March: Celebrating our Women Alumni Artists

Lila Katzen (left) shows her maquette to gallery committee member Maggie Moseley, 1976

While the Flinn Gallery is closed we’re revisiting our archives with special monthly themes. In March we’re celebrating Women’s History Month by looking at some of the illustrious women who have contributed to the Flinn Gallery’s history over the last 90+ years. The gallery itself owes its existence to one particular woman, visionary town librarian Isabelle Hurlbutt, who founded the space and secured funding in 1928. The gallery was later dedicated and named in her honor. In 2000, following a Greenwich Library renovation, we moved into new exhibition space and were renamed the Flinn Gallery.

From our earliest days we’ve shown women artists in all media and styles, from a 1930 solo exhibit of photographer Clara Sipprell (Photographs by Clara Sipprell: American Southwest, Canadian Rockies, Portraits) to abstract painter Elaine De Kooning, included in 1956’s Greenwich Collects: Twentieth Century Masterpieces. We featured sculptors using interesting materials Helène Aylon (plexiglass), Lila Katzen (ultraviolet light), Susan Lewis Williams (inflatable vinyl), and Barbara Zucker (neoprene and latex) in Young Artists: New York 1970. Williams and Zucker went on to co-found the NYC artist-run cooperative A.I.R Gallery in 1972 and we featured Zucker’s work again in a 1984 solo show. Katzen and early environmental artist Athena Tacha were later chosen for Greenwich’s town-wide outdoor sculpture bicentennial celebration, Sculpture ’76, with their maquettes and drawings shown at the gallery.

Tacha’s work was on view again the following year in Contact: Women and Nature, curated by Lucy Lippard. That 1977 show featured a Who’s Who of female artists including Louise Bourgeois, Yvonne Jacquette, Nancy Graves, Carolee Schneemann, Ana Mendieta, and Faith Wilding (in conversation with Lippard here) and is one of the two exhibits we’ve shown where “women artists only” was an organizing principle. 2017’s Venus Fly was the other, also featuring artists working in diverse media.

Legendary gallerist and abstract artist Betty Parsons was shown twice in the early 1970s and, four short years after Paula Cooper opened the first art gallery in Soho, we hosted Paula Cooper Gallery: New York ’72, albeit with sculptor Lynda Benglis as the sole female on the show’s roster.

Whitney Biennial performance and video artist Kate Gilmore (2018’s All Together) and photographer Amanda Means (2014’s In Focus) are two of our Guggenheim Fellowship winners. Grace Knowlton, who first came to prominence with spherical outdoor sculpture, showed her photographs in 1988 and noted abstract painter Emily Mason was in a two-person show in 2003. Graffiti pioneer Lady Pink was featured alongside Swoon in 2018’s Beyond Street Art, cut paper artist Béatrice Coron had a 2011 solo exhibit, and famed cartoonist Roz Chast was included in 2013’s Very Short Stories: Conceptual Illustration.

Fiber artists Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney, Helena Hernmarck, and Norma Minkowitz were brought together in 2006’s Beyond Weaving: International Art Textiles. We had previously given Hernmarck a solo show in 1989. Minkowitz was shown again in 2017’s Of Art and Craft. Master weaver and author of On Weaving, Anni Albers, was featured three times with her related prints.

Whether it’s our all-female group of volunteers, guest curators and gallerists, or, most importantly, the incredible artists we’ve shown throughout our 90+ years, women have been at the forefront of everything we’ve achieved.

Greenwich Library has created a reading list if you’d like to explore women artists further.

Last month we focused on our Flinn Alumni Artist Valentines and you can find even more of our artists here.