The Belles of Amherst: Contemporary Women Artists in the Collections of the Mead Art Museum and University Gallery, University of Massachusetts Amherst

May 31 - September 8, 2002

The Mead Art Museum celebrates 25 years of coeducation at Amherst College with The Belles of Amherst: Contemporary Women Artists in the Collections of the Mead Art Museum and University Gallery, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

For many years, both the Mead and the University Gallery at the University of Massachusetts have been acquiring work by women artists. This exhibition demonstrates their extraordinary and diverse achievement. The earliest material in the exhibit is by two legendary figures, Louise Nevelson and Lee Krasner, and the exhibition also features work by Dotty Attie, Jennifer Bartlett, Andrea Belag, Elizabeth Catlett, Judy Chicago, Sonya Clark, Sue Coe, Lesley Dill, Lydia Dona, Elizabeth Dworkin, Heide Fasnacht, Louise Fishman, Audrey Flack, April Gornik, Jane Haskell, Carol Hepper, Gillie Holme, Louise Laplante, Annette Lemieux, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Deborah Muirhead, Judy Pfaff, Helen Evans Ramsaran, Betye Saar, Kiki Smith and Joan Snyder. The show includes a wide range of media, style, and content, reflecting many voices and convictions.

Events:

September 5, 2002, 7:00 p.m.
Artist Lecture - Deborah Muirhead, Professor of Art and Art History, University of Connecticut at Storrs. Stirn Auditoriu.
Reception to follow in the Mead Art Museum

Deborah Muirhead’s poetic abstractions convey a haunting, mysterious presence. Using a restrained palette of white, gray, ochre, and black, she produces profound work that has a spectral quality underscoring its narrative nature. In 1991, an African burial ground dating from the late seventeenth century was discovered in lower Manhattan. Some 400 graves were unearthed and of these over half contained the remains of children. This discovery has propelled Muirhead’s aesthetic journey ever since.

Muirhead has two works in the exhibition: Untitled and Nameless. In Untitled, the artist lists the names of some of the deceased in a spidery, scrawling cursive. Scattered randomly across the sheet are magnified thumbprints, presumably from the names on the list. What makes this composition particularly poignant is the fact that several of the women were buried with their children.

Nameless is a fusion of gesture and minimal imagery, fragmented and evocative. The gnarled hands in the center of the composition work together with the bones and scars that seem to be burned into the paper. There is much to ponder about in this work and the artist allows us to fill in the blanks.

Muirhead is a professor of art and art history at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. She recently was awarded a William Randolph Hearst Foundation Fellowship to work on a research project at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass.