Monmouth University’s Pollak Gallery unveiled its newest art exhibition entitled Women in the World, A Visual Perspective, and officially welcomed the gallery with an opening reception on Feb. 10. The gallery will be open until March 24.
Co-curated by New Jersey artists Gladys B. Grauer and Adrienne Wheeler obstacles women all around the world face through a series of original art pieces. Ranging from paintings to drawings to sculptures, each work has been crafted by a diverse group of New Jersey-based, female artists.
“It’s always a treat to hang a show,” said Vaune Peck, Director of Center for the Arts. “This is the first time we’ve partnered with Women in Media-Newark, but we are always trying to increase diversity.”
Free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, the gallery is presented in conjunction with Women in Media-Newark’s 8th Annual Women’s History Month Film Festival. This year, the film festival will host events at the University on April 3. As one of three galleries in an ongoing series, it joins exhibitions currently taking place at Paul Robeson Galleries at Rutgers University Newark and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
“I was introduced to Vaune and there was instantaneous synergy,” said, Pamela Morgan, Founder and Executive Director of Women in Media-Newark. “We knew we wanted to work together.”
At the opening reception a steady stream of patrons perused through the gallery throughout the night. Almost all of the artists were present, with family and friends, and members of the Monmouth community.
All of the artists in attendance answered questions, discussed the inspiration for their work, and interacted with their peers. While the exhibition had the general theme of “Women in the World,” artists were asked to submit pieces that either literally or metaphorically met the theme.
“My mom has been sick and doesn’t have the ability to always be present in my life,” said artist Adebunmi Gbadebo, who presented her sculpture “Untitled” that was made out of human hair. “Me being a part of this community of women artists, spiritually and artistically, means a lot.”
“To be a part of this show is a huge honor,” said artist Sybil Archibald, who presented her painting ‘Transformation Diptych.’ “Women are so underrepresented in art, and it’s important when women get together like this.”
At one point, a group of six female high schoolers strolled through the gallery. The girls were members of a Colts Neck Girl Scout troop, and were accompanied by their mothers and troop leaders.
“The girls were working on a project called ‘Girltopia,’ so they’ve been envisioning their perfect world,” said Troop Leader Amy Eschinger. “It’s touched on some global issues, so we really wanted to bring them to an event like this.”
Anonda Bell, Director of the Paul Robeson Galleries at Rutgers, was also showing her piece “Ways to Refer to Her,” in which different words referring to women are framed and arranged around each other, was also in attendance with her six-year-old son.
“It’s wonderful being in such good company,” said Bell. “But it’s also interesting to explain my work in a way a six-year-old would understand.”
Bell uses different fonts that have “existed through time” in order to show that these “ways to refer to her” have not changed much. She hopes her work can contribute to change.
“I’m working on a project with my son now, based on the book The Yellow Wallpaper,” said Bell. “And I’m bringing him up as a feminist.”
Donna Conklin King had her drawing entitled “Mother” shown in the gallery, which she admits took “about a lifetime” to create, and was inspired about her “mixed feelings” about motherhood. “I’m very proud,” said King. “This is a really amazing group of artists I’ve admired, and I’m very happy to be here.”
Despite the gallery being all women based in New Jersey, each artist brought a unique perspective.
Grace Graupe-Pillard, an artist and art teacher in the Monmouth County Park System, showed two of her pieces, “Lookout,” a grouping of 8×10 photos printed out and then painted over, and “Grace Sneaking Past Mortality,” a self portrait.
“I’ve been teaching art since 1975,” said Graupe-Pillard. “I wanted to show somewhere local for my students to see. I try to always be honest with them about my work.”
The gallery hits Monmouth at a contentious time in the political landscape, and the question of whether Monmouth could do more to address diversity is once again a talking point.
Dr. Jennifer Shamrock, a professor of communication is planning to encourage her students to visit the gallery, and hopes that the Monmouth community continues to bring events to Monmouth that deal with women’s issues.
“I hope all groups on campus stay committed to supporting the Gender Studies program and value the activities they bring,” said Shamrock. “I think all disciplines should try to see value of the program within their disciplines.”
Despite taking residence at the University, some Monmouth students are still unfamiliar with the recently opened gallery. “I just realized what the gallery was the other day,” said Jessica French, a junior social work student. “I walk by it whenever I go to my class in Howard, but to be honest, I’m usually half asleep.”
Dr. Mezey, an Associate Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, said, “In my ideal world, I would love for the University to create a physical place where students can gather to have these deeper conversations. I think we need more soft spaces for likeminded students to comfortably gather.”
“Arts have always been at the forefront of those social justice movements,” said Mezey. “For all of us, it can be a refreshing way to look at important issues.”
PHOTO TKAEN by Bridget Nocera