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Honoring Women Artists : West Hills exhibit by a 72-year-old nonprofit organization for female painters features 51 works selected by a CSUN professor emeritus.

September 17, 1993|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times

WEST HILLS — Because art is such a solitary occupation, some artists depend on groups for camaraderie, constructive criticism and opportu nities to exhibit their work. This is especially true of women artists, since the established art world, until very recently, didn't seem to know they existed.

Women Painters West was founded in Laguna Beach in 1921 as a nonprofit group called The Woman's Art Club of Southern California. After two name changes, it officially became known as Women Painters West in 1983. Today, 250 artists from the Western states belong to the organization. Membership is by application and submission of three pieces of artwork to a jury composed of five members of the organization.

The group has held member exhibits in galleries throughout Southern California. The group's current show, "Fall's Bounty," is on view at the Finegood Art Gallery in West Hills. Juror Ernest Velardi, professor emeritus at Cal State Northridge, selected 51 paintings for the show, awarding prizes for seven works.

"All shows are competitions for awards, for wall space, for personal statements," Velardi told WPW members two years ago, when he judged the organization's 70th anniversary show. Using the same criteria for selecting works for that show and the current exhibit, he told the group's president, Beverly Girvigian, that he chose paintings from a breadth of images and content that showed "originality, creativity in use of materials and sheer audacity in some cases," Girvigian said.

"It is interesting to compete in these shows. You get an education you don't get in school," Girvigian said. She joined the group six years ago. "I became quite active. I'm very fond of the women. They are a nice bunch of unusual women, and very professional. By competing and seeing other people's work, you grow."

Velardi gave the Blessing Semler Award to Girvigian's abstract, expressionistic mixed-media piece, "Medusa." On close inspection, one will find words and phrases among the snaky locks.

Ellen Rose's mixed-media "Harvest Ball Chairman" received the Women Painters West Award, the group's top honor. Her colorful diptych seems to challenge the purity of those who organize such events. Part of a "Market Roundup" newspaper column containing stock market information serves as the chairman's face.

June Schnitzer's one-foot-square mixed-media piece, "Fall Out," conjures up several interpretations. Perhaps the female figure central to the piece is a victim of environmental fallout of one kind or another. Yet, with arms outstretched, she exudes an energy and sense of strength that negate the notion she is a victim.

Masha Schweitzer's black-and-white monotype, "Merci Brassai," references the naturalized French photographer and his 1930s and '40s images of French people. Regardless of this homage, its soft lines delineating female figures convey a warm-hearted, lyrical quality. The print received an honorable mention.

Among watercolor works are Leatrice Joy Richardson's "All Bored," which depicts the back of a young person slumped in an oversized chair much like the big leather seats at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Through its composition, the image embodies something we all understand--the frustration of waiting. Ellen Grim's "Escalator 'O,' " which received an honorable mention, presents another scene from everyday life--people on an escalator--in an unusually absorbing way.

Patti Flynn used contrasting watercolors to capture the deeper mood of "Autumn Sunset, Kailua." Rowan L. Wolnick received the Pearl Guenther Award for her watercolor, "Aureolin: Radiance," which joyfully illustrates one of the painter's most important tools: paint tubes.

Where and When What: "Fall's Bounty," Women Painters West show. Location: Finegood Art Gallery, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed today, Sept. 30, and Oct. 1, 7 and 8 for Jewish holidays. Ends Nov. 14. Call: (818) 587-3217.

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