I actually made it to Washington, D.C. for the semi-annual meetings at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The museum was looking its best, in this its 25th Anniversary year. It tickles me every time I walk into the stunning marble lobby
to think that at one time this building housed a Masonic lodge, and women were not permitted inside. Now the building houses the world’s foremost collection of art by women, from the 16th century to the present.
As always, the NMWA’s current exhibitions are wide-ranging, and pulsing with both information and life. The exhibitions begin outside, before the visitor even reaches the museum’s doors. Featured along the median strip of New York Avenue is the monumental sculptural work of Chakaia Booker. Her unique oeuvre is formed from intricately sliced and formed re-purposed tires.
In Booker’s talented hands, this unlikely medium takes on a muscular life of its own. Booker is the second woman artist to have her work showcased in this outstanding street forum. Niki de Saint Phalle’s work was on display along The New York Avenue Sculpture Project space for the two years previously.
The NMWA promises an ongoing program of art along this city avenue median gallery – a visual feast of powerful sculpture by prominent women artists that will change every two years.
Inside the museum are exhibitions stretching over several centuries, from the work of British and Irish Women Silversmiths from the 17th and 18th centuries, to the glamorous photographic portraits of notable women artists shown in Fabulous! Portraits by Michele Mattei.
Of special note is the ground breaking exhibition Women Who Rock. Did you know that women artists like Ma Rainey were among the first actually to record their blues, country and rock-a-billy music on records? That early women artists like Wanda Jackson toured with and influenced Elvis Presley, among others? Yes, these women were rocking way back then. This exhibition has traveled to Washington as a first, from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. It was created, and debuted there after Cindi Lauper was given a tour of the existing Hall of Fame collection. She basically asked, “Where are the women?” The musical sisterhood collection on show encompasses everything from recordings, favorite guitars, photographs, album covers, clothing and (touchingly, to me) hand written lyrics (in pencil, in spiral bound notebooks), from such diverse greats as Billie Holliday, Mother Maybelle Carter, The Supremes, Judy Collins, Janis Joplin, Joan Jett, Patti Smith and Madonna, to Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Lady Gaga. ( I know, I know, I probably left out your favorites.) You all rock, ladies.
The Fall Gala at the museum, starring Melissa Etheridge, was apparently an enormous success. The NMWA’s 25th Anniversary year is proving to be quite the party.