Ladies’ month in the art scene8/31/2016
Perhaps because, as Picasso remarked, artists are children who never grow up, the art world marks time to a school year calendar. Summer is for vacation, frivolity and fairs. September returns the arts to more serious things. It is no different this year, although the better nature of this month’s art scene is more feminine than in other seasons of the autumnal equinox.
Larassa Kabel returns to the gallery scene without a single desperate, flying horse. The artist best known for her uncannily realistic drawings of people and animals has been turning out images from a horrific scene of a wild mustang being tossed through the air after colliding with a truck. These surrealistic renderings of helpless high flyers were so popular that it was hard for her to stop making them.
“Upspeak,” her new show at Moberg Gallery, features new work, new media and a collaboration with artist Ben Easter. The show features women who Kabel admires — Heidi Bagg, Samantha Barbour, Heidi Wiren Bartlett, Jennifer Buchowski, Dasha Medvedava, Jean-Marie Salem, Jessica Pleyel, Virginia Traxler and Taylor Yocum. Besides photographs there are blankets with images made from Kabel’s drawings.
“Being a woman comes with a lot of expectations,” Kabel explained. “How we dress, what we say, and what we do with our bodies all come with other people’s expectations. We are taught that if we follow the rules, we will be safe. But we know better. That bad things happen to good people through no fault of their own causes great uneasiness in the minds of mothers, the hearts of sisters and the souls of friends.” “Upspeak” will be on display until Oct. 9.
Vivian Maier (1926-2009) was a very private lady. The reclusive photographer’s body of work was never exhibited until after her death. In 2011, she debuted posthumously at the Chicago Cultural Center. After collector John Maloof linked some of her photos (she took more than 200,000) to the website Flickr, they went viral. She was instantly celebrated as a great undiscovered talent of the 20th century. Such artists are a strong point in the Des Moines Art Center’s repertoire. Their exhibition, “Vivian Maier Through a Critical Lens,” will play Sept. 17 through Jan. 22.
Described as a “real life Marry Poppins,” Maier spent 40 years in Chicago as a nanny. She walked the streets of the city photographing people (mostly immigrants and African-Americans) and architecture. Her collection also includes shots from Los Angeles and New York, though she traveled the world with her camera. In her old age, adult children she had cared for arranged to have her moved to a nicer apartment than the one from which she was being evicted. She fell on ice and was hospitalized in 2008 and was unable to keep up payments on a storage unit where her films and photos were stored. They were auctioned, and three Chicago art dealers bought most of them. The intellectual property rights for reproduction have been highly contested ever since.
The Des Moines Art Center show includes 70 photographs (50 black-and-white and 20 color prints) of people encountered on the streets of New York City. Because there are still many questions about Maier, the Art Center will facilitate discussions about her photography and her life from Oct. 20-23.
Two strong female artists also join the always interesting abstractions of Scott Charles Ross in Olson-Larsen Galleries’ current show. Eugenie Torgerson captures the subtleties of Midwest and Great Plains landscapes in her pastels. Anna Lambrini Moisiadis references her personal history as a multilingual world citizen of Greek heritage. Both historical and contemporary images tell stories of ancient Greece and modern cities. Layering and stitching suggest the decay of ancient ruins and the passage of time. This show runs through Oct. 1.■