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AU Museum Winter 2016 Exhibits

By Rebecca Basu

See-Line Woman

Renee Stout. See-­Line Woman, 2009. Silkscreen (unique variant), 46¼” x 34¾”.

Winter exhibits at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center can be viewed beginning Jan. 26 and will run through March 13. The four exhibits feature female artists. They are Renée Stout: Tales of the Conjure Woman; Circle of Friends; Impact! The Legacy of the Women’s Caucus for Art; and Maggie Michael: A Phrase Hung in Midair as if Frozen.

In addition to its winter shows, American University Museum celebrates the grand opening of the Alper Initiative for Washington Art, a new space on the museum’s first floor devoted to the exhibition of work by D.C. artists. The Alper Initiative for Washington Art has been made possible due to a generous donation from philanthropist, artist and American University alumna Carolyn Alper. The initiative will sponsor lectures, films, and other events, and provide for the creation of a digital archive of Washington art. The winter showing of Circle of Friends is the first exhibition presented by the Alper Initiative for Washington Art.

Renée Stout: Tales of the Conjure Woman features recent work by Renée Stout, who is best known for her exploration of vestigial retentions of African cultural traditions as manifested in contemporary America. Stout’s work lets audiences view some of the rich traditions and cultural practices of African America through exploration of an underground system of African-derived folk beliefs as transmitted from slavery to the present. This system, known variously as Hoodoo or conjuring, has its origins in herbal medicine, root work, and a belief in the spiritual attributes of plants and animals. Stout uses the alter ego Fatima Mayfield, a fictitious herbalist/fortuneteller, as a vehicle to role-play and confront issues such as romantic relationships, social ills, or financial woes. Tales of the Conjure Woman offers a peek into a fascinating world ruled by superstition and ancestral wisdom.

In conjunction with Renée Stout: Tales of the Conjure Woman, the exhibit Circle of Friends tells a story of female artists supporting one another as they make their way towards artistic maturity and relevance and approaches the history of Washington art from the perspective of these communities of support.

This group exhibition features 16 artists from the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. region who formed the artistic cohort of Renée Stout. The artists work in mediums ranging from sculpture and installation to printmaking and photography. Artists incude: Lilian T. Burwell, Cheryl Casteen, Linda Day Clark, Cianne Fragione, Susan Goldman, Margo Humphrey, EJ Montgomery, Martha Jackson Jarvis, Jae Ko, Valerie Maynard, Jiha Moon, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Joyce Scott, Hadieh Shafie, Sylvia Snowden and Joyce Wellman.

Impact! The Legacy of the Women’s Caucus for Art celebrates the impact of the WCA Lifetime Achievement Awards presented annually to artists, art historians, and curators. The awards were first presented at the White House in 1979. The exhibition, curated by awardee and former College Art Association president Leslie King Hammond, will focus on the impact of and connections among the awardees themselves. The WCA awards ceremony will take place during the annual conferences of the CAA.

Maggie Michael: A Phrase Hung in Midair as if Frozen is a mid-career retrospective of the D.C. artist and AU alumna, featuring paintings from 2002 through the present. Michael’s work is at once intuitive and conceptual, serving as a platform for exploring physicality, the workings of language, literature, and the vagaries of emotion and information. With much discussion in the art world today about the role painting plays, Michael’s work argues for its continued relevance. A Phrase Hung in Midair as if Frozen is Michael’s first museum exhibition and her first survey exhibition.