Horvitz Hall is currently home to “A Celebration of 50 Years of Women Artists at Kenyon College,” an exhibition presented by the studio art department. The display presents reproductions of the works from a book designed by four Kenyon studio art professors: Claudia Esslinger, Ellen Sheffield, Emily Zeller and Marcella Hackbardt. These professors consulted with the Career Development Office (CDO) to research and reach out to studio art and art history alumni who were practicing artists. The book was created as an effort to honor prolific artist alumnae. “A Celebration of 50 Years of Women Artists at Kenyon College” includes essays that accompany each art piece, which were written by former art history majors. Art history professors, as well as Professors Esslinger and Hackbardt, contributed additional essays.
The addition of the essays to the book created an opportunity for the design and development team to pair artists and art history majors. “They have these overlaps of interest and context in their art. Making the matchups between the different artists was really fun, and [so was] getting a sense of the alumni writers as well as the alumni artists,” Professor Hackbardt said. The artists and writers were also each given a free copy of the book so that they could see their own work and admire others’. This gift was made possible through Kenyon’s Studio Art Mesaros Fund, a fund that sponsors events or programs featuring visiting artists as determined by the studio art professors.
After the book was outlined, the department decided to hold a reception to present the display and honor the artists. Alumni artists present at the presentation included Mia Halton ’73, Bonnie Levinson ’73, Carol Mitchell ’77, Kathleen Elyse Stumbaugh ’11, Kathy Halbower ’74, Mary Defer ’14 and Emily Zeller ’08. The display of the reproductions was up during graduation and remained over the summer, allowing prospective students to see the pieces.
While the primary goal of the display was to pay tribute to the influence of female artists, womanhood is not a consistent theme throughout the works. “It’s not really held together thematically by gender, except that we’re working initially with female artists,” said Professor Hackbardt. “Their work is whatever it is … [with] all kinds of themes.” The reproductions included mediums such as photography, painting, printmaking, sculpture, film and performance. The collection exemplifies the importance of a diverse female presence in art. The passion of the team of professors that created the display expresses the power of a diverse faculty’s presence. Professor Hackbardt spoke to the importance of the female faculty “giving their students a chance to imagine themselves in that position, or imagine themselves as a lifelong artist, or imagine themselves going on in art history.”
The reproductions celebrate the expanding presence of female art and the progress that has been made in the last 50 years from that presence.
The reproductions are currently shown in the lobby of Horvitz Hall. “A Celebration of Women Artists at Kenyon College” is currently available for purchase at the Bookstore.