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Academics . Community Works . Exhibitions 


Exhibitions shed light on social, cultural issues

CIA’s year-long Community Works series includes exhibitions designed to provoke thought and highlight social and cultural issues. During the fall 2014 semester, CIA presented five international artists in Community Works: Artist as Social Agent. Spring semester 2015 brings a major exhibition in the Reinberger Galleries, Women to Watch - Ohio, and, in the Joseph McCullough Center for the Visual Arts, a collection of artworks and research findings presented by students enrolled in three new field-based courses. Women to Watch - Ohio was initiated in partnership with the Ohio Advisory Group of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Cleveland Institute of Art's exhibition, Women to Watch – Ohio, will feature works by (from left) Lauren Yeager (Class of 2009), Christi Birchfield (Class of 2006), Hildur Jonsson, Mimi Kato, and Eva Kwong.

Women to Watch - Ohio celebrates five women artists

April 2-May 2, 2015

Where are all the women artists? According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), 51% of visual artists today are women, yet only 5% of work on US museum walls is by women, and work by women makes up only 5% of major permanent collections in the US and Europe. And according to a research paper, “The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships,” published by the Association of Art Museum Directors, women hold just 24% of art museum director positions at museums with budgets over $15 million and earn 71¢ for every dollar earned by male directors.

Through a unique collaboration with the Ohio Advisory Group of NMWA, CIA shines a spotlight on accomplished women artists with Women to Watch—Ohio. This exhibition, the last major show in CIA’s current Reinberger Galleries, will feature artworks by five women artists from Northeast Ohio who work in a variety of media including ceramics, tapestry, painting and drawing, photography, installation, and mixed media.

All of the artists are nominees for the international Women to Watch exhibition in Washington, D.C., which opens on June 4, 2015 at NMWA. (Click here to read  more about this international exhibition.) They were selected by Reto Thüring of the Cleveland Museum of Art and Rose Bouthillier of MOCA Cleveland based on the theme of women, nature and art. Women to Watch - Ohio includes CIA graduates Christi Birchfield (Class of 2006) and Lauren Yeager (Class of 2009), plus Hildur Jonsson, Mimi Kato, and Eva Kwong.

Reinberger Galleries Director Bruce Checefsky is curating Women to Watch - Ohio with the assistance of Jen Rokoski, a graduate level curatorial intern from the Art History and Museum Studies program at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). Rokoski was identified and engaged by Ohio Advisory Group member Catherine Scallen, who is chair of CWRU’s Art and Art History Department.

“We’re organizing this exhibition because women have been under recognized in exhibitions in this region and nationally and this is an attempt to show the significance of their contributions,” Checefsky said. “These particular women artists represent the very best and the finest craftsmen and artists in the region and have reputations that extend nationally and globally.”

Mimi Kato

Mood, experience and landscape are in conversation in Kato’s performative photomontages, which feature her image, embedded into traditional yet modernized Japanese landscapes. Through relentless repetition, Kato’s large photographic panels create a new theatrical space where the artist acts out all roles. Playful yet at times confrontational, she disrupts the notion of “natural” through her various roles and manipulation of the landscape, from soda cans floating down the river to two schoolgirls caressing one another while their disapproving parents spy above (again, all played by Kato).

Lauren Yeager

Yeager’s investigations of everyday objects breathe new life into items like traffic cones, mirrors, and yellow no. 2 pencils. Her work functions as an urban taxonomy, organizing seemingly banal objects and systems into something more interesting and often absurd. In a recent CIA exhibition catalogue Yeager explained, “The relevance of my work does not depend on a specific geographic location, but a more common, contemporary experience of everyday urban and suburban life.” In this respect, her work is more about interacting with any given environment in an effort to reimagine its organization, its meaning, and its active relationship with its participants.

