered with the words “ I own this.”

Weston artist Binnie Birstein captured the $ 400 Second Prize for her encaustic “ intrepid” that has a “ dream- like dissonance” with its floating human adult figure.

T he $ 300 T hird Prize has been awarded to Catherine Evans of Maynard, Mass., for “ Why would anyone ever,” a mixed- media work that takes everyday objects ( latex paint, cobbler’s thread and a rubber mat) and “ exalts them into precious objects.”

Taking the $ 100 Fourth Prize is Fairfield printmaker Roxanne Faber Savage for “ X- Ray of Moon with Skull,” part of a series of prints on exposed X- ray films that promotes the idea that “ you can print on any surface.”

Suppor ters of “ Why Not?!” include the­Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, the Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation, Bridgeport’s Downtown Special Services District and Jeffrey Tobin/ Nationwide Insurance Agency of Bridg eport.

SPECIAL EVENTS

The museum will host two free events in conjunction with “ Why Not?!” as follows:

“A Taste of Art: A Guided Tour” of the HMA’s permanent collection takes place Sept. 18 from noon to 1: 30 p. m. led by Westport artist Ann Cher now.

The artist, wife of the HMA founder, will give an overview of the collection from noon to 12: 30 in the lobby outside the Chernow Galleries; participants are asked to bring their own lunch. A tour of the collection, which is hung in hallways and offices on campus, will follow, with special emphasis on women artists.

With about 5,000 pieces valued at about $ 11 million, the college has one of the largest and most notable art collections of any two- year colleg e in the nation.

It was founded in 1967 by artist and HCC professor Burt Cher now, who, until his death in 1997, managed to use his art- world connections to build the extraordinary collection through donations from sympathetic artists, collectors and g allery owners around the world.

Included are landscape, still life, portrait and abstract paintings and watercolors, drawings, mixed- media works, photographs and sculpture by such renowned artists as Miro, Dali, Warhol, Matisse, Cha gall, Renoir and Christo.

“ Reinvent Yourself — WHY NOT?!” is a forum slated for Oct. 16, moderated by artist Janet Luongo.

Panelists, who will examine creative ways to alter, change and expand one’s career are Prill Boyle, writer and lecturer; Lisa Paul Streitfeld, novelist, critic and multi- media artist; and Suzanne Sheridan, photographer, singer, songwriter and author.

The event will begin at 5: 30 p. m. with an hour- long reception in the g alleries, followed by a panel discussion from 6: 45 to 8pm.

“ Why Not?!” runs through Oct. 24 at the Burt Chernow Galleries at Housatonic Community College, 900 Lafayette Boulevard in downtown Bridgeport.

Hours are Monday through Friday from 8: 30 a. m. to 5: 30 p. m., Thursdays until 7 p. m., Saturdays from 9 a. m. to 3 p. m., and Sundays noon to 4 p. m. The museum is closed whenever the college is closed; call 332- 5000 for a schedule of holidays. Admission is free. For additional information on the exhibit, visit www.wca-ct.org.