What’s her name?
Turner Museum celebrates women printmakers and manga artists
Quick, name three famous female artists. If you came up short, beyond Georgia O’Keeffe, don’t feel bad. Art is a reflection of emotion and experience no matter the sex of its creator, but even though things have been turning around in the last half century or so, for millennia art by men has dominated. And with the primary focus on male artistic expression, the world has missed out on half the population’s vision and voice.
For its part, Chico State’s Turner Print Museum is celebrating Women’s History Month, with Know Her Name: Women Printmakers and Shjo Manga Artists (up through April 15). The two-fisted exhibition features 17 prints by female artists culled by a Chico State art history class from the Janet Turner collection paired with a U.S. tour of Shjo Manga! Girls’ Power, Japanese shojo manga (“girls’ manga”) comics by female artists.
A standout in the Turner portion of the exhibit is Lynn Brofsky’s “Heart of Town” monotype, a gripping look at a woman’s experience using swashes of almost transparent pigment that move the viewer’s eyes from the vacuous but thickly painted white top of the print down to the blue silhouette of a town that snakes through the heart of the central brown female figure. Her wrenching expression offers insight into her pain.
Nancy McIntyre delivers a taste of Americana in her serigraph “Screened Porch,” where rocking chairs beckon and the screen door keeps the bugs out in this close-up of yesteryear. Working through 47 layers of oil-based paint, McIntyre created the illusion of a screen reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s painterly ambiance.
In a surrealistic vein, Carolyn Autry’s “Destins Tenebreux” aquatint offers pieces of architecture and room spaces where the patterned tension of the checkered floor gets broken up by puddled sunlight. The fine lines of doors, windows, a floating fence and a city skyline move across the piece like frames from different film noir movies—all hard edged save for a lone curvilinear aspect—a vase perched on a table.
At first glance, the veiled woman in “La Consulta” by Leticia Tarragó recalls a burqa, but the exposed chicken feet dispel the connection in this highly textured color etching.
In contrast to the Turner prints, in the 11 shjo manga works, most female characters are idealized specimens, reflecting nary a clue to their Japanese creators. Most have light or blonde hair and peer out from the art form’s typical wide eyes. But their oversweet countenances belie their true stories.
Masako Watanabe’s “Sei Rosalind” (Saint Rosalind) pen and ink with colored wash on paper seems all sugar and spice, with coquettish, saucer-blue eyes framed by carefully coiffed blonde curls, adorned with a big pink bow. But 8-year-old Rosalind is not everything nice, as her story reveals her penchant for murder. The only clue to her real bad-seed persona is an easily missed outline of a dripping hand in the right hand corner.
Shjo manga pioneer Moto Hagio’s pen and ink “Lady Pluto” offers a smiling woman, silvery and shimmering with shiny balls sprinkled on her gown. But those balls are really plutonium reflecting the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant.
In “Daughter of Iguanam,” Hagio speaks out on the age-old issue of beauty standards. Can any female ever be pretty enough? No way, if your mom looks like a big lizard.
And Hagio’s “Mother Figure” cuts a dark commentary on gender. A weathered female is really a sci-fi experiment—a man with organ transplants who births only men. Black lace curtains fail to soften or feminize the creature in her chilling piece.
The juxtaposition of varying styles in the West meets East exhibit shows how sex and gender really do matter in art.