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Art Reception: SHE - Celebrating Women, Inspiring You

Location: Cafe
Time: 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM

"I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me."

—Maya Angelou, "Phenomenal Woman" excerpt from And Still I Rise

Our newest exhibit “She”, brings together a group of artists, who are shaping the discipline and using art as a platform for not only tackling women’s issues such as identity, culture, history and empowerment but also celebrating all things female today.

Karmimadeebora McMillan
"As long as I can remember, I’ve been chasing color, from the melanin of my skin to the changing colors of the landscape. From an early age, I can remember sitting with my grandmother as she cut up old clothes that could no longer be mended to prepare for her quilting circle. Those mix-matched patterns have stayed with me and pop-up in my paintings and drawings till this day".

Mima works in multiple mediums and surfaces. She started off as an artist, and as a printmaker. Even though now she only works in printmaking for special projects, she still has an affinity for paper and the idea of process. Because of this, collage has played a big part in her paintings.

Color and identity go hand in hand in her work. "Black dolls and characters from the Black Panthers Coloring Book that was created by a subsidiary of the FBI called Cointel, make up my gang of misfits that appear in my paintings. I'm creating imaginary spaces where a different story is beginning to unfold".

Her large-scale paintings are about an imaginary place where these characters can exist without shame or discrimination. The basis of this idea came from Sun'Ra's movie Space is the Place created in the early 70's. Written by SunRa, his idea was to be able to take all the people of color to a new planet to start over creatively. He wanted them to create without any negative obstacles based on the color of ones skin.

The use of black dolls and the colorful abstract landscapes are an escape and a dose of reality. The dolls represent Mima's southern roots and remind her of a time when African slaves were not allowed to do anything that was creative including singing, dancing or make anything art related. The dolls are a symbol of a rebellion that was beginning to unfold within the African American slave community.

Along with working on paper and canvas she also paints on wooden objects, such as old bed frames and recently, wood pieces that are cut to mimic characters she work with. The bed frame pieces are usually paired with the larger scale paintings acting almost as Totems. These pieces are also made to stand in the middle of the floor, so the viewer can walk completely around them.

Farimah Eshraghi
Farimah Eshraghi is an Iranian artist currently based in Boston. She is a visual artist working mainly with photography and video to address the issues around gender, body and culture. Her work is mostly concerned with how social and political concepts affect personal experience. While using current issues she channels her work to the past and uses history and found imagery to demonstrate her ideas.

As a woman grown up in traditional Iranian society and an immigrant in the United States, she utilizes her personal experience to expand her subject matter. In her most recent work, she is working on the cultural and physical experience of immigrants and how immigration can affect one's language and communication abilities.

Rusty Branscom
Rusty believes art is like oxygen. It’s a way to breathe in life’s special moments. A way to connect, inspire and provoke a feeling – a new way of seeing something.

He is an emerging artist on Boston’s North Shore. After an endless career creating ads and TV commercials drawing national and international recognition, he’s gone back full-circle to recapture his early life as a painter.

He studied painting at Syracuse University and graduated with a BFA degree in fine art with further studies at Rutgers University. His experience in the communications and film worlds solving complex design and creative puzzles have helped him rethink how to approach painting. How to satisfy creative appetite in ways that defy classification.

He likes to paint the human form, or a face in the crowd, or the light of the moon – but always with an idea in mind. One that evokes emotion. He paints on a large scale. He feels it best plays up the energy, power and movement in his paintings.

Rusty especially paints women because he likes to capture the beauty, muscularity and inner strength of a women in a raw and non-idealized way.

He uses oil paint in thin layers to accentuate brush strokes that push and smear movement across the canvas, to try to provoke an emotional reaction to his work.

Virginia Green
Virginia’s art embodies her passion for the grace and mystery of life, both seen and imagined. Her intriguing stone and bronze sculptures inspired by the female form — from realistic torsos and symbolic “sacred vessels” to provocative “bustiers” — reflect her lifelong fascination with the sacred and spiritual, iconography and the power of women. She paints the North Atlantic coastline, the human body and portraits with the same thrill of discovery.

Her work is the culmination of a lifetime of creativity. An award-winning art director, graphic designer, author, illustrator, and self-taught fiber artist, she now sculpts and paints in her studio on Boston’s North Shore.

