Yale University Art Gallery Hosts Special Exhibition Honoring Former Women Artists



“Based on Art: 150 Years of Women at Yale” was held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Yale’s first female students and showcase artwork created by female artists trained at Yale.

Annie Radillo & Selin Nalbantoglu

11:15 p.m., Sep 14, 2021

Journalist & Contributor

Audrey Flack (BFA 1952), Lady Madonna, 1972. Lithograph. Yale University Art Gallery, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Samuel S. Mandel, MD © Audrey Flack Courtesy of YUAG

On September 10 – a year after the originally scheduled date – an exhibition titled “Based on Art: 150 Years of Women at Yale” was shown at the Yale University Art Gallery. The exhibition features works of art from the mid-1880s to the present day created by artists who identify with the women trained at Yale.

The exhibit commemorates the 150th anniversary of the first female students at Yale University as well as the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Yale College. Several of the artists featured in the exhibit are alumni of the Yale School of Fine Arts, which became the first Yale school to admit female students when it opened in 1869. The exhibit contains six thematic sections, each covering a variety of artistic mediums, styles and time periods.

“The exhibit shows how these Yale-trained female artists brought unwavering determination, daring experimentation and a spirit of risk-taking to their practice – qualities essential to their success in the international art world,” said YUAG director Stephanie Wiles in an email to News. “These talented women artists have made our world a more exciting, rewarding and stimulating place through their art and I am delighted to share their extraordinary work with our visitors.

Elisabeth Hodermarsky, Curator of Prints and Drawings at YUAG and Senior Curator of this exhibition, worked with other students and a team of curators: Judy Ditner, Associate Curator of Photography and Digital Media; John Stuart Gordon, Curator of American Decorative Arts; Keely Orgeman, associate curator of modern and contemporary art; Sydney Skelton Simon, Assistant Curator of Academic Affairs; and Molleen Theodore, associate curator of programs.

The exhibition highlights the works of 79 women artists, including Emma Bacon, who graduated in 1885, Audrey Flack ART ’52, Eva Hesse ART ’59, Sylvia Plimack Mangold ART ’61, Howardena Pindell ART ’67, Roni Horn ART ’78, Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86, Sarah Sze ’91, An-My Lê ART ’93, Mickalene Thomas ART ’02, Mary Reid Kelley ART ’09 and Njideka Akunyili Crosby ART ’11.

The exhibition is not organized according to a single stylistic approach; rather, it is made up of six broader thematic sections. Each section simultaneously presents themes of realism, abstraction and figuration while highlighting several artistic mediums including painting, sculpture, photography and video.

According to Hodermarsky, these begin with a section called “Sculpting a Presence.” The remaining sections cover topics such as myth and legend, two-dimensional and three-dimensional space, and identity. The final section, “Casting History, Etching Memory,” includes studies for Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial and other pieces exploring commemorations and reflections from the past.

As part of the project, the curators also wanted to record the oral histories of the featured artists. Much of these recordings were made by graduate and undergraduate students and fellows, parts of which were later incorporated into the exhibit’s audio guide.

“My practice has evolved and takes on multiple scales and forms, always in response to the conditions and questions raised by the place where I work,” says artist Ann Hamilton ART ’85 in the audio guide.

In addition to the exhibit, contributors wrote an accompanying book with the same title. The book includes an introduction written by Hodermarsky, essays by curators Helen A. Cooper, Linda Konheim Kramer, and Marta Kuzma, quotes from featured artists, and images of artwork. Hodermarsky said the book makes art its focal point, rather than editorial writing, and features full circulation for each of the 79 artists featured.

Hodermarsky called the book a “lasting monument” to the project and said it was Yale’s first visual art story that focuses on the female perspective.

“All of the other visual arts stories at Yale were either written or heavily cited from past art school stories told by men,” Hodermarsky said. “It really gives female voices primacy over their experiences. “

The book contains three sections, each corresponding to a historical period: the early years of the art school between 1869 and 1949, between 1950 and 1969 – the period in which the German artist Josef Albers, chairman of the department of design of the school from 1950 to 1958, modernized the curriculum of the art school, then archaic, and the period leading to the present day.

Each section contains a historical timeline highlighting important international, national and local events during those time periods. Hodermarsky noted that these are intended to anchor the reader in the art world of this period.

Hodermarsky said the one-year delay in the exhibit allowed the public to see the exhibit in person, which was not possible last fall. She also recognized that the extra year enriched the accompanying book.

“It’s sort of triumphant that this is happening,” Hodermarsky said. “Even though he’s a year late.”

“One the Basis of Art: 150 Years of Women at Yale” will remain on view until January 9, 2022.

Correction, September 16: An earlier version of this article stated that the “Based on Art” exhibit showcases 100 years of art by female artists at Yale, when in reality the exhibit features works from the mid-1880s. He also wrongly called photography “traditional media”. This version has been updated.


Annie Radillo covers museums and the visual arts. She is a second year student at Benjamin Franklin College majoring in English.



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