Monthly Archives: July 2013

A trailing spouse? Has being partnered affected your museum career choices?

When the only way to advance in the museum field is to move, are women being left behind? One of the contributing factors to the disparity between the high number of women working in the arts and the relatively few women working in the upper echelons is a lingering view of women as secondary earners. If a wife’s job is considered less valuable than a husband’s, her family is unlikely to move to advance her career. And with the current landscape, relocating is often a necessity if you’re looking for a better position.
Hop over to Museum Geek to read more. And check out the comments! Museum professionals weigh in on how a spouse has affected their career choices.

museum geek

When I was a mere kitten of five years old, my family relocated to Papua New Guinea. My dad had received an interesting job opportunity, so he, my mum and I all moved to the tropics and spent several years negotiating life in another culture.

This was one of a few moves that we made when I was growing up; all of them for my father’s work. Although both my parents became high-achievers in their respective fields, it was my father’s opportunities that drove us around the country and overseas. His career was more established, and we followed on. It was not until my dad retired that my mother really had opportunities to pursue her own career ambitions, but once she did, her career soared.

Within the museum sector, cross-institutional (or even cross-country) relocation for work appears to be strongly tied to advancement, particularly at the upper echelons. While it…

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New Paintings: Fall 2012/Spring 2013 Artwork by Melissa Huang

This past fall at Rochester Institute of Technology and this spring at Florence University of the Arts, I’ve been able to create a number of new paintings which I’d love to share with you! Remember, you can always see my current work on the portfolio page of this site.

These are the two main paintings I created during the fall (each one is 3 x 4 feet). I was exploring themes of childhood and gender expression. These paintings were accompanied by three smaller works, close-up images of hands clutching toys.

Melissa Huang, Drew, 2012, oil on canvas, 48"x36"

Melissa Huang, Drew, 2012, oil on canvas, 48″x36″

Melissa Huang, Jamie, 2012, oil on canvas, 36"x48"

Melissa Huang, Jamie, 2012, oil on canvas, 36″x48″

These two pieces refer back to this work and this work.

And here’s the main painting I created this past spring (While studying in Florence. I’ll freely admit it, the altars and paintings of saints heavily influenced me!):

Melissa Huang, Self-Portrait as a Young Woman, 2013, oil on canvas, 31.5"x 47"

Melissa Huang, Self-Portrait as a Young Woman, 2013, oil on canvas, 31.5″x 47″

I’m trying to move in a new direction with this piece. Here’s the statement for this work:

Many young women feel trapped between two worlds; that of childhood and adulthood, purity and new found sexuality. My work depicts the tension between the innocence of youth and conflicted feelings of womanhood. While at times my paintings tend toward the soft and feminine at others they are aggressively confrontational. It is the contrast between these two states I wish to emphasize. These works explore feelings of new desire, naivety, and the intriguing fear of the unknown.

And here’s an accompanying animation I designed (it’s best if viewed as a loop). The music is created by Drew Tetz (graphic design portfolio here, music here).

So there you have it! I’m excited to return to my final year at RIT and create a ton of new artwork. I’d love to hear any questions or comments!

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Art Intersections: The Smithsonian’s Asian Latino Festival

Tomorrow the festivities begin! The first of the Smithsonian Asian Latino Festival’s events launch a celebration of the intersections of Asian American and Latino culture. As the most rapidly expanding US populations it’s interesting to see an event dedicated to the meeting of these two groups. And it should be fun!

The programs launch tomorrow, July 24th, with “Gourmet Intersections: Asian-Latino Food Crossings”. This panel of chefs, cookbook authors, and TV hosts will discuss the evolution of public and private shared food traditions. Unfortunately this particular event is sold out, however, you can view everything online here.

Audrey Chan

Audrey Chan

I’m particularly interested in “Art Intersections: An Asian-Latino Pop-up Gallery”. Guys, let me tell you, I LOVE pop-up galleries. I think they’re part of the changing landscape of art exhibition and a key way to hear the voices of underprivileged groups. I love the immediacy and the way that pop-up galleries often interact with communities more directly (and often more successfully) than traditional gallery spaces.

