The Cincinnati Art Museum’s current exhibition Women Breaking Boundaries commemorates the centennial of women’s suffrage by foregrounding works by women artists from its permanent collection. The curatorial project includes an exhibition proper as well as signage throughout the museum inviting us to reorient our experience through an intersectional lens of gender and representation.
In the exhibition proper, wall text tells me 17.2 percent of works in the CAM permanent collection are by female artists — better than the 12.6 percent national average — and in 2019, 41 percent of new acquisitions were works by female-identifying artists.
One of the new acquisitions on display is Shahzia Sikander’s 1993 gouache painting “A Slight and Pleasing Dislocation. Here, a headless female form is silhouetted against a dark background, its arms and legs ending in something like egg beaters, limp in contrast to the strong, centered torso and pelvis. It has the power and strangeness of an image conjured from a dream.
I was drawn in particular to “Amaterasu,” a 19th-century Japanese hanging scroll by Hōen (Taira) Yoshiteru. Here, the Shinto sun goddess is seen emerging radiant from a cave as hopeful figures attempt to lure her into full visibility by dancing and playing instruments. In a delicate monochrome wash, beams of light shine from her face and weave through knotty tree branches, casting the revelers in a sublime glow. I can think of no better metaphor for what the CAM is doing with this project. How lucky we are to be among the revelers!
Women Breaking Boundaries runs through April 12 at the Cincinnati Art Museum (953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams). More info: cincinnatiartmuseum.org.