'Betty of Courage and Faith' by Jamie Lindholm. / Courtesy of Jamie Lindholm
WOMEN PAINTING WOMENWHEN: Through Oct. 26; call for hours
OPENING RECEPTION: 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26
WHERE: Gallery U Boutique,
439 South Ave., Westfield
INFO: 973-699 3486
ON THE WEB
Atlantic Highlands-based painter Nanci France-Vaz shares her inspiration.
The Bridgewater resident is also national coordinator for the Portrait Society of America and runs two art studios in the Martinsville section of Bridgewater.
While Lindholm’s success surely can be attributed to her talent, it doesn’t hurt that many people assume she’s a man, she says. She often uses the gender-neutral name J.D. Lindholm for professional advantage.
“Paintings by women historically don’t sell,” Lindholm says. “As long as they think that I could possibly be a man, they are more likely to take me seriously.”
Other female painters think, as Lindholm does, that their gender sometimes hinders their opportunities.
“The art world is heavily dominated by male artists and male gallery owners,” says Victoria Herrera, a Montclair-based painter. “If you look at any major art gallery, the number of female artist representation is only one-third of total work, and sometimes much less than that. The percentage is even less in museums.”
Lindholm and Herrera, along with fellow painters Colleen Gallo of Boonton and Louise Hafesh of Fort Lee, hope to challenge that status quo. The four organized “Women Painting Women,” an exhibit featuring 12 New Jersey-based female artists which takes place Sept. 26-Oct. 26 at the U Gallery’s new location in Westfield.
The New Jersey exhibit is part of a larger “Women Painting Women” movement created by four female painters in 2008 as a blog. The movement has grown to include concurrent gallery exhibitions in Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, New York, South Carolina, Scotland and now New Jersey.
The exhibit showcases the female perspective, says Nanci France-Vaz, an Atlantic Highlands-based painter featured in the New Jersey exhibit.
“It is about how women interpret themselves as opposed to how men interpret them,” France-Vaz says. “Who better to paint women than women?”
France-Vaz has been painting women all her life. The complexity of women and the many different roles they take on makes them the perfect subject, she says.
“Women can be so strong and so soft at the same time,” she says. “We are still beautiful no matter how powerful we are.”
That perspective contradicts the sexualized viewpoint many male painters take when painting women, Gallo says. The viewpoint isn’t necessarily bad, says Gallo, but it is one-sided.
“When a woman paints a woman, not to say we aren’t going to do a nude, but we aren’t going to pose her in the same way,” Gallo says. “I don’t know that men want to honor women in the same way that women do. We want to tell our own story.”
The exhibit is also about honoring New Jersey artists, Hafesh says.
Although there are many talented artists in the state, their work is often overshadowed by nearby Philadelphia and New York City artists.
“Most people don’t think of New Jersey as the arts center, but New Jersey has some amazing talent,” Hafesh says. “The 12 women artists that we have are just a phenomenal group. We have North Jersey, Central, South. It just came together perfectly.”
The exhibit features one piece from each artist, including work by Lindholm, France-Vaz, Gallo, Hafesh and Herrera. Also featured are Carole Dakake of Fredon, Nancy Depew of Plainfield, Ellen Eagle and Stephanie Deshpande of Glen Ridge, Annette Hanna of Boonton Township, Natalie Italiano of Haddonfield and Lea Colie Wight of Manasquan.
Family inspirationLindholm’s painting “Betty of Courage and Faith”pays tribute to her late mother, whom she greatly admired. After Lindholm’s father died at age 48, her mother raised seven children alone while working to support the family.
“I don’t even know how she did it,” Lindholm says. “I can’t think of a better woman that I’d like to paint.”
The image portrays Lindholm’s mother at age 20, standing in a white gown against a lotus flower design. The lotus is symbolic of her femininity and her desire to have a big family, Lindholm says.
Next to her sit two lions, representing courage and faith, Lindholm says. These lions are also metaphors for Lindholm and her twin brother.
“She had the courage to make the changes she needed to and the faith to get through it,” Lindholm says.
