Stephens exhibit showcases women in art prints

Friday, September 5, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 10:32 a.m. CST, Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Prints representing women from the 1830s to the present are viewed through bars supporting a staircase in the Davis Art Gallery at Stephens College.

Stephens College, which is among the oldest women's colleges in the U.S., has provided a rich educational experience for women since 1833.

As Stephens and the world around it have changed during the past 175 years, its mission to prepare women for whatever future lies before them has not.

If you go

What: "175 Years of Women in Print," an art display in honor of Stephens College's 175th anniversary.

Where: Stephen College's Davis Art Gallery; corner of Walnut and Ripley streets at Stephens.

When: Through Sept. 26

Gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday

Cost: Free


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An age-perfected pride in relentlessly carrying out that mission is the message Stephens aims to send and share with the community as it celebrates its 175th anniversary this year.

One of this month's celebration highlights is an exhibition of prints representing 32 artists' depictions of women that span the past 175 years. The images trace the history of Stephens, as well as all women, and highlight cultural changes they've experienced throughout the past two centuries.

The 43 prints, on loan to Stephens from private Columbia donors, were chosen for the display "175 Years of Women in Print" with a broad theme of social realism in mind.

Robert Friedman, Davis Art Gallery curator, said he put the show together to depict not only the realities of being a woman, but also how women were viewed over time.

"While the prints may not project perfectly realistic representations of women and their lives from the various time periods, the realistic opinions some artists, and maybe society, had of women throughout the last 175 years are what's evident in these prints," Friedman said.

Prints are created with some matrix that's able to reproduce the same image multiple times. The prints displayed in the show are artworks such as lithographs, screen prints, etches and woodcuts. All 17 decades of the 175 years are represented in the display by at least one print created during that 10-year span.

The chronological order of the prints, Friedman said, reveal some of the stark social changes since Stephens has been around.

One of the most radical cultural changes is seen in prints from the late 1800s to the 1920s, Friedman said.

"Some of the earliest prints depict a type of peasant drudgery, and soon we see city dwellers, like in the flappers print, living more privileged lives," he said.

Another cultural change, beginning in the 1960s, is increased concentration on individuality, psychology and spirituality, rather than societal positions and situations, Friedman said.

Three local artists have prints in the exhibit: Lawrence Rugolo, an MU professor emeritus; Frank Stack, another MU professor emeritus; and Byron Smith, a Columbia artist.

Stack's 2004 print, "Henriette," is a product of his career-long preference to paint or create art directly from the world around him.

"Nature, which includes humans, is the best source of direct inspiration," Stack said. "It's more exciting than any other subject because nature's excitement lies in its ‘relatability.'"

When Stack was an undergraduate in Austin, Texas, he said he found he could identify with themes in the work of French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Being able to relate to the iconography in another artist's work has influenced him throughout his career, he said.

"When I studied de Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings of the Paris night life, I could see myself in the scene because it looked like Austin's or any bigger city's night life," he said.

"I think when people view this exhibit, they'll relate in the same way to some of the situations they see the women in."


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