Snail's Postcard Post

Art by Women

If you didn’t catch yesterday’s post, Snail’s Postcard Post is celebrating Women’s History Month with a week of postcards of famous women and everyday women, and what they all give to the world. Today’s post is devoted women’s creativity in the visual arts.



Like many artists, Claudia Kunin’s art and her life are very much alike. A witchy woman in love with early Americana (Colonial, Civil War era, Western), her exquisite photographs conjure these periods like a medium at a seance. Yet her photographic techniques are often cutting-edge. See what I mean at




Susan Sironi is a master of detailed and whimsical altered books. 

Offramp Gallery is located in a beautiful 1920’s craftsman house… right off a freeway offramp! A longtime intelligent voice in the New York and Los Angeles art worlds, Jane Chafin made the bold, relatively late-life career and location change to fulfill her dream of directing a contemporary art gallery. Offramp has now entered its fifth year. I have never seen a show there that did not interest me. Check out



(Yes, as well as a delightful artist, she’s also the late David Foster Wallace’s wife. The spirit in which she seems to have forged on is an inspiration, if that doesn’t sound too awful)





Anita Bunn’s photographs, digital videos and lithographs focus on the subtleties where vegetation meets sky. Portraying those interfaces as found in unremarkable places in Los Angeles, her work draws viewers to recall the fine detail, subtlety of light, and progressive movement right outside. One such piece was recently acquired by The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)!


IMG_5195 Ah, the sort of painting about which blowhard tourists who venture into a museum bluster, “My five year-old could do that!” They don’t see the layers and the delicate bleeding. Elana Kundell’s work reminds me of one of my favorite painters, Helen Frankenthaler. Couldn’t you just melt into it? 


I featured this postcard of the Saar family show in a Black History Month post in February, and here they are again! The Saar women are truly underdog heros of the art world. I’m aware some artists would not like to be viewed as such “tokens,” but considering the themes of the Saars’ art, I think its appropriate to honor them in this light.  Unknown

Lezley, Betye and Alison Saar, 1995.
Photo by Tracye Saar-Cavanaugh
image from Afrofemcentrist

Betye Saar is an acclaimed assemblage artist of African, Irish and Native American descent. Born in 1926 in Los Angeles, Saar witnessed the hodge-podge assembling of the famous folk monument Watts Towers on visits to her grandmother’s in the 1930′s. She pursued an education in art through the 1950′s and into the early ’60s. In 1968, she saw a Joseph Cornell exhibition which launched her into work on boxed found-object assemblages. These were largely socio-political statements represented by negative black stock characters like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom, and Sambo.


Betye Saar. The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,1972.
image from the Brooklyn Museum

In the 1970′s, Saar created assemblages exploring African and Creole mysticism. Then, following the death of her great-aunt, Saar channeled family history into her assemblages. In the 1980′s, she returned to the mysticism theme, but departed from small boxes in favor of room-size installations and site-specific works. These various themes have remained at play in her work since.

Betye Saar’s daughters Alison and Lezley Saar are artists who have very much followed in their mother’s footsteps. (The third Saar sister is Tracye Saar-Cavanaugh whom I do not know anything about and can’t find any information on. I believe she is also involved in the art world, though. If you know please comment!)

Where her mother has employed boxes, Lezley Saar often uses books as the stages for paint and found-object portraits of people who raise questions of duality in race, gender, (in)sanity, and (un)naturalism.


Lezley Saar. Oscar Willis: Ethiopian Comedian circa 1850, 2001
image from A World History of Art

Alison Saar, meanwhile, has achieved huge success for her figurative sculptures dealing with cultural facets of the African diaspora and with identity in terms of race and gender.

alison-saar-family-legacies-rise_sally_riseAlison Saar. Rise Sally Rise, 2003
image from LA Louver Gallery 


(The postcard is indeed square, I didn’t crop it)



This collage by Margi Scharff is from a postcard for an exhibition in May through June, 2007. At age 52, Scharff passed away that July of ovarian cancer. She was a dazzling artist and a valued friend; The first person who took me seriously as an artist when I was in my teens. What was magical about Margi was that her life and her art were the same thing. She spent her professional life traveling mostly in Central and Southeast Asia on ten dollars a day with one red suitcase. As she roamed, she collected paper trash. Still on the road, she’d manipulate the trash into small, jewel-like collages. The pieces had to be miniature so they’d fit in the one red suitcase. Upon her passing, many publications paid tribute to her inspiring life–the link below gives a good sense of the traveling artist that was Margi Scharff: 


Francine Matarazzo, East of Silverlake,1994-95; oil on canvas,
60 x 120 inches

IMG_5203Sorry the photo’s a bit bleary. Artist Sophia Gasparian’s art deals with “human rights, ethnic dislocation, social identity and women’s progress.”



As Offramp’s press release for Countries of Origin explains, these works are “intricate landscapes of Asian container shipping ports, using recycled product packaging from the sites themselves. Delicately cut, folded, and pinned to the walls with multi-colored map pins, Kolonusz-Partee’s constructions become panoramic pastiches of buildings, roadways, cranes and ships. By exploring these industrial landscapes Kolonusz-Partee hopes to better understand where all the “stuff” demanded by the west is really coming from[, and t]he environmental and human sacrifices being made in the East’s efforts to rapidly develop” 



One of my favorite art postcards! The Snail family used to have it on our refrigerator, and it would grab the attention of everyone who came in the kitchen. And it’s so rare to see professional artists work in pastel, a medium I love. Linsley Lambert has made a niche for herself, devoting her work to hip and intriguing portraits (usually in paint). Appropriately, this portrait was on display at an eye glasses shop! 


Prints and posters by Favianna Rodriguez


Sierra Pecheur, “Blood Bank” 1993, mixed media, 36″ x 36″ x 3″


I’ve been waiting to share this one with you!



I’ve saved one of my very favorite art postcards for last:



Yep, oil on canvas, not a photograph. Isn’t it brilliant how the sign is in forshortened perspective, nearing profile, but is just frontal enough to be legible?

In the artist statement on her website, Patricia Chidlaw describes exactly how I feel about this painting, “While I often treat older architectural forms, I want to make it clear these are not paintings about nostalgia – all are contemporary scenes, recently observed…What I feel these mostly unpopulated places I choose to paint have in common is a potency, some kind of emotional charge that enables them to function as settings for a subjective fictional narrative.”

Come back to Snail’s Postcard Post tomorrow for postcards of women in music!




This entry was published on March 4, 2013 at 11:47 pm. It’s filed under Art and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Art by Women

  1. Antonette DeVito on said:

    Allison, What a lot of great art. Loved learning about Margi & Offramp Gallery. And the giant sardines are hilarious. –Have been writing, will make a date to get together soon. Hugs, Toni

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