Dive through the controversy surrounding modernist women artists and enter a world filled with vivid colors, bright patterns and stunning paintings. The unique styles of Georgia O’Keeffe, Marguerite Zorach, Helen Torr and Florine Stettheimer all result in iconic paintings in this group show, “Women Modernists of New York” at Portland Museum of Art. These four women committed their lives to art whether they were rich or poor, popular or shy.

Walking into the spacious, chic gallery felt overwhelming. Stunning art hung on the walls leaving the viewer to question the paintings’ ages.

The friendly tour guide took us to the far wall of the show and began to describe the life of artist Marguerite Zorach. Zorach was a mother and an artist who used a lot of symbolism in her paintings. She even took on embroidery considering it was easier to juggle with her kids. Next was Florine Stettheimer’s art. Apparently, her art did not receive much recognition in her time. Her artwork features the wealthy men and women of the early 1900s at public events, parks and beaches. She used light, airy colors to capture the aristocrats in their tracks.

Then we saw Georgia

O’Keeffe’s paintings. O’Keeffe painted close-ups of flowers with breathtaking colors put into the right places. However, controversy began to crowd around O’Keeffe’s paintings when the public started to believe them extremely sexual and that they were not “art.” Lastly we viewed Helