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Art and Suffrage on 14th Street

Art of Our Century Gallery Celebrates 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage with a contemporary twist

A Particular Group of Women at a Particular Place in Time, a solo exhibit of paintings timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment granting women suffrage in the United States, opens Thursday July 23, 2020 at Art of Our Century Gallery, 137 West 14th Street, 3rd Floor. Such a show in our neighborhood is particularly fitting, given its prominent role in the Women’s Rights and Suffrage movements.

https://www.instagram.com/suzannescott/

In order to minimize crowds, the opening reception will stretch over three days. For fun and safety, wine, tequila and hand sanitizer will be available to gallery guests throughout the opening weekend. “The purpose of this exhibition is to pay tribute to the diversity, strength and uniqueness of womanhood,” the artist Suzanne Scott, says.

https://www.instagram.com/suzannescott/

Each of the 17 paintings on exhibit are based upon the subject’s fingerprint, one of the few characteristics that stay with a person from birth. Subjects include tennis legend Martina Navratilova, musician Edie Brickell, and Scott’s great aunt, one of the first flight attendants. Scott, who lives in Greenwich Village, began her career as an assistant with artist Chuck Close.

Pre-Covid Opening at the gallery

The gallery notes that in these turbulent times, it is important to look back and salute previous generations of those fighting for change. And even more important, perhaps, to support current progressive outlets. So, they are donating 10% of this show’s proceeds to organizations that support victims of domestic violence, including Safe Horizon and DASI (Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Intervention Services)

Art of Our Century Gallery was inspired by legendary art world figure Peggy Guggenheims’s 1942-1947 gallery on 57th St. of a similar name, Art of This Century.

Circa 1940s tax Photo, NYC Municipal Archives of 137 West 14th Street

Guggenheim showcased works by established European artists, and also exhibited the works of lesser known American artists, often for the first time. Folks like William Baziotes, Alexander Calder, Joseph Cornell, David Hare, Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Richard Pousette-Dart, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still and Robert De Niro, Sr.. They similarly look to exhibit both emerging artists as well as established talent.

Suzanne Scott with Chuck Close and a portrait of her from: https://www.instagram.com/suzannescott/ “And so, our first face to face, a couple of weeks ago @pacegallery warehouse.. . Brilliant mosaic work #chuckclose and @instamosaika …I am so humbled to be set in stone…We will see you in just a few days back in lovely Italy at @mar_ravenna Filled with gratitude. thank you for the 📸 @alivendesigns #mosaic #ceramic #tile #headedtoravenna #suzanne

Suzanne Scott has explained about her work on display:

“I fingerprint those that are close to me; I scan the print, enlarge it in order to work from it, then turn the structure of the print itself into an abstracted, psychological, emotional portrait I focus painstaking, obsessive attention into constructing a non-representational image that is based on the fingerprint. Repetitive, overlapping, and concentric lines that are carried out with methodical precision and micro-decision making is my means of attempting to explain a life story; the DNA of my work. Each painting is its own separate entity, exposing someone’s personality. The fingerprint in and of itself, so beautifully conveys the concept of each individual’s unique experience and life story. I have found so much information within the whorls and lines belonging to each person that correlates sometimes directly to their quality of life and the specific circumstances they have been exposed to. Fingerprints are formed in the womb, and unlike other visible human characteristics which are subject to change, fingerprints are one of the only constant units throughout a person’s life. The fingerprint, with all its lines and swirls enables me to include massive quantities of information regarding each persons life and character and my relationship to them.”

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A quote from Willem deKooning that she connects with is: “I paint this way because I can keep putting more and more things in it-drama, anger, pain, love, a horse, my ideas about space.” 

Willem de Kooning at top of the stoop at 88 East 10th Street, with Novelist Noel Clad, April 5, 1959  (Photo by Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images).

Women have not always had the right to vote in New York State. In fact, the battle to grant suffrage to women took decades, and faced much opposition and many defeats along the way. One of the leading groups which spearheaded the fight for this hard-fought victory, the New York City Woman Suffrage League, was located down the street from the gallery, at 10 East 14th Street. The remarkable cast-iron structure where the fight for women’s suffrage was staged today sits in the middle of a corridor facing extreme development pressures. Nevertheless, despite requests by Village Preservation to landmark this and surrounding buildings as part of a historic district, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission has failed to do so. Learn more about this timely effort and send an email to officials in support of landmarking and preservation here.

10 East 14th Street

The New York City Woman Suffrage League moved its headquarters into 10 East 14th Street in 1894. The League had been founded in 1870 under the original name of the New York City Woman Suffrage Society, just a year after the New York State Woman Suffrage Association was founded in 1869 in Saratoga Springs. Lillie Devereux Blake was the leader of both the state and city organization.

Suffragists display banners at Washington Mews in Greenwich Village, New York City, circa 1912

At the time the League moved to 14th Street, only Wyoming and Colorado had given women the right to vote, and New York State was about to hold a convention to revise its Constitution, as was done every twenty years. 

Village Preservation research has uncovered even more exciting and illuminating information about the significance of the area south of Union Square as a site of radical and progressive organizing and women’s rights activism, as well as a key location for the developments in commerce and housing throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. We have submitted a 25-page letter to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission with the research, which calls for the agency to finally act to extend landmark protections to the area (read it here).

As Tim McDarrah notes regarding his inspiration for the Art of Our Century Gallery, Guggenheim mounted two all female shows, revolutionary for the era; a critic from Time magazine refused to review the shows because, he claimed, there were no worthy women artists. Guggenheim started the gallery to showcase her private collection of art, and to promote artist friends who she felt were under appreciated.

Gallery Director Tim McDarrah https://www.instagram.com/timothymcdarrah/

Art of Our Century Gallery Director Tim McDarrah says “I certainly am no Peggy Guggenheim, and this ain’t no Mudd Club, or CBGBs. But if we can create an interesting little gallery in our ratty throwback of a building, generate some excitement, have a little fun, promote some worthy artists, and help out both some new friends and old, well, we got time for that now.”

This colorful and profound exhibit runs only through August 23, so make some time for it now.

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