Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Advertisement
Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Advertisement

Advertisement

Girl go-getters

She was an architectural delineator from Chicago who worked for one of the most famed architects of the 20th century. She was a world traveler who won an international competition to design the Federal Capital of Australia at Canberra. She was an artist whose work exquisitely depicted the delicate interplay between nature and edifice.

And now Marion Mahony Griffin is finally getting some attention.

“I think people will walk into this exhibit and be struck by the idea they never knew this artist,” says Debora Wood, senior curator of the Block Museum of Art. “And they’ll be touched by her, too. Hers is a ‘local girl takes on the world’ story.”

Some are local, some are not, but girls certainly are taking on the Block Museum, 40 Arts Circle Dr., this fall. The museum’s newest group show, “Unfolding Histories,” focuses on the untold stories of female artists who worked in historically male-dominated fields.

The works examined range from Mahony Griffin’s architectural renderings to the printmaking exhibition “Paths to the Press” to the 1970s films of Steina Vasulka. The show runs through Dec. 11. Griffin’s exhibition will close Dec. 4.

Griffin’s featured work is characterized in part by intimate professional relationships with men, including 14 years working with Frank Lloyd Wright and her more than three-decade marriage to fellow architect Walter Burley Griffin. While some of her work is clearly influenced by Wright’s passion for long, straight lines or her husband’s favored concrete constructions, her “Forest Portraits,” completed over the 22 years she lived in Australia, are all her own.

In “Banksia Marginata, Tasmania on the Sea Coast,” Griffin represents a diverse landscape of sea and mountains with undulating, organic lines and varied areas of light and dark. A heavy tree, each branch carefully inked by hand, hangs precariously over the central cliff. The work is characterized by the architect’s trademark decorative design.

“Her work is beautiful,” says Anne Catherine Leroux, a 34-year-old architect from Brussels, Belgium. “What strikes me is that there are so many details. In the contemporary architectural world of computer work and digital design, you lose those essential details. But you look at these drawings, you feel as if you were there with her. It takes you in. It is real.”

Among the other featured works, “Paths to the Press” explores the work of 80 female printmakers between 1910 and 1960. The works are inventive, creative and rooted in both artistic and political tradition. The exhibition draws parallels to the Japanese-inspired posters of Toulouse-Lautrec in Ethel Mars’s pre-World War I “German Lager,” a relatively shallow print with flat, wide forms.

In Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs’s 1953 work “Sojourner Truth,” the artist pays particular attention to detailing the sad, luminous eyes and strongly geometric face of the woman who fought a life-long battle for freedom and justice. This portrait was part of a series Burroughs completed during the Civil Rights era depicting famous abolitionists.

Estelle Richman, a 65-year-old freelance artist from Highland Park, says she came to the museum just to see the printmakers’ work.

“The artists – they’re women, but they’re not women,” Richman says. “If you mixed their work up with men, you wouldn’t know who had done what. All of the stereotypical themes associated with the work of early 20th-century female artists – pretty, flowery, domestic – you don’t see any of that in this exhibit.”

And according to David Alan Robertson, the Ellen Philips Katz director at the museum, that’s just the way it should be.

“All of these artists exhibited here challenge stereotypes, press the limits,” Robertson says. He refers to the eclectic video art of Vasulka, an Icelandic filmmaker who focuses on time and movement through the manipulation of electronic media.

“Some may have difficulty with her videos,” Robertson says. “They’re edgy, they lack the contemporary narrative one expects in film. But they help the exhibit serve a purpose of looking at a variety of artistic expressions, especially in male-dominated themes.”

It’s a variety of artistic expressions for a varied community, ranging from college students to alumnae to residents along the North Shore. Wood says she believes this show will resonate with all audiences.

“There are many older audiences who will come to see Mahony Griffin’s work because they are Frank Lloyd Wright fans, fans of the school of prairie architecture, and they know she worked with him,” Wood says. “There are many college students who will be struck by the history of ‘Paths to the Press,’ who will be inspired by issues of social realism and social politics.”

With a laugh, she adds, “And there are going to be people who will just say, ‘Gosh, that’s really cool!'”

“Unfolding Histories” is located in the Block Museum’s Alsdorf, Main and Theo Leffman galleries; the Print, Drawing and Photography Study Center; and the Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Gallery. The Block Museum of Art is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday; from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The suggested donation is $5.4

Medill junior Gemma Mangione is the PLAY calendar editor. She can be reached at [email protected].

More to Discover
Activate Search
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Girl go-getters