CINCINNATI— A new special exhibition explores the role of women in art and art history at the Cincinnati Art Museum from October 11–April 12, 2020. Women Breaking Boundaries highlights artworks from the museum’s permanent collection created by female artists from the seventeenth century to today. It will encourage visitors to think critically about gender, inclusion, and diversity and how that translates to the museum’s gallery walls.
A cross-departmental selection of 38 artworks from Europe, North America and Asia will be featured, ranging from oil on canvas, metalwork, ceramic, and prints to photography and fashion. Prominent artists include Georgia O’Keeffe, Lorna Simpson, Kara Walker, Mary Cassatt, Julia Margaret Cameron, Elizabeth Catlett, and Chiyo Mitsuhisa.
The Cincinnati Art Museum’s female founders played an essential role in the birth of this city’s vibrant arts scene. In 1877, the Women’s Art Museum Association (WAMA) was formed to promote the arts in Cincinnati, founded on the heels of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. WAMA was adamant about bringing the social and economic benefits of an art museum to Cincinnati. Enthusiasm and support for their cause was widely generated and, by 1881, the Cincinnati Museum Association was incorporated.
This connection to the museum’s founding women has long been lauded as an early success for Cincinnati women in the arts. Members of WAMA were strong female activists for the arts, founding our institution as well as others throughout the city, and funding early acquisitions by female artists. As the nation is about to celebrate 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage, Women Breaking Boundaries reminds us to reflect on this history. By examining our museum’s story and presentation practices we can revisit this narrative, encouraging visitors and museum staff alike to reflect on the past, engage with the present, and consider the future.
Ainsley M. Cameron, Curator of South Asian Art, Islamic Art & Antiquities, has organized the exhibition. “Though Women Breaking Boundaries proudly recognizes the contributions of female artists to the art canon, this is not a celebration of equality,” says Cameron. “Artists who identify as female continue to be a minority within museum collections—ours, and in the art world more broadly speaking—and addressing this inequality creates space for dialogue and productive exchange.”
Pairings and juxtapositions of artworks will be created to encourage such dialogue and exchange. Barbara Kruger, a feminist artist who critically engages with the portrayal of women in the media, will be paired with a dress by early twentieth century fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet. The female form as seen in a 1970s Jo Ann Callis photograph of a woman’s body will be reflected in an art nouveau vase created by Mary Sheerer of Newcomb Pottery. While vast and vastly different, the works presented offer insights into the myriad of ways that female artists have been, and continue to be, active change-makers in their chosen medium.
Women Breaking Boundaries is conceived of as the museum’s main contribution and focal point of a larger project, Power of Her, a city-wide initiative of Cincinnati arts organizations to mark 100 years since Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment. Led by the ArtsWave, Power of Her will include over a year’s worth of community programs, festivities and events at organizations including Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Cincinnati Ballet and more, from June 2019 through December 2020.
During Power of Her, a majority of the museum’s permanent gallery rotations throughout the museum will focus on female artists. Visitors are encouraged to view Women Breaking Boundaries, explore rotating galleries, as well as the Cincinnati Art Museum permanent collection galleries that feature women. A free gallery guide highlighting female artists in the collection will be available at the entrance to the museum.
Related programs will be held at the museum in conjunction with the run of the exhibition, including Family First Saturday, Gallery Experiences, gallery talks and more. For a full list of programming, please visit the museum’s online calendar.
Women Breaking Boundaries will be on view in the Vance Waddell and Mayerson Galleries (Galleries 124 and 125). Admission is free. Photography is encouraged, but no flash. On social media, use #WomenBreakingBoundaries and #PowerofHer.
The Cincinnati Art Museum is supported by the generosity of individuals and businesses that give annually to Artswave. The Ohio Arts Council helps fund the Cincinnati Art Museum with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. The Cincinnati Art Museum gratefully acknowledges operating support from the City of Cincinnati, as well as our members.
Free general admission to the Cincinnati Art Museum is made possible by a gift from the Rosenthal Family Foundation. Special exhibition pricing may vary. Parking at the Cincinnati Art Museum is free. The museum is open Tuesday–Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. and Thursday, 11 a.m.–8 p.m. cincinnatiartmusem.org