Collection Spotlight: Women Photographers

March 4–September 11, 2022

This exhibition showcases work by ten women photographers in the Museum’s collection, with a focus on their use of the figure as an expressive and narrative device. Working from the era of the first cameras with roll film in the 1890s to large format film and alternative processes in the digital age, they created a rich array of work ranging from posed portraits to elaborately composed scenes.

The earliest photographers on view, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Mathilde Weil, and Emilie V. Clarkson, faced numerous challenges in a male-dominated art world, yet still earned respect and critical attention in their field. All three women were featured in the American Pictorial Photography portfolios curated by the influential photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz for Camera Notes. Johnston with a soft-focus portrait of a woman in a plumed hat, Weil with an elegant studio portrait, and Clarkson with a historical recreation of a woman at a spinning wheel. Working in the mid-twentieth century, Barbara Morgan is best known for capturing the energy and drama of modern dance, which was becoming a distinct genre in the 1930s and 40s. She is represented here with one image portraying the iconic dance pioneer Martha Graham with Erick Hawkins and another of dancer and choreographer José Limón.

The exhibition celebrates a number of new acquisitions to the Museum’s large photography collection, including color photographs by Suda House and Mary Frey. Fabricating imaginary settings, House styles her models as goddesses in plastic pools surrounded by their mythological attributes, while Frey memorializes the deeply personal moment of her son holding her dying mother. Also included in this exhibition are portraits and figural compositions by Kenda North, Bonnie Schiffman, Melanie Walker, and Nancy Webber, all on view in the Museum’s galleries for the first time.

 

The exhibition is curated by Victoria McKenna-Ratjen, Curatorial Assistant.

Suda House (American, b. 1951). Diana, 1986. From the Aqueous Myths series. Lightjet Fuji Crystal Archive print. Gift of the artist, 2020 (2020.3.2). Photo: Courtesy of the artist. © Suda House.