For this particular pop-up gallery (August 6-7, 8-10 pm), stories of Asian-Latino culture and the intersection of these cultures will be projected onto the urban landscape of Silver Spring, MD. Specifically, artwork will be projected onto public surfaces of Veterans Plaza.

But enough talk! Take a look at some of the talented artists participating in this event (This blog is dedicated to work by women artists and art regarding gender, as a result the artists I’ve decided to include are women. There are many talented people in the show, check out the main page to see the rest of the lineup):

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Women in Art: Pin-Up Artists Pearl Frush, Joyce Ballantyne, and Zoë Mozert

I’m a little late to the party on this, but I just ran across a great article on three women pin-up artists, Pearl Frush, Joyce Ballantyne, and  Zoë Mozert.

I don’t know about you, but I assumed that the most successful pin-up artists were men. Apparently this wasn’t the case! These three successful artists had prolific careers making high quality pin-up art and performing at the same level (or higher!) as their male peers.

A pin-up girl by Pearl Frush

A pin-up girl by Pearl Frush

Joyce Ballantyne's women were intended to be less intentionally sexy than other pin-ups.

Joyce Ballantyne’s women were intended to be situationally sexy.

A pin-up by Zoe Mozert

A pin-up by Zoe Mozert

Check out the article! It offers background on these artists, positioning their work within the larger field of pin-up and discussing themes found in their images. Frush, Ballantyne, and Mozert led interesting lives, and the article dives a little into the preservation (or lack thereof) of the work of these women artists.

If you’re looking for more pin-up art you might be interested in these side by side comparisons of pin-up illustrations and photos of the models posing for them.

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Smithsonian American Art Museum: Art Charades!

In case any of you were wondering, this is what I do at my internship:

Clark Mills, John C. Calhoun, about 1844-1845

Clark Mills, John C. Calhoun, about 1844-1845

It’s Art Charades! The Smithsonian American Art Museum staff and interns took an afternoon to run around and pose like works of art in the collection. Some of us brought props, others just brought smiling (or grumpy!) faces. It was a blast and we got some great photos.

You can do it to! I’d encourage you to take a look at the entire image set on the museum’s flickr, and then come in and take some photos of your own. Photography is allowed in the permanent galleries and the Luce Foundation Center; feel free to ask a security guard if you’re unsure.

Here are a few more photos form art charades:

William Rimmer, The Falling Gladiator, 1861

William Rimmer, The Falling Gladiator, 1861

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Women in Art: Ellen Greene

Contemporary artist Ellen Greene’s work contrasts “ladylike” femininity with stereotypical masculine traits. By painting vintage women’s gloves with tattoo inspired motifs she hopes to rework traditional ideas of womanhood, particularly the roles of wives and mothers.

Ellen Greene, Mother's Milk My Girl, 2010

Ellen Greene, Mother’s Milk My Girl, 2010

I was introduced to Greene’s work through this Hyperallergic article that covers aspects of Facebook’s Community Standards policy. Facebook has been known to censor imagery of women breastfeeding and artwork involving female nudity (although often allowing pin-up style artworks that caters to a straight male point of view). It’s an interesting read on what is considered viewer-friendly and what isn’t, and Ellen Greene provides excellent arguments for the inclusion of images and artwork from a feminist and woman’s perspective. Continue reading

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Women in (Patriotic) Art: Mimi Herbert

Happy Fourth of July! Check out some American flag sculptures by Mimi Herbert:

Mimi Herbert, Folded Flag #2, 2001

Mimi Herbert, Folded Flag #2, 2001

Herbert is an American artist well known for her “Flags & Folds” series. Her silkscreen formed acrylic sculptures of American flags reflect a sense of the artist’s patriotism as a first generation American citizen. With work in the permanent collections of renowned American museums such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Renwick Gallery, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art Herbert is recognized as an important contemporary American artist. Continue reading

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Women in Art: Romaine Brooks

Romaine Brooks has many names. Among them, she is “the patron saint of lesbian artists”, chillingly called the “thief of souls”, and is a self-described “child-martyr”. Brooks is an intriguing artist with an unhappy upbringing, captivating relationships, and an almost heroic path from nothing to everything. At times her life threatens to overshadow her equally striking work (I’m actually going to skip over writing an overview of Brook’s life. It’s incredibly interesting but work detailing her life already exists in spades. Check out the Wikipedia page for a quick look). Her work alone is very compelling and contains a psychology that was innovative and influential for the era.

