Harmony Hammond included in the group exhibition Women's Work at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, NY.
Lyndhurst's press release follows:
‘Women’s Work’ seeks to establish the influence of handwork tradition through the work of contemporary women artists. Placing examples of traditional women’s work in conversation with the contemporary art that was directly influenced by this tradition, allows us to establish the pervasiveness of the traditional influence among contemporary artists and show the broad diversity of traditional handcraft mediums. Observing these objects side-by-side allows viewers to re-evaluate these historic works and understand them as the art objects they were always intended to be.
Starting in Lyndhurst’s entry hall, visitors will see a large historic woven wool flower wreath beneath a pictorial mandala by artist Portia Munson. Nearby will be a historic arrangement of delicate silk flowers under a glass dome. In Lyndhurst’s 1840s parlor, a side table will display a bowl of beaded fruit, with the center niche table featuring the large and outsized bead and semi-precious stone-encrusted rotting lemon by contemporary artist Kathleen Ryan. A large wax arm and flower sculpture by Valerie Hammond rests nearby. The reception room features works by Jenny Holzer and historic beaded cushions from Historic New England.
In Lyndhurst’s library, a 19th-century silhouette painting depicting women gaily cutting black-paper silhouettes in a well-appointed room will be hung above a black paper silhouette pop-up book by Kara Walker interpreting the experience of the enslaved. With these is a silhouette-inspired drawing by noted pop artist Idelle Weber depicting women encountering the glass ceiling and a silhouetted drawing of petroglyphs by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. A 19th-century hair wreath, memorializing the hair of deceased family members, will be displayed with hair sculptures made by contemporary artist Nafis White from braided hair extensions used by Black women and secured with bobby pins. Lyndhurst’s cabinet room features contemporary terrariums by artist Paula Hayes. The dining room will include a tureen by Cindy Sherman decorated with an image of the artist disguised as Madame de Pompadour next to the 19th century of hand-painted cups and saucers from Lyndhurst’s collection depicting the image of French aristocrats. The table set is rounded out with the hand-painted work Rhunhattan by Beatrice Glow. Nearby will be Maria Martinez, Julie Green, and Betty Woodman ceramics.
In a bedroom belonging to Lyndhurst’s last owner, Anna Gould, Duchess of Talleyrand, her large Vuitton traveling trunk is adorned with lingerie embroidered with rap lyrics by Zoe Buckman and a nightgown embroidered by Maira Kalman next to historic examples of needlework. In Lyndhurst’s grand picture gallery Patricia Cronin’s sculpture, Memorial to a Marriage, depicting her and her wife Deborah Kass in a sculptural style is featured on the center table. In the primary bedroom are beaded objects including works by Liza Lou. The State Bedroom features historic and modern versions of fabric dolls by Faith Ringgold and Kiki Smith. In another bedroom, flower paintings of orchids from the Lyndhurst greenhouse by 19th-century society floral painter Irma Komlosy are displayed with a cast silicone rubber floral painting, replete with insects and rot, by contemporary artist Jeanne Silverthorne, as well as a video by Los Angeles-based artist Cauleen Smith showing an African-American woman arranging flowers in the colors of women’s prison uniforms as prison trustees watch.
The exhibition is broadly representative, including 20th-century pioneers and household names, mid-and late-career artists who have toiled for years with varied levels of public recognition as well as new, young artists. While the exhibition focuses almost exclusively on American artists, it seeks to be largely inclusive of artists of diverse races, regions, sexualities, and religions. The adoption by women artists of the handcraft tradition had an extensive reach as the underlying economic need of women to carry the burden of unpaid domestic labor was universal across otherwise unbridgeable societal barriers.
Even more remarkably, the historic women exhibited are rarely anonymous. Virtually all the artists exhibited (although not all) can be identified, at a minimum, by name and date and more commonly by history, painted portrait, photograph, or Wikipedia page. Of note, work by two early First Ladies are included in this exhibition, a needlepoint cushion designed and executed by Martha Washington and an embroidered pin cushion made by tastemaker Dolley Madison. Madison’s pin cushion, made from scraps of embroidered dress fabric, is placed in conversation with a Louise Bourgeois head, also made from scraps of fabric. As much as possible, we chose historic pieces that had some documentable presence of the artist to dispel the myth that these works were always created by housewives in anonymity and to amplify that these works were always seen as important, valued, and saved.
One of the outcomes of the side-by-side display of historic and contemporary is the domestically-scaled size of many of the objects displayed. Unlike many exhibitions of contemporary art, in which outsized size is the norm, most of the pieces in this exhibit are small, personal, and relatable. The contemporary and historical pieces are often the same sizes. Perhaps this is also a reflection of the gendered spirit imbued in these pieces. Their domestically scaled size eschews a male emphasis on enormity that has become the norm for contemporary art.
The exhibition is also a mini-retrospective of the emergence of women artists in the 1960s and 1970s including important early examples of works by some of the feminist pioneers of the time. These include prototype plates for the Dinner Party series by Judy Chicago, Faith Ringgold soft sculptures from the 1970s, Yoko Ono’s film Cut Piece, Miriam Schapiro’s first fan painting, Harmony Hammond’s Bag VI from 1971, a variant of the Ford Foundation tapestry from 1967 by Sheila Hicks, and a Jenny Holzer Truisms LED designed in 1976.