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'American Women Artists' in San Diego

December 06, 1987|ZAN DUBIN

The traveling exhibition that inaugurated the nation's first and only museum devoted to women's art has arrived at the San Diego Museum of Art.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts opened its doors in Washington this April with "American Women Artists: 1830-1930." Curator Eleanor Tufts, author and professor of art history at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, assembled a 100-piece exhibition that surveys painting and sculpture by American women artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Mary Cassatt, Georgia O'Keeffe and Margaret Foley are among the show's better-known contributors.

"I wanted to start with the first professional women artist in America, and that is Sarah Miriam Peale, a member of the famous Philadelphia Peales family of painters," Tufts explained. "And, I wanted to show 100 years of American woman artists. So I start with an early 19th-Century portrait by Peale and bring us up to the beginning of Modernism, with an abstract portrait by Katherine Dreier.

"But another idea behind the show was that when people think about American women artists, they probably think of them as realistic portrait and still life artists," Tufts said. "I wasn't sure people realize that women worked in other areas as well."

So, in addition to including portraits that range in style from realistic to abstract, and modern still lifes, such as O'Keeffe's "White Trumpet Flower," Tufts included in the exhibit landscape and genre paintings and sculpture.

"The sculpture in the show amazes people because though they aren't surprised to see 20th-Century works, they don't realize that women were doing so much sculpture in the 19th Century," Tufts said. In the exhibit is an example: ONLY ONE IN SHOW? "A Sleeping Fawn" by Harriet Hosmer that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write "The Marble Fawn."

The National Museum of Women in the Arts was founded by Wilhelmina Holladay, a collector, with her husband, of women's artworks, Tufts said. The couple reconstructed a historic building two blocks from the White House to create the new museum.

Tufts, said the question she's most asked by interviewers is whether the museum doesn't segregate or ghettoize, rather than integrate, women's art.

"I believe in integrating women artists into the mainstream, but if there's one more place that can organize exhibitions and herald the work of women artists, that place makes sense to me," Tufts said. "And, in addition to the exhibition space, the museum also has a library that's growing into a wonderful research source for women artists.

"Also, a male artist friend of mine said to me 'there's always been the National Gallery of men artists on the mall in Washington, why not now have a museum of women?' "

The San Diego Museum of Art, located in Balboa Park, will show "American Women Artists" through Jan. 31. The exhibition was organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in cooperation with the International Exhibitions Foundation in Washington.

ON THE BLOCK: Increasingly scarce Andy Warhol prints, including a self-portrait, will highlight an auction of contemporary paintings, sculpture, watercolors, drawings and prints scheduled for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Butterfield & Butterfield Auctioneers and Appraisers.

About 250 works will be auctioned simultaneously with a telephone link-up, in Los Angeles, at 301 N. Larchmont Blvd., and in San Francisco, at 220 San Bruno Ave.

Works by such name artists as William Wiley, Alexander Calder, Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Claes Oldenburg and Richard Rauschenberg will also go on the block. Prices are expected to range from $150 to $35,000.

GRANTS: Hoping to foster artistic cross-pollination, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded 12 grants totaling $197,000 to artists' colonies across the country. In California, the Djerassi Foundation in Woodside won $10,000 and the Dorland Mountain Colony Inc. in Temecula was awarded $13,000.

These colonies, given the funds by the endowment's Inter-Arts Program, support artists who create work that fuses distinct arts disciplines. They provide artists with an uninterrupted working and living space for limited periods of time.

The endowment's Inter-Arts Program has also awarded $410,000 to 25 arts service organizations nationwide. In California, the Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments of Los Angeles received $15,000, and Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts Inc. in San Francisco was awarded $7,500.

Also recently awarded by the endowment is Ilee Kaplan, a Long Beach artist and print maker, who won a $5,000 grant. Her name was left off a list of individual artists' awards printed Nov. 15 by The Times.

PRIZE WRITERS: Christopher Knight, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner art critic, was one of seven journalists nationwide to win the 1987 Sixth Annual Manufacturers Hanover Art/World Awards for Distinguished Newspaper Art Critism.

Knight won first place for contemporary art criticism. Paul Richard of the Washington Post won a critic's award in the same category.

Other winners were Jack Flam of the Wall Street Journal, who won first place in art history; Nancy Stapen of the Boston Herald, who garnered a critic's award in art history; Benjamin Forgey of the Washington Post, who earned first place in architecture; and Michael Sorkin of the Village Voice and Allan Temko from the San Francisco Chronicle, who both won the critic's award in architecture.

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