Self reflectionGallo portrays her own life struggles in her piece,“Her Journey Continues.” The painting is a self-portrait, depicting Gallo standing in the woods, grasping a tree. She chose to paint this piece to represent her emotional journey dealing with her husband’s life-threatening illness
“We have been together for 35 years, and he has been my rock,” Gallo says. “But I know that he isn’t going to be my rock forever. The tree is kind of the symbol of that. It is me looking into the woods, and kind of questioning if I can leave my rock and be able to survive without him.”
Gallo chose a quiet wooded spot in Boontown Township that she likes to visit as the setting for her painting. Silver and gold leaf were incorporated into the painting for added texture and shine. Painting has helped Gallo cope with her husband’s illness.
“It is very emotional. It is very cathartic,” she says. “You can kind of see it in my eyes in the painting.”
Life after SandyAs a Jersey Shore resident, France-Vaz saw the devastation of Sandy firsthand. Although her home wasn’t damaged, many of her neighbors’ and friends’ homes were destroyed, as were many of her favorite local destinations. Her painting “The Wish” was created to represent her hope for the Jersey Shore’s recovery.
To create the piece, she first took photos of her model at Sandy Hook.
“When we shot at Sandy Hook, everything was all boarded up,” France-Vaz says. “But here she is, dressed really nice. It is about having hope that things will get better.”
On clear days, France-Vaz can see the beach from a small circle window in her home art studio. She says she often looks out and asks God to “make everything OK.” The painting depicts her model doing the same thing, she says.
“I felt like she stepped forward, and there was a light coming from above, from God,” France-Vaz says. “It says to me, ‘I wish for hope, I wish for life. I want things to change down here, I want people to recover.’ ”
Back in time“Interlude,” a painting featured in the exhibit by Italiano, portrays Adele, a Hawaiian woman who is also a painter. In the painting, she is wearing a kimono, and her hair is styled in a “timeless” style meant to “transcend our time period” and connect the viewer with traditions of the past, Italiano says.
Few young people in Japan still know how to create kimonos, says Italiano. She hopes her painting will both honor and preserve the traditional art form. Adele is painted looking at the viewer. This pose is meant to be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the perspective of the viewer, Italiano says.
The meaning of lightHafesh’s piece, "Sanctuary,” is all about light.
“For me, light is everything in painting,” Hafesh says. “I like to play between light and dark. To show coming out of the dark and into the light — it is sort of symbolic.”
The piece features a close-up of a mother and child locked in a comforting embrace with “beautiful, cool light” falling on their hands and faces.
Other that the cool light, the colors in the painting are golds, purples, reds and oranges.
“It is an intimate scene in that we are privy to a private moment between mother and child,” Hafesh says.
Laura Martin | @APPLauraMartin
‘Women Painting Women’
Women Painting Women began in 2008 as a blog exploring how contemporary female painters handle women as subjects, and has grown to include concurrent gallery exhibitions in Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, New York, South Carolina, Scotland and now New Jersey.
Inspired by the original Women Painting Women experience, New Jersey artists Colleen Gallo, Louise B. Hafesh, Victoria Herrera and Jamie Lindholm formed Women Painting Women NJ (WPWNJ) with the goal of building community and visibility for women artists.
An opening reception for WPW-NJ will be held 6-9 p.m. Oct. 26. The show will run through October at Gallery U Boutique, 439 South Ave. West, Westfield. Local artist Nanci France-Vaz, Atlantic Highlands, joins 11 other women artists in this unique figurative exhibition, including Carole Dakake, Nancy Depew, Stephanie Deshpande, Ellen Eagle, Gallo, Hafesh, Annette Hanna, Herrera, Natalie Italiano, Lindholm and Lea Colie Wight. France-Vaz is an exhibiting member of the Guild of Creative Art, Shrewsbury, and an instructor at Brookdale Community College.
Gallery U is part of Universal Institute Rehab, which services individuals with traumatic brain injuries. This summer, Gallery U Montclair, Red Bank and Bethlehem will come together in one location. For more information, contact Robert Greco, gallery director, at 973-699-3486.