By Jennifer L. Warren
BEACON – “Women’s history is spilling over everywhere, not only in the United States, but throughout the world,” affirmed long-time Howland Cultural Center Board Member and former President, Florence Northcutt. “Women have their voice and are using it in grand, effective ways.”
One of those potent vehicles is the medium of art. Whether using painting, photography, collage or fabric design, women are more frequently and powerfully expressing their visions of as well as their role in the world through their colorful, intricately and creatively designed artwork. For 27 years, Beacon’s Howland Cultural Arts Center has provided a platform in March, Women’s History Month, for a contingent of women to come together, showcasing their work, while paying tribute not only to their increasingly present and respected voices in the art world, but so too to the countless contributions throughout history of an assortment of female pioneers hailing from diverse backgrounds and professions.
Despite the Pandemic, the “show went on,” Saturday, as the Opening for the popular Annual Women’s Group Art Exhibit officially kicked off for the month. Limited to 10 masked guests at a time, while heeding social distancing and hygiene protocols, the Opening attracted a steady flow of excited visitors, who were treated to an eclectic mix of colorful, imaginative works by 35 local, Hudson Valley artists. This year’s show, whose Curator is once again Jan Dolan, features a special focus on women’s historical progress, most telling: The election of the first female Vice President, Kamala Harris. In fact, an entire front wall of the gallery is blanketed with artistic tributes to Harris.
In addition to groundbreaking strides made by females, the artwork also encompasses a reverence for the female gender and all the gifts she possesses. Cold Spring artist, Elizabeth Arnold’s piece, titled, “Momma,” is a potent tribute to George Floyd and his mother. Focusing on the final words Floyd helplessly uttered, it resonates with the beauty and gentleness inherent in feminine love, as well as makes other subtle statements on some very critically relevant topics.
“I wanted to show the respect to the feminine love and the soft parts of everyone who gets so disrespected in this day, age and society,” said Arnold as she surveyed her piece. “If you look closer, you will see the hints of systematic racism and pain that goes along with that as well.”
Another artist, oil and watercolor painter, Marguerite Eberhart of Salisbury Mills, was on hand at the Opening, and also talked about that concept of pain stemming from a host of stifling roadblocks the four trailblazing women (three artists and a writer) she depicted faced. Despite the unfair assumptions and cruel biases in their paths, each prevailed, making their mark on the art world and beyond.
“I chose to paint these four women because of the challenges they faced, whether it be racism, sexuality or mental health issues,” explained newcomer to the Women’s Show Eberhart about the images, located on the right side wall of the Gallery. “Despite those factors, they truly achieved and plowed through; there were no whiners, and I really look up to them.”
That sense of respect was also evident toward the ensemble of women painted by another area artist, Anna West. The third year show participant and oil painter normally paints on book covers when traveling. Due to the restrictions of COVID however, she creatively adjusted her subject matter. “I really love being a part of this show because it’s a beautiful space here at Howland with a long tradition of music, art and community, and this month is extra special because I don’t normally focus on people in my art, but I wanted to celebrate my gender.”
That tribute to women and art continues throughout the month each weekend. The Gallery will be open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, from 1-5 through March 28; the only exception is on March 21, as the facility is being used for another event. Whether you go to imbibe the artwork, chat with the artists or simply take in the vibe of the dynamic progress that resonates throughout the Howland this month, you are likely to be positively impacted, perhaps even inspired, by this very relevant, special group art show.
“The intellectual and socially conscious realization of equality for all has taken a giant leap,” said Northcutt. “There are still lingering attitudes about women that still need to be overcome and the fight is not over yet.”
The Howland Arts Center is located at 477 Main Street, and they can be reached at (845) 831-4988 as well as on the Web at: www.howlandculturalcenter.org.