Christi Birchfield

Birchfield looks to both the natural and mechanical world in efforts to create her own nature morte that is anything but lifeless. She pushes the limitations of her chosen medium, transforming the act of printmaking into a performative juxtaposition of destruction and delicacy. The printing press transforms organic materials through their own destruction as they become one with the surface. Her writhing designs find a delicate combination of chaos and harmony, emphasizing symmetry yet embracing the unexpectedness of the printing process. “Invested in the unique stains and texture each run produces, I am distanced again by the insensitive and aggressive act of making,” Birchfield explains.

Eva Kwong

Inspired by both macrocosmic and microcosmic environments, Kwong’s ceramic sculptures are direct manifestations of the natural world - in materiality, shape, and subject matter. “I am interested in the juxtaposition of mass/space, land/air, solid/hollow, male/female forms,” Kwong states. “I feel I am a hybrid constructed of opposites.” These dualities find harmony in her free-standing sculptures of organic forms and wall installations of fantastic bacteria, diatoms, and cells. Kwong’s work is deeply personal and rooted in understanding herself and the environments surrounding her.

Hildur Jonsson

Process is central to Jonsson’s textile-formed paintings, which become ghosts of the landscape of her native Iceland. Her colorful woven tapestries are stretched onto frames or (like her most recent works) heavily draped on gallery walls, further mirroring her beloved undulating Icelandic landscape. Jonsson returns to Iceland and photographs her hikes throughout its countryside, looking specifically “for shapes and interaction of lines and shapes. The photographs trigger the memory of being in these places and they help with forms,” she explained in the catalogue of her most recent solo exhibition.

Public Events

Women to Watch - Ohio opens to the public with a reception in Reinberger Galleries on Thursday, April 2, from 6-8 pm. As part of CIA's Lunch On Fridays series, the featured artists will participate in a public panel discussion on women in the arts on Friday, April 10, 2015, at 12:15pm in Aitken Auditorium in the Gund Building. Rokoski will moderate the forum. 

The National Connection

The National Museum of Women in the Arts, based in Washington, D.C., is the only museum dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of women artists through exhibitions, acquisitions, educational initiatives and archival research. Read more about this remarkable museum here.

The Ohio Advisory Group of the National Museum of Women in the Arts provides leadership, guidance, and resources in support of the museum's mission and works to elevate the profile of accomplished women artists from Ohio. The founding members of the Ohio Advisory Group are distinguished women leaders in Ohio who share a passion for art and/or advocacy for women.

Co-Chairs and Founders:

  • Barbara Richter, NMWA National Advisory Board
  • Harriet Warm, NMWA National Advisory Board

Founding Members:

  • Victoria Bell
  • Diane DeGrazia
  • Marilena Disilvio
  • Diane Downing
  • Helen Forbes Fields
  • Susan Goldberg
  • Sally Gries
  • Shannon Lundeen
  • Ellen Stirn Mavec
  • Sharon Milligan
  • Kristin Morris
  • Sandra Pianalto
  • Barbara Robinson
  • Catherine Scallen
  • Eliza Wing

The Ohio Advisory Group of NMWA and Cleveland Institute of Art gratefully acknowledge sponsorship for Women to Watch - Ohio by Huntington Bank and media partner, ideastream, the non-profit organization that includes WVIZ/PBS, 90.3 WCPN, and WCLV 104.9. Additional funding was provided by the Ruby Shoes Fund of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

Students’ socially engaged art

Spring semester 2015

Art and research findings by CIA students enrolled in the three new, field-based courses associated with Community Works will be on display in the Project Space on the first floor of CIA’s McCullough building in the spring. The three new courses are:

  • Socially Engaged Art for Change I: Drawn to Care = Portraiture + Medicine, in which students have been drawing and painting portraits of patients and their caregivers
  • Socially Engaged Art for Change I: projectFIND = People + Shelter + Food + Mapping, in which students have been working with 17 organizations that assist Cleveland’s homeless by creating a guide that maps resources available to them
  • Environment, Art and Engaged Practice, in which students have been in the Cleveland Metroparks exploring natural systems, learning about environmental issues, and making art using natural materials
Cuyahoga Arts and Culture
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