DECADE BY DECADE: Women Artists of California

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Late yesterday afternoon, Linda and I walked to the Long Beach Museum of Art, which is about a half-mile from where we live. I first visited this museum in the 1980s with my first wife, Cathay Gleeson. As is fairly well known, the museum had embarked at that time upon the only collecting strategy that is available to low-profile institutions with limited budgets: find a field that no one else is interested in at all, and take a chance that it will prove to be of enduring value. I am hardly the only person who first saw Bill Viola’s video work at the Long Beach Museum of Art, and we all owe this museum our gratitude for its support of that development.

On an explanatory panel beside one of the paintings in “DECADE BY DECADE,” I learned that the first major show in Southern California to present all women painters took place at the Long Beach Museum of Art in 1972. It was titled “Invisible/Visible” and featured the art work of 21 women. The current show, which opened on January 25, has the work of several dozen women, and it is worth the drive, no matter where you live in Los Angeles or Orange County. I would like to list several of my favorite pieces in the show, though I hope next time to take notes on work of which closing time forestalled a lingering appreciation. If you don’t know at least half of these artists, and you claim to be interested in contemporary art, then it is imperative that you set aside an afternoon to visit this show before it closes on April 26.

Elsa Warner — Blue Lake No. 4 (1973)**
Joyce Treiman — Swimmers Antibes Topanga (1971)
Carol Shaw-Sutton — The Bridge (1998)**
Pamela Kendall Schiffer — Cloud Study (2005)**
Alison Saar — Contra La Puerta (1998)**
Astrid Preston — Lotus Land (2000)**
Polia Pillin — Chalice (1959)**
Connie DK Lane — Mao Big Coat (2005)**
Orpha Klinker — Untitled (Fish Harbor) (1930)**
Margaret Honda — Sift (2013)
Karen Hansen Carson — Zipper Wall Piece No. 1 (1969)**
Sharon Ellis — Winter (1994)
Thelma deGoede Smith — Enharmonic (1970)
Jean Clad — Yellow Still Life (1958)
Joan Brown — Mary Julia #5 (1976)**
Terry Braunstein — Reflections (2019)**
Eva Bovenzi — Blue #14 (2009)**
Pat Berger — Beach People (1964)

** I have put a double asterisk next to the dozen pieces that especially caught Linda’s attention.

I would assume that the work of Claire Falkenstein and Helen Lundeberg, which is also in the show, would be known to those who are curious enough to see the above pieces.

Literary footnote: Polia Pillin was married to the poet William Pillin, whose book TO THE END OF TIME was published by Papa Bach bookstore.