(Some) Women Artists Give Their Window On The World

McKenzie Belisle | June 3rd, 2019

(Some) Women Artists Give Their Window On The World

Arts & Culture  |  Visual Arts


Veracious on view at the Yale Divinity School earlier this year. Lucy Gellman File Photo. 

In the humming dark of the New Haven Museum, artist Jennifer Rae pulled up a detail of her recent work Veracious. On screen, what looked like a chapel window opened on a cutout of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, her silhouette in bright white. Beneath the window frame, viewers could sink and pray on a small stool of crushed red velvet, reciting a benediction for the professor’s bravery.

Last Wednesday, Rae was one of five artists to present her work during “Women Artists of New Haven,” a collaboration between Nasty Women Connecticut and the New Haven Museum during Capturing Life and Beauty: Women Artists of the New Haven Paint and Clay ClubThe exhibition runs through July 27. 

The discussion included artists Evie Lindemann, Rashmi Talpade, Dolores Gall, Alfonsina Betancourt and Rae and was moderated by Nasty Women Co-Founder Luciana McClure and Capturing Life and Beauty Curator Tanya Pohrt.

Pohrt introduced the evening by noting that the New Haven Paint and Clay Club is one of the oldest active arts organizations in America, going back to 1900. The club holds many activities and community programs like annual exhibitions, scholarships, and awards, to support and encourage New Haven area in visual arts as well as New England.

It has not historically, however, been the most inclusive—a topic that McClure said she wanted to discuss during the evening, and plans to address further in a follow-up discussion.

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Tanya Pohrt, Lucy McClure and Jennifer Rae. McKenzie Belisle Photo. 

“My hope for the panel was to think how some stories are not being told, and also how artists that are already elevated due to privilege can support and create dialogue with artists that don’t have it so easy,” McClure said in a follow-up email. “I also want to know why as women artists we seek out spaces, groups, and clubs ... places of security and comfort but at times isolation from other groups.”

Wednesday offered some, but not all, of those answers, setting the stage for further dialogue. Rae, a local of New Haven, told attendees about her work in making pieces that breed emotions inside of the viewers. As a digital and mixed media artist , Rae said she finds herself coming back to emotion and identity— something she is able to depict and extract easily.

“I find it very interesting, as an empath, we have the ability to take other people's emotions inside of us,” said Rae. “Sometimes they become more apart of our reality more than we would like them too.”

Her Veracious is a sculptural portrait of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in mixed media, accompanied by a velvet kneeler like those found in a church. As the viewers kneel on the plush velvet kneeler and look up at the piece, they are greeted with a feeling of honesty and truth, as if the piece somehow is relieving one of all the pain and anguish they have endured.

One of the other artists, Betancourt, is originally from Venezuela and has been in the state for 20 years now. While Rae looked to her artwork directly, Betancourt spoke about her relationship with media itself. Though she has dabbled in many different realms of art, she had always found herself coming back to painting and painting portraits specifically.

“I think the main reason I always come back to painting portraits is because I love the connections I can make with people and the stories of their lives that they share with me,” said Betancourt. “I feel bits and pieces of their stories get threaded into the painting.”

Artist Evie Lindemann, who works in the master of arts in art therapy and counseling program at Albertus Magnus college as well as psychology, told the audience she sees art as intertwined with story.

She emphasized how art is a way in which people allow themselves to tell stories. As a woman and as an artist, she said she has a strong ‘inner critic’—and so do many other women artists around her. For her, the inner critic resides in her head and tends to be very nasty and judgemental. This ‘inner critic’ forces many to follow certain rules and then punishes those who break the rules.

“Everybody in this room has a story,” she said. “Your story interweaves with a path, and your profession and your gender and identity.”

After the panel, during which artists ran over and the audience had no time for questions, McClure said she looks forward to holding another discussion on the topic.

“Isolation was a topic that came a lot from the women of the Paint and Clay Club, and I am curious to dive further into that conversation,” she said. “I want people to join us for the next event with the same panel and be ready to come for a discussion around women artists in New Haven and the many paths and stories that are not being heard or seen.”

McKenzie Belisle is a junior at New Haven Academy who interned with the Arts Paper for three weeks in May. She will be joining the Arts Paper as a freelancer writer this summer.