Archive for March, 2011

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By Rajashree Ghosh and Michele L’Heureux, Guest Columnists

The Waltham Committee at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center organized a studio tour of select women artists at the Waltham Mills Artists Association on Dec. 16.

In an attempt to learn more about Waltham landmarks and the community, the tour to the Waltham Mills Artists Association focused on thriving women artists. Fortunately, one of the artists at the studios also happens to be the WSRC’s curator. Who better than Michele L’Heureux to lead us in this tour? Her intimacy with the studios as a resident and as an active member of the artist’s community enabled the group to make connections with the artists.

The Waltham Mills Artists Association is not far from Brandeis University on Moody Street in Waltham and is accessible by car and commuter train. The studios occupy two large industrial buildings along the Charles River that formerly housed the Waltham Cotton and Wool Factory.  More than twenty people including faculty and staff from Brandeis, artists and WSRC Scholars took part in this tour. Ms. L’Heureux directed this sizable group to 12 studios, including her own, to meet the artists and hear about their work and influences.

Beginning in Liza Bingham’s studio, visitors were treated to several paintings that explore a particular American landscape and got to hear Liza explain her interest in the figure/ground relationship.

Painter Julie Weiman then shared her process in creating rich multi-layered striped paintings.

Antoinette Winter’s works on paper reference architecture and plumbing structures, while Joan Baldwin’s paintings of tiny furniture that reference human relationships were unique and fascinating.

Painter Sue Post explained that her paintings represented her relationships with people close to her but that she wanted viewers to relate to them in their own ways.

When the group walked into Janet Shapero’s studio, they were enthralled by the installations that covered the large walls with promising possibilities for viewer interaction.

And it was sheer indulgence to learn about 30-year WMAA member Suzanne Hodes and to see her work that has inspired so many other artists.

Hilda Kahne, resident scholar at the WSRC said, “I really enjoyed seeing Suzanne Hodes’ new directions. When I last saw her work, it was focused on paintings resulting from her work in Japan–also very beautiful.”

It was riveting to watch Lyn Christiansen demonstrate her work on Kumihimo braiding and to view her work with mosaic tile.   Lyn also displayed commercial work she does to support her art, including creating hand-made tassles and curtain ties.

Elli Crocker’s
constellations and depictions of human and animal forms depict mythological themes, as well as address current issues.

Kris Waldman’s small sculptures and large photographs draw from organic sources and make use of discarded items such as seed pods, metal scraps, and more.

The tour culminated in Michele’s studio which has also been her home for the past couple years. She said that it will be bittersweet to move into a new home because of the terrific sense of community at the WMAA.

In her role as curator at WSRC, she exhibits work by other artists, but it was in her home studio that visitors got a peek at what she does when she’s not working at the WSRC. Using mixed media, collage and painting, her work engages viewers in a dialogue about identities which are often ambiguous.

In the end, Shulamit Reinharz, director of the Women’s Studies Research Center, said, “The tour was a wonderful experience.”

Naomi Myrvaagnes, a WSRC scholar, found the tour and the women’s art “most stimulating, engaging, uplifting.”

For the rest of the visitors, the range of art, vision and techniques were impressive.

The WSRC comprises a vibrant community of scholars focusing on gender in their respective fields by combining research, art and activism.

The WSRC’s Waltham Committee addresses the Center’s concern for engaged community activism in that it enhances partnerships with entities in the local Waltham community and works to increase community participation at WSRC events.

In the past, it has organized discussions with local non-profits on how to address the needs of the community and how to reduce the disconnect between the university and the Greater Waltham community. These discussions have led WSRC Scholars to recognize that some of the community’s needs are pressing ones, and the Waltham Committee has undertaken several initiatives in collaboration with Waltham organizations to effectively respond to these issues.

This tour unveiled for all a new set of treasures in our own backyard. The WMAA studios are not only important spaces for women artists but also for all members of the Waltham community as a landmark with a rich history and a dynamic contemporary life. The Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University is proud to be part of that community.


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