Romaine Brooks, Self Portrait, 1923

Romaine Brooks, Self Portrait, 1923

An American figure painter who spent her life an expat in Europe, Brooks is still largely unknown outside of queer/feminist art circles. Brooks enjoyed a public revival during the 1980s as figurative art began to come back in vogue. Her work has a strange pull. The figures are imbued with intriguing psychology, strengthened by Brook’s preferred cool, muted palettes and strong black lines. It’s unsurprising that contemporary queer and feminist artists are attracted to Brooks’ work given its subject matter and technique. Her works depict women—friends and lovers—posed to express their strength, individuality, and—most importantly—a newly visible lesbian identity. This is an atypical portrayal of women at the time. Certainly most artist did not paint women with short hair and masculine suits, and generally their women were more abstract; more decorative and less real.

Let’s start with a quick analysis of Brooks’ style. Her paintings generally feature very dramatic figures against static, emotionally charged backgrounds. The figures stand tall and there is a focus on angularity; the artist emphasizes jutting collar bones and gaunt faces using strategic modeling, mark making, and liberal application of black outlines. Her figures are not happy, but they are resilient. Their faces are visible and engaging in a way that makes it clear we are not just supposed to appreciate a painting of a woman; we are supposed to appreciate a painting of this woman. And these women do not comply with the era’s traditional ideas of femininity nor do they exist simply to decorate.Take, for instance, the portrait of friend and fellow artist, Gluck:

Romaine Brooks, Peter (A Young English Girl), 1923-1924

Romaine Brooks, Peter (A Young English Girl), 1923-1924

This painting is titled, Peter (A Young English Girl). The sitter, Hannah Gluckstein, was a contemporary artist and good friend of Brooks . The two friends painted one another, resulting in this piece and an unfinished piece by Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein worked under the name of Gluck and preferred to be called Peter within her circle of friends). The title of the piece contrasts with Gluck’s androgyny, as sans title the viewer might not guess Gluck’s gender. It asks the viewer to take a closer look and think about the identity of the woman portrayed. Gluck’s androgyny is emphasized by her clothing, wearing a sharp jacket, holding a men’s hat, and sporting a short, boyish haircut. Both Brooks and Gluck were attracted to women and found that the current style of menswear inspired fashion suited them. These suits were a great way for upper class lesbians to identify one another while remaining discreet. The fact that they were wearing masculine clothing was frequently overlooked in light of their wealth and status. Those who were not looking for lesbian sexuality viewed these clothing choices as more of a quirk of wealth and fashion.

Brooks produced work during the modernist period. Because of this, she was often judged unfavorably for her traditional use of composition and her Whistler-inspired palettes (It’s almost impossible to read an article about Brooks that does not compare her to Whistler. It’s certainly a fair comparison although certain critics use it solely to dismiss her work). Many note that Brooks’ work leans towards Symbolism and criticize it as old fashioned. However, Brooks has recently been reexamined in a queer/feminist context that recognizes her works’ innovation in its portrayal of women as psychological and not just decorative subjects. Also noted is her incorporation of personal identity into portraits of others. By working in a traditional style of naturalistic portraiture, she can utilize existing norms to depict a new lesbian identity. According to Elliott and Wallace in a piece on Romaine Brooks and Natalie Barney in the context of the avant-garde, “Upsetting the signifying practices of the dominant social order entails not only finding new forms of writing and painting but the construction of new meanings, identities, and communities” (Elliott, Bridget, and Jo-Ann Wallace. “Fleurs du Mal or Second-Hand Roses?: Natalie Barney, Romaine Brooks, and the ‘Originality of the Avant-Garde’.” Feminist Review 40 (1992): 24.). One can understand that it is not just the style of work that requires examination and innovation, but the content. Continue reading

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