Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jim Dicke II and Alex Nyerges, THE WOMEN, paintings by Alison Van Pelt, The Dayton Art Institute

THE WOMEN: Introduction
by Jim Dicke II and Alex Nyerges
Published in Alison Van Pelt: The Women. Ed. Michael K. Komanecky. Dayton, OH: The Dayton Art Institute

An image of Frida Kahlo stares back at the viewer through a murky haze of time. The extraordinarily large canvas, measuring nine by seven feet, captures the late painter in a moment of pause, a hesitant moment of thought and introspection. This canvas and those of the other women artists in this exhibition ALISON VAN PELT: THE WOMEN illustrate the grace, power and beauty of these exceptional women and reflect the powerful imagination and talent of their creator, Alison Van Pelt.
The series is comprised of a veritable “who’s who” among women painters and sculptors of the twentieth century. Not meant to be comprehensive in any sense since they reflect the emotional and personal responses of Alison Van Pelt, they are quite impressive both individually and in the collective form. Van Pelt means to impress us. She painted these works on a grand scale “somewhat as a form of idolatry.” And it works. Her large canvases were limited only by the size of her studio doorway through which they entered and departed. The finished works are much larger in the psychological sense than a mere illustration in a catalogue can portray. These are works that need to be experienced – the value of the viewer’s personal interaction is as important as the interaction between the painter and the canvas at the point of creation. They are a wonderful homage to a group of women who, in Van Pelt’s own words, were “mavericks at a time when women were marginalized from the mainstream art world.”
Life is made of moments that pass as quickly as they arrive. Van Pelt’s images are based in photography but then are translated into a thin surface of paint. They capture those fractions of time for the viewer to ponder and contemplate.
We quickly recognized that it was important to exhibit and document this series before the inevitable occurred – these women would be separated and find homes in disparate points across the country and possibly the globe. This exhibition allows us to view the series of portraits in their entirety at the point in time closest to their creation. This is a rare and precious moment. And like that frozen slice of time in which we see Frida Kahlo’s inquisitive gaze, this exhibit and publication will stand as silent sentinels upon which we can reflect and contemplate.

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