She continues to experiment with new materials including paper mache, cut paper and mixed media, as well as more traditional clay, bronze and stone. She paints with oil on canvas as well as pastels.

She is fascinated with how the handwritten word on paper reveals surprising things about mind, memory and relationships. Her collage Bury My Ashes is made from her own personal letters and reflects the strong bond of women’s friendships.

Virginia’s current obsession with the bustier/corset/merry widow is her way of illuminating the dichotomy of repression and allure of these women’s undergarments throughout history. Scarlett O’Hara tiny-waisted laced corset, the “merry widow” corset of 1950s prom days and Madonna’s quasi-porno bustiers all attempt an unrealistic and uncomfortable ideal of beauty. But whose? And why? She creates these sometimes tongue-in-cheek bustiers with paper mache and a variety of mixed media.

Virginia Green’s sculptures and oil paintings are currently exhibited in galleries and private collections.

Ekua Holmes
Ekua Holmes’ artworks reflect her vision of the world as influenced by a lifetime of moments shared with family, friends and neighbors. Ekua Holmes states: “Those relationships left impressions that are now infused in the layers of my collages and elicit both fond recollections and universal life lessons…” These voices from the past can be found in scraps of vintage wallpapers, snippets of yesterday’s news and pieces of discarded costume jewelry, laid upon fields of primary colors and multiple textures. Holmes uses these elements to bring a new and uniquely fresh approach to ageless, universal subjects encompassing families, childhood, relationships, hope and faith.

Zoe Perry Wood
In her work Zoe investigates and documents mainstream groups as well as non-conforming subcultures. Her early social documentary work focused on street corners, cafes and subways. She currently has several ongoing portrait projects, including a series focusing on women and aging with pride as well as a seven-year project documenting Boston Alliance of Gay Lesbian Transgender Youth (BAGLY). Making portraits of youth at their prom. For this exhibit she shares with us the Elsa portrait series, a celebration of women and aging.

“When I first noticed Elsa, it must have been football season. She sat several pews ahead of me and I could clearly see the 2 inch in diameter, homemade, “Go Pats” button pinned to the bun on the back of her head. Her outfits, different every week, were eccentric with bright colors, and large costume jewelry and silk or plastic flower accents. Although she was always put together, she often had loose threads, stains or mismatched gloves. Elsa's clothing was not the most remarkable thing about her. Members of the congregation doted on her and it became apparent that over the decades she has played many roles in not only the church but also the greater Lexington community. I approached Elsa and showing her samples from my portfolio, I proposed a portrait project. After viewing my work, she stated, “Oh, you like to photograph interesting people, that’s why you want to photograph me.” 

Zoe reflects, "Elsa faced her aging process with just the right mixture of distinction, dignity, and denial. In her mind she was still the young multitalented artist, community activist and fundraiser and art patron, who had a big influence on arts and culture in her town. As her body became frailer, she continued to speak her mind with a raised chin.

What I saw in Elsa was a life well lived, with strength and compassion. She was a champion of the arts, who valued service, loyalty and companionship. As the years passed, and our relationship grew, our portrait sessions became all day affairs. First there was the church service, followed by setting up a portable studio in the church basement. Elsa would make her way to the basement through the coffee hour crowd, with many stops on the way. We would shoot until Elsa was hungry for lunch or too tired. The afternoon was spent with storytelling over a long lunch and usually a bottle of Prosecco. Elsa passed away peacefully surrounded by family on March 30, 2015 at the age of 90”.

A tribute to a mother from her daughter, in Memory of Alicia Sotomayor
My name is Crystal Jones-Sotomayor I am a research associate at Apic Bio and Alicia Sotomayor is my mother. My mother took a leap of faith and pursued her passions to become an artist, despite the great difficulties that came with it. I always found that inspiring and because of her I believe that I can accomplish anything if I am passionate about it and I want it enough. My mother has recently passed and when I attended her vigil everyone came up to me to tell me how much my mother was proud of me for joining Apic Bio and working here at LabCentral. Now I would like to show you all how proud I am of my mother, her accomplishments, and the beautiful art she was able to create. I hope her art inspires you the same way it has me.