How The West Was Woman


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How The West Was Woman
Jul 1 – Jul 21, 2019

Contact: Christin Marcos

(970) 728-3300



TELLURIDE, COLO —Telluride Gallery of Fine Art is pleased to present How the West was Woman running from June 28 – July 25, 2019. There will be an opening reception on July 5, from 5 p.m.–8 p.m with artists in attendance. The exhibition showcases abstract paintings by six female artists who work in, and learn from, the Western landscape: Edith Baumann, Krista Harris, Shawna Moore, Emmi Whitehorse, Kristin Beinner James, and Victoria Huckins. Together, their work maps a terrain de ned by gesture, pattern, layer, texture, and a commitment to all the revelatory potential of the mark-making process.

Born between the late 1940s and 1960s, these six painters came of age after the first generation of abstract expressionist women— among them, Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Lee Krasner—had completed their iconic works but before they had gotten their due. The East Coast remained associated with gestural abstraction, while the West Coast had become home to hard-edge abstraction, and the kind of surface-conscious, controlled minimalism perfected, albeit differently, by John McClaughlin and Lorser Feitelson. Certainly, there were women painting in the West as well: Agnes Martin making her methodical abstractions in New Mexico, Hel- en Lundenberg marrying hard edges with soft in Los Angeles. Yet so many artists and so much exploration had been excluded from a canon that still too often associated abstraction with machismo. How the West Was Woman proposes a wider, non-masculine idea of painting in the West, drawing connections between female practitioners who celebrate intuitive language, respond to their natural surroundings and histories, and explore the overlaps between control and loose gesture.

Edith Baumann, originally from Ames, Iowa and based in Southern California for over 45 years, interprets abstracts patterns she observes in the natural world. In Pattern Recognition No. 26 (2019), eight fuchsia rectangles streaked with black float horizontally above a dark surface. The composition reads as methodical, and yet no single element is perfectly controlled—Baumann allows the organic to interrupt her order. She describes “randomness and structure [as] two different things, happening at the same time, interconnected.”

A similar interaction between structure and intuition occurs in the work of Shawna Moore, who lives and works in White sh, Montana. Moore uses beeswax to make her encaustic-on-panel paintings. Sometimes, as in Icelandic (2018), geometric shapes define the compositions while other paintings, like Critical Mass (2019), are monochromes. No matter how minimal her paintings, Moore’s process—involving layers of wax and pigment—always conveys a textured, earthy awareness of natural complexities.

Texture defines Kristin Beinner James’ monochromes. James, who works in Los Angeles, combines oil, acrylic, and wax on unconventional substrates—aluminum, meshes, jutes, or other textiles. An expanse of black pigment, in James’ hands, becomes a dense terrain that connotes sweltering asphalt and melted rubber; an expanse of pink can appear simultaneously plush and weathered, while an earthy brown merges and bleeds into neutrally-colored fabric. “The paintings,” says James, “present an other-side, a space of porous boundaries.”

The paintings of Krista Harris, based in Southwest Colorado, feel at once wide-open and elusive like they are capturing a turbulence that can never fully be understood. In Yes, Please (2019), a cloud of white floats above a sea of gesture, color, and sensual marks, offering moment of opacity in a visual universe that is almost too open and active.

Depth and delicacy coexist in Emmi Whitehorse’s paintings, ethereal, abstract landscapes in which the presence of the wind, moving through layers of color and mark-making, is almost palpable. She works in mixed media, painting and drawing techniques working together to approximate the multi-textured natural world. Whitehorse grew up in the Navajo Nation in Gallup, New Mexico, and now works in Santa Fe, where her history and surroundings inform her art-making. Critic Lucy Lippard argues that, as “consummate abstractions” that also o er “metaphysical views from the Navajo world,” Whitehorse’s works “o er to viewers ‘from both worlds’ a glimpse of what art can be.”

For Victoria Huckins, who works out of an avocado grove in northern San Diego, art is discovery, each painting the result of an imaginative process in which, Huckins says, “I react to what is happening naturally within the piece.” This series of reactions results in an often exuberant, culturally savvy universe on canvas. In Jubilation No. 6 (2019), the language of expressionism coexists with that of graffiti, and expanses of opaque color overlap lighter, agile washes. The painting conjures a sunset over the paci c and the side of an enthusiastically, densely tagged building.

These artists, aware of painting’s charged and exclusionary history, treat the medium as a tool for bridge-making and excavation. Painting, in the context of this exhibition, is far less about avant-garde achievement and individuality than about connectivity with past, present, future, and nature. Hard edges coexist with soft ones, just as the organic and arbitrary coexist with order and pattern—painting means many things at once, its openness here a rejection of needless, and often elitist, art historical divisions and categories.