This year's schedule at the Brand Library Art Galleries in Glendale reflects a fact that probably no other gallery in the Los Angeles area can declare: a sizable majority of Brand's one-person shows present the work of women artists.
Before anyone jumps to the conclusion of an unfair bias in favor of women--for which one could make a case in our society, where until recently women have been systematically kept from fulfilling aspirations that take them outside the home--gallery director Cindy Cleary makes it clear that the preponderance of shows by women is not calculated.
"It's not that I said I'm going to be a showcase for women artists," Cleary said. "I select on the caliber of the work. Maybe it has something to do with my psyche, but I'm not aware of it. I don't consciously think of looking for women artists. And I don't even want to think about it because maybe then it will force me to think I do need a balance of male and female."
On view now is the work of five women artists--Jane Friend, Virginia Jackman, Meredith Olson, Bonese Collins Turner and Betty McDonald. The idea for these artists to exhibit at the same time came from the women themselves.
"We're all involved in some of the same organizations," such as Women Painters West and various watercolor societies, said Friend, who organized the effort and approached Cleary with a formal application. "We thought it would be interesting to present our distinctive and individualistic endeavors as a group."
"I've seen them evolve as artists," said Cleary, adding that each of them has had work in previous Brand exhibits. "It's great to have them in the gallery at the level that they're at now."
Friend lives close to the Brand Library, and her watercolors depict the various moods of her morning walks in the area. Olson uses vivid colors and light to evoke the beauty of the city at twilight and the spirit of the canyons of the Southwest in her abstract landscapes.
Jackman's "Roots and Remembrance" series is composed of multilayered images from bygone days of the West. Turner's watercolor and drawing series, "Legends and Losses," also focuses on the West. She combines American Indian hand sign language and symbols with Western landscape imagery to portray the magical, mysterious qualities of the land and man's reckless intrusion upon it.
Several of McDonald's astute, accomplished assemblages muse on the pressures and confinement females cope with from girlhood through maturity. "Barbie Box" cages the perky Barbie, surrounded by some bones, in her box.
McDonald's untitled, life-size female figure conveys a cacophony of notions about womanhood with its computerized heart, white lace collar, spirited skirt and electrified brain. On a global scale, "Too Many" makes a droll comment on the world's population explosion.
These women are older than 50 and like others their age, led traditional family lives before focusing on art work.
Cleary, who has been director of the gallery since 1989 and a curator there beginning in 1986, said she has worked with several women who have put their artistic interests aside "until they go through the empty-nest stage. Then they're allowed to create. They've always wanted to be artists, but a lot of women give it up for awhile."
Although art is considered a means to understanding a society or an era, Cleary says historically that path to knowledge has been distorted.
"Women aren't part of art history. We have a separate section in the library for women artists," she said. But, she said she thinks that women now feel more comfortable becoming part of the male or mainstream art culture, and that it is becoming more integrated.
Where and When What: "Jane Friend: Paintings," "Virginia Jackman: Paintings,": 'Betty McDonald: Assemblage," "Meredith Olson: Paintings" and "Bonese Collins Turner: Paintings and Drawings." Location: Brand Library Art Galleries, 1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale. Hours: 1 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through April 6. Call: (818) 548-2050.