Ladies to the Front 

Richmond’s fall arts season will buzz with the work of female artists, gallerists and curators.

click to enlarge Well-known Virginia photographer Sally Mann, pictured during the exhibition of “The Flesh and Spirit” in 2010, returns to town Sept. 18. She’ll be signing her new memoir, “Hold Still,” and exhibit new photographs at the Reynolds Gallery.

Scott Elmquist

Well-known Virginia photographer Sally Mann, pictured during the exhibition of “The Flesh and Spirit” in 2010, returns to town Sept. 18. She’ll be signing her new memoir, “Hold Still,” and exhibit new photographs at the Reynolds Gallery.

The Richmond art scene is undergoing a transition this fall — and women seem to be at the helm. Established voices are carrying on, fresh newcomers have entered and overlooked women are getting their due. Looking around town, it doesn’t take long to notice that many of the gallerists, curators and exhibiting artists are female.

Anderson Gallery director Ashley Kistler escorts the now-closed gallery out by situating its historical relevance with a more than 150 page book. It commemorates the gallery’s 45-year history and its pivotal role within the nationally ranked Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts. Set for publication in late October or early November, the catalog will include writing by Kistler, VCU Dean Joe Seipel, former directors Steven High and Marilyn Zeitlin, and retired professors, as well as seven artist-designed folios. Though the image doesn’t do justice to the work in person, Matt Spahr’s “Anderson Gallery Wall Excavation” (2015) visually records the history of the gallery as simplified striations: The gradations of colorful paint represent a timeline of one exhibition after another.

Sally Mann will be signing her memoir, “Hold Still” (2015), at Reynolds Gallery on Sept. 18, in tandem with “Six Rivers,” a solo exhibition of new photographs of rivers across Virginia and works from the earlier Motherland and Deep South series. While the book verges at times on romantic overkill, Mann’s colorful genealogy, descriptions of her photographs and compelling storytelling about her upbringing in the South make it a valuable read.

Candela Books and Gallery celebrates accomplished photographer Willie Anne Wright with her first major monograph and exhibition. Since she’s 91, this seems overdue. Wright’s monograph and exhibition, both titled “Direct Positive” and opening Nov. 6, will feature her haunting, vignette pinhole photographs of figures and still lifes that beg for rich narratives.

Newcomers also are on display. The Visual Arts Center welcomes Stefanie Fedor as its new executive director to reinvigorate the nonprofit space. The Institute for Contemporary Art’s inaugural curator, Lauren Ross, mounts her first Richmond exhibition, “Nir Evron: Projected Claims,” at VCU’s Depot Gallery. An Israeli artist working in Tel Aviv, Evron will show “Threshold” (2015), a series of photographs taken from Rawabi, a Palestinian city under construction in the West Bank.

While the institute’s programming isn’t tied to the building or fundraising campaign, a strong exhibition certainly would help the raise that last elusive $2 million. And the projected date of completion for the building? Ross answers, laughing: “All I know is 2017!”

Other shows to watch for a fall of emerging artists include Tameka Norris at 1708 Gallery, opening Oct. 22. First tagged by “Modern Painters” in 2011 and again in 2013 as one of the 24 artists to watch in 2013, Norris’ work blends music, collage, and complex racial and gender stereotypes. Calling herself the black Cindy Sherman, Norris will be making all new work for 1708.

And if you didn’t catch the openings Sept. 4, make sure you stop by “The All-Nighters” at Sediment arts, which has a closing reception Oct. 2, and “Louviere and Vanessa: Resonantia” at Candela’s before it comes down Oct. 24.

Finally, there are the women whose narratives have been overlooked. Independent curator Debra Bricken Balken organized the exhibition, “Edna Andrade: an Overview,” which opens Oct. 27 at the University of Richmond. The little-known Andrade, who trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Bauhaus, spent most of her adult life in Philadelphia. She started out painting realistic scenes, but Andrade turned to abstract, optical art because it allowed her to paint in small chunks of time, as her parenting responsibilities increased. Visually striking with its bold colors and geometric shapes, the works are a cross between a Bridget Riley painting and Anni Albers’ weaving, while remaining distinctly Andrade.

Perhaps the perfect foil to this theme of femininity is “Rodin,” which opens Nov. 21 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with projected attendance hovering around 80,000 [see page 13]. Mitchell Merling, the Paul Mellon curator and head of the Department of European Art, describes the exhibition as “stepping into the studio of Rodin and getting behind his artistic genius.”

It will be interesting to see how Auguste Rodin’s female models and assistants factor into the story. For example, his longtime assistant and mistress, Camille Claudel, is centrally featured in the exhibition as a marble personification of thought, but will she be credited, as some feminist scholars argue, as an important collaborator? Stop by to see for yourself.

Really, that’s the best advice. This guide is just a reviewer’s opinion and meant to be tested. Art is best when it complements its viewers by providing tools for thinking deeply, either individually or collectively. The really engaging stuff relies on our skill to look thoroughly and contemplatively. It takes practice. It takes time. So get out and start looking.

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