The smallest gesture can be radical — profound, progressive, or even revolutionary.
But it can often depend on who’s making it.
At the Southampton Arts Center, it is a group of 23 artists, brought together by one curator under one roof for one purpose: to speak their voice, and to speak it as women.
“Now is certainly a time when you want to remind people that women are as strong as men and can do anything they want to do. That was the reason for doing a show like this: to support the cause and to support women,” Director Amy Kirwin said. “I consider myself to be a strong woman. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I’ve gotten, and I’m independent and tough. I’ve always felt that a woman can do anything a man can do — in art, and beyond.”
Starting Saturday, February 17, the museum-wide exhibit “A Radical Voice: 23 Women” will anchor a wide slate of film and theater programming all featuring strong female leads — from “Dina” and “The Divine Order” on the screen to Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” on stage. It is an exhibit that came together very quickly, Kirwin said, under the direction of Janet Goleas, who “put together this incredible line-up of artists and artwork.”
Based on the East End and New York, some of the artists know each another personally or professionally, but some not at all. Some may have never seen Tamara Gonzales’s tapestries — a collaboration with female weavers she met in Peru — or Judith Linhares’s punchy, oftentimes humorous figurative explorations of the feminine form or Alice Hope’s ephemeral sculptures, and how they all speak to one another and the work from the 20 remaining artists.
“I was very selective in saying ‘A Radical Voice,’ not ‘The Radical Voice,’ because I’m not trying to claim any territory for these women,” Goleas said. “The only political thing about the show is that it’s all women. Otherwise, I wasn’t looking for protest art or women’s march posters. Those are great, but that wasn’t my focus here. My focus was people with an unordinary commitment to their art. I think the act of maintaining a studio practice for 20, 30, 40, 50 years is a pretty radical thing to do.”
As a child, Laurie Lambrecht could be found knitting and embroidering if she wasn’t climbing a tree or wandering through the woods. As an adult, she has finally found a way to merge the two, after keeping them separate for most of her life.
In a series she calls “Bark Cloths” — which will make its debut at the Southampton Arts Center — the artist printed photographs of trees on linen and added embroidery to each, using linen, wool and cotton like a painter’s brushstrokes.
“To me, I think working with textiles and fiber has been something that for a long time was sanctioned, set aside for something that women did — that a woman should only be educated to a certain point, but trained to do needlework. It was all about discipline,” she said. “I think that it’s exciting, to me, to be able to use it in a different way, and be loose and expressive with it, rather than thinking about embroidery as being controlled.”
For Lambrecht, who was born and raised in Bridgehampton, the woods are her muse, and a place of comfort, changing only in subtle ways. And the trees represent a certain steadiness and wisdom that today’s turbulent world could use, she said.
“I grew up not really thinking too much about feminism, but it’s a real thing in the art world,” she said. “Sometimes, you absorb things the way they are, and it’s not until you reach an obstacle that you’re really aware of situations. And, so, I’ve been thinking a lot about the title.”
So has artist Almond Zigmund. While “A Radical Voice” has not directly impacted her work — “There’s a lot of things that go on in my head when I work, but there’s no specific sort of location of inspiration,” she explained — it has inspired the artist to challenge herself.
To search for her most radical voice, she said, and meet that title.
“I’ve been working a lot with collage this year, so I’m kind of thinking of this installation as a collage in space,” she said. “I’ve been working on individual parts throughout this month and some of them are on the wall and some of them are on the floor, and I’m assembling different kinds of materials that I’ve been working with over the years. I’ll bring them all into the space a week before and just work in the space to bring them all together.”
She paused, and continued. “Maybe what’s radical is just getting everybody together and bringing the pieces into the space,” she said. “And I think the choice to be an artist is a radical one, especially for women to a certain extent, because it’s a bit like swimming upstream, depending on the work that you do.”
More and more, women are finding their rightful place in the art world, Goleas said, but there is much work to be done. “A Radical Voice” is a push in that direction, she said.
“There’s still so much inequality and unfairness in the world and, certainly in business. We have to change our opinions because women are part of the workforce more than they’ve ever been, and to have equality lagging behind equal contributions to the family is preposterous,” Goleas said. “As women become greater and greater voices in their own place in business and in a broader culture, it has to change. It absolutely will change.
“In my opinion, we still have a long way to go, but we have definitely made some strides,” she continued. “Women are changing and, let’s face it, men are changing, too, and I think there’s a younger culture of men that understands equality to a greater degree than their fathers did — and that’s heartening. That’s progress. As we move forward, I think all the genders will hopefully work together toward a more equal and fair world.”
“A Radical Voice: 23 Women,” curated by Janet Goleas, will open with a reception on Saturday, February 17, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Southampton Arts Center, located at 25 Jobs Lane in Southampton. A curator’s gallery tour will be held on Sunday, February 18, at 2 p.m., and the exhibit will remain on view through March 25. Admission is free.
Participating artists include: Olive Ayhens, Amanda Church, Martha Clippinger, Connie Fox, Regina Gilligan, Tamara Gonzales, Jacqueline Gourevitch, Lisa Hein, Priscilla Heine, Hilary Helfant, Elana Herzog, Alice Hope, Laurie Lambrecht, Judith Linhares, Erika Ranee, Judy Richardson, Bonnie Rychlak, Toni Ross, Drew Shiflett, Jeanne Silverthorne, Zina Saro-Wiwa, Jude Tallichet and Almond Zigmund.
For a full schedule of related programs, or more information, please call (631) 283-0967 or visit southamptonartscenter.org.