NO. 10 FEMIN • IS – Philomene Bennett

side profile of a seated woman with an abstract painting of swirling lines in the background

In episode No. 10 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with painter Philomene Bennett to hear about her fifty plus year career as an artist. Having read Bennett described as the “grand dame” of art in Kansas City, I was eager to learn more.

In episode No. 10 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with painter Philomene Bennett to hear about her fifty plus year career as an artist. Having read Bennett described as the “grand dame” of art in Kansas City, I was eager to learn more.

Now in her eighties, Bennett’s lasting influence on individual artists through her long-running studio ateliers and the very fabric of the Kansas City arts scene through the co-founding of The Kansas City Artists Coalition is simply undeniable.

In our conversation, we touched on everything from how her identity as an artist started in childhood, her first big break in Kansas City, a fateful night that started an arts organization now 40 years strong, and, of course, her own work as a painter, including a few works close to her heart. Below are images of the work we discussed, as well as some extra treats. Enjoy!

painting of a female figure reclining on a divan clothed in and surrounded by rich draping fabrics

 

abstract painting with swirling, expressive lines hinting at a landscape with sky and a fish pond towards the bottom
Philomene Bennett, My Very Own Fish Pond, oil on canvas

 

image of a woman standing and painting a large portrait on canvas
Bennett painting in her River Quay (River Market) studio in the 1970s

 

image of an art opening with people and a large painting filling the background
Bennett (seen left) at an opening of her work featuring a monumental painting on canvas
image of landscape-like abstract painting
Philomene Bennett, The Shadow Persists, oil on canvas

Lastly, here is Philomene’s portrait. It used metallic gold acrylic, so it was admittedly very difficult to photograph.  Text: Alice Neel, volume published for exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art

It was a lot of writing, but I enjoyed learning more about the challenging life of Alice Neel. I can completely see how Philomene found her inspiring!

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This episode of KC Art Pie is made possible through an Inspiration Grant from

NO. 9 FEMIN • IS – Women in Glasses

cover art for the podcast episode: image of a nude model with glasses looking over the head of a man in a business suit.

In episode No. 9 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with Cyncha Jeansonne who created the controversial 1976 exhibition Women in Glasses at the Douglas Drake Gallery. We talked about the rebellion required to be an artist and how this two-day installation of 15 nude women came to be.

Featured Image is a detail from photographer Donald White’s series of photographs of the exhibition.
**CAUTION** Images below include nudity. Discretion is advised.

The debate on what qualifies as objectification of women’s bodies versus body positivity and agency certainly isn’t new even if some of the buzzwords are.  While the conversation on the censure of women’s bodies continue today, the 1970s era of radical feminism certainly sparked some debates. Louisiana native and artist Cyncha Jeansonne played a part here in Kansas City with her two-day environmental installation at the Douglas Drake Gallery in 1976. While she tamps down on the idea of a feminist influence at the time, she asserts that the work was an act of rebellion, so it’s almost impossible to see the installation without the historical lens of feminism.

For another view on this installation, read  “Women in Glasses” – A Reminiscence by Doug Drake

I could only get my hands on some lovely black and white prints of the exhibition, but you can see a color detail in the article above.

Detail view of Women in Glasses art exhibition showing a viewer looking past nude pregnant model and another posing model in the background.

View of audience member of Women in Glasses art exhibition looking directly into the eyes of nude model while another models poses in the background.

Detail of Women in Glasses art exhibition: showing woman in glasses overlooking a man dressed in a business suit.

Installation view of 1976 show Women in Glasses showing artist Cyncha Jeansonne (then known as Cyndi Ketchum) with nude models on pedestals with eye glasses.

Installation view of 1976 show Women in Glasses: audience meandering around nude women on pedestals with eye glasses.

Installation view of 1976 show Women in Glasses: audience meandering around nude women on pedestals with eye glasses.

View of 1976 installation: all white walls and floor with white pedestals.

 

Finally, here is Cyncha’s collaborative portrait, appropriately colored in shades of pink.

Femin Is_Cyncha Jeansonne Text: One Thousand White Women: the Journals of May Dodd (fiction)

This episode of KC Art Pie is made possible through an Inspiration Grant from

NO. 8 FEMIN • IS – Arzie Umali

Femin Is_Arzie Umali_Cover Art

In episode No. 8 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with painter and Assistant Director of UMKC’s Womens Center, Arzie Umali. We talked about her research into representation of women artists in KC institutions, her work at The Women’s Center, and her work as a painter.

Featured Image is of Arzie Umali’s portrait for the Femin • Is project, consisting of text from Linda Nochlin’s 1971 essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

From her days as a graduate student to now, Arzie Umali has kept feminism and the art world closely entwined. With a precedent set by the famed Guerrilla Girls in making tallies of the number of women artists receiving exhibitions in New York museums, Umali looked at institutions closer to home to look at representation of women artists.

guerrilla girl museum statistics 1985 vs 2015

I wanted to look at this history and talk about how the research was done, as well as put out a call that this work needs to be done again.

Additionally, we talked about Her Art Project, a program initiative Umali started at The Women’s Center at the University of Missouri Kansas City. As we talked about its past, present, and some exciting plans for the future, it’s clear that Her Art Project is close to Umali’s heart.

HerArtProject_logo

Diving into her own work as a painter, we learn of a lasting influence from another female artist on her choice of subject matter. You can view more of her work on her website at www.arzie.com.

No More Evil, Please by Arzie Umali

 

Madonna on the Rocks by Arzie Umali

Lastly, we find that even her personal work has taken on a role of reaching out to others as evidenced by our conversation about a project that started out as a two-woman show but morphed into a community exhibition. Arzie Umali and her advocacy for women and the arts is here to stay.

Lastly, here is Arzie’s full portrait!

Ink on paper │Text: “Why Are There No Great Women Artists?” by Linda Nochlin │ 12 x 9” │ 2017

This episode of KC Art Pie is made possible through an Inspiration Grant from

NO. 6 FEMIN • IS – LINDA LIGHTON

In episode No. 6 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with local ceramicist and bona fide flowerchild Linda Lighton. Sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and ceramics, baby. This is how it’s done.

Featured photo by Tom Styrkowicz

To be the renowned artist that Linda Lighton is today, she had to rebel, and then rebel some more. So for this interview, we took a deep dive into the early years and some early work. We also took a look back at the history of the art scene in Kansas City. Below are a few pieces that we discussed in the interview. Enjoy.

The First Lady

 

Daddy’s Hungry

 

Diva Laura
clay, glaze, China paint, lustres
22″ x 9″ x 11″
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Collection
2002

 

The Czarina Damnwell clay, glaze, China paint, lustre 14.5″ x 8″ x 4″ Belger Arts Center Collection 2000

 

Love & War: The Ammunition clay, glaze, China paint, lustre 12″ x 17″ x 13″ 2012

Still hungry? Then watch this gem of a process film of Linda Lighton by Don Maxwell
and stay tuned for an upcoming bonus clip from my interview with Linda.

Lastly, here is Linda’s portrait, admittedly the metallic gold was difficult to photograph!

This episode of KC Art Pie is made possible through an Inspiration Grant from

NO. 5 FEMIN • IS – RIGHTFULLY SEWN

In episode No. 5 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with founder and president of Rightfully Sewn, Jennifer Lapka Pfeifer, to talk about fashion, feminism, and creative entrepreneurship.

Featured photo by Samantha Levi Photography

We talked about the organization Lapka Pfeifer started that blends non profit social work, job-creating entrepreneurship, local history and fashion design. Yes, Rightfully Sewn really does all that. We talked through the puzzle pieces and with such an interesting and intersecting mix, I also wanted to dive into the inspiration and process behind starting such an endeavor.

The two biggest parts of Rightfully Sewn is a seamtress training program for at-risk women and and supported residencies for local fashion designers. While the training program is being initiated this summer, the residency program is thoroughly underway and since this a project celebrating creative women, it seems fitting to share more about these designers here in the show notes:

Several resident designers were at a recent event hosted by Ami Beck (center) in her new studio in The Livestock Exchange Building in the West Bottoms.
The Kerri Bag from Dolyn Bags. Photo by Andrea Larson


Ami Beck
, Dolyn Bags
www.dolynbags.com
Facebook: Dolyn Bags, LLC
Twitter: @DOLYNBAGS
Instagram: @dolynbags

 

Heidi Herrman’s KC Icon Collection – Model: Hannah Hadnot / Photographer: Steve Gibson / Accessories: Amina Marie Millinery / Hair: Keishaun Redmond / Makeup: Ruth White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heidi Herrman
www.heidiherrman.com
Facebook: Heidi Herrman Design
Twitter: @heidiherrman
Instagram: @hherrman

Whitney Manney Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whitney Manney
www.whitneymanney.com
Facebook: Whitney Manney WM
Twitter: @heywhithey
Instagram: @whitneymanney

Whitney Manney at Drugstore Studios in Midtown Kansas City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katie Lee Bridal offers complete customization for bridal wear. Photo by Bee Posh Portraits

Kate Nickols, Katie Lee Bridal
www.katieleebridal.com
Facebook: Katie Lee Bridal
Twitter: @KatieLeeBridal
Instagram: @katieleebridal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Nelson. Every garment is lovingly made at Sarah’s studio in the Stockyards District of Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Samantha Levi Photography

 

 

 

Sarah Nelsen
www.sarah-nelsen.com
Facebook: WearSarahNelsen
Twitter: @SarahNelsen
Instagram: @sarahnelsen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, here is Jennifer’s portrait, inspired by the ever-iconic polka dot pattern!

 

Jennifer Lapka Pheifer / Ink on paper / 12 x 9″ / Text: “Fortune favors the bold.” – Latin proverb

 

N0. 4 FEMIN • IS – ELISABETH KIRSCH

In episode No. 4 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with writer and curator Elisabeth Kirsch to talk about feminism and the Kansas City art scene of the 1970s.

We talked about the challenges and limitations placed on women artists and how her early encounters with the feminist art movement influenced her career. I also wanted to hear about the Women Artists ‘77 exhibit, one of, if not the first, all-women regional shows at a time when women artists struggled to be included in galleries and museums. Kirsch was the gallery assistant for the exhibition and had a behind-the-scenes perspective on the process with juror and feminist art movement icon Miriam Schapiro.

We also talked about a few of the artists she’s reviewed over the years and she revealed what may be one of my favorite bucket list items: to be a Guerrilla Girl for a day.

Kirsch’s Review of Linda Lighton:
Dangerous Beauty, Review magazine, August 2006 

Spiked Eggplant, 2005, by Linda Lighton

 

She also discussed an artist who showed at the Douglas Drake Gallery.
You can see a wide range of collages by Vivian Torrence here.

As solid evidence that Elisabeth Kirsch is still hard at work, here is the latest review by Kirsch, of artist Hyeyoung Shin and her recent exhibition, “Unapologetic,” at Studios Inc.

Finally, during our interview, I asked Kirsch about the impact of the Women Artists 77 Exhibition in the following years. Looking at the longer term, I think it is a safe bet to say that one of those lasting impacts was to influence a young student who would go on to contribute volumes of thought and energy to the Kansas City arts scene.

Lastly, here is Elisabeth’s portrait!

Femin Is_Elisabeth Kirsch / Ink on panel / 24 x 18″ / Text: Awakening Loving-Kindness by Pema Chödrön

This episode of KC Art Pie is made possible through an Inspiration Grant from

N0. 2: FEMIN • IS – JANET KUEMMERLEIN

Episode No. 2 of the KC Art Pie podcast features visual artist Janet Kuemmerlein discussing her textile murals, the women of jazz, and how naiveté is not always a bad thing.

For this episode, I sat down with Janet Kuemmerlein in her large home studio to talk about her work and career which has spanned over 50 years. We talked about the bravery or naivete it takes to be an artist and the early days of her career in the 60s. While her textile practice is often a solitary affair, she has also painted portraits of other artists, most significantly a number of Kansas City women jazz vocalists, and she shares her experience of working with and learning from women coming from a different artistic medium.

Kuemmerlein is a pioneer in the contemporary fiber art movement. She was born in Detroit, Michigan. Janet studied painting at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, and sculpture and metalsmithing at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Her work has been placed in institutions such the Smithsonian Museum of Fine Artm  the Chicago Institute of Art, the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Art and Design,  among many others. Her work has been in exhibited around the word in England, France, Germany and Switzerland.

http://www.janetkuemmerlein.com

Janet Kuemmerlein in her art-filled home and studio
Odyssey, textile installation, 5 x 30′, manila rope, wool, nylon,
silk, cotton, & dacron, 1976, Richmond, CA
Arctic Echoes, textile installation, 50′, Anchorage, AK
The Wild Women of Kansas City, The American Jazz Museum

Portrait of Deborah Brown by Janet Kuemmerlein,
The American Jazz Museum
Calla Lily, 10 x 10″, acrylic on canvas
Tempest by Janet Kuemmerlein, textile vessel
Portrait of a Garden
Janet Kuemmerlein in the yarn room of her home studio

 

Lastly, here is Janet’s portrait!

creative abstract portrait of the artist
Ink on canvas │Text: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
│ 36 x 36″” │ 2017

 

This episode of KC Art Pie is made possible through an Inspiration Grant from

NO. 1: FEMIN • IS – PAULA ROSE

Episode No. 1 of the KC Art Pie Podcast features art historian and educator Paula Rose, discussing representation and the upcoming Wikipedia Edit-a-thon.

Above image: The first local Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at Wonder Fair Gallery in 2015, with co-curator Meredith Moore pictured center.

We’re kicking off the KC Art Pie podcast and Women’s History Month talking about how an annual upcoming event fuses small acts of activism, feminism and artist representation on Wikipedia, all as a social activity. We’ll speak with Paula Rose, an art historian and educator, who is partnering for this year’s Wikipedia Edit-a-thon with Her Art Project of the UMKC Womens Center. Begun by Art + Feminism, in previous years, the event’s focus has been to increase the number of women editors on Wikipedia as well as increase the number of women artists represented on Wikipedia and quality of already available content. This year, the Edit-a-thon has expanded to include not just the arts, but all STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, together with art).

Is there an artist you feel does not have their due on Wikipedia? What about local artists? Here’s your chance to learn how to change and add content to the world’s largest online encyclopedia.

Click below for the Facebook Event

 

A view of the 2014 exhibition YWAs: :Young Women Artists featuring artists such as Rachel Doris Gregor, Shenequa A. Brooks and Mariah Gillespie.

 

“Squa-plaits” by Shenequa A. Brooks using synthetic hair woven with cotton

 

Artist talks and presentations accompanied the YWAs exhibition at Wonder Fair Gallery in Lawrence, KS

For more on the YWAs show, read this 2014 article in the Lawrence Journal World.

Lastly, here is the portrait of Paula, holding a fountain pen in a reference to one of Gloria Steinham’s iconic images.

Femin • Is Paula Rose │Ink on panel │Text: “If I Were a Man” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman │ 16 x 20” │ 2017

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This episode of KC Art Pie is made possible through an Inspiration Grant from

Introducing KC Art Pie

kc-art-pie-card-m

The breadth of the Kansas City art scene is practically culinary. It is a rich stew, with both satisfyingly palatable and surprising bursts of contrasting flavor. For the art aficionado, it is delicious. Whatever flavor you prefer, Kansas City has a rich arts scene, and like a great meal, it deserves to be shared.

With this in mind, KC Art Pie will launch in March of 2017 as an artist-run podcast featuring the artist of our local creative culture. Season one of the podcast will focus on a specific multimedia project, Femin  Is,  allowing KC Art Pie to develop with a clear focus and then branch out to other projects and topics in the future. So, we will start with a recipe, but eventually, we will be mixing up all sorts of creations with the ingredients on hand (which, incidentally, is how I cook most of the time).

There are many great resources for arts-related content in Kansas City. The KC Art Pie podcast is simply an addition to the menu. Kansas City has a growing reputation, both nationally and, dare I say, internationally, as a developing hub for the arts. As an artist living here for over a decade, the growth has been clear, but the only way to continue to build our reputation is to keep the conversation growing and introduce more people to this Midwestern art smorgasbord. If all I can offer are a few whispers and appetizers, so be it.

Bon Appétit,
Rachelle Gardner-Roe

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FeminIs  and KC Art Pie is made possible through the ArtsKC Regional Arts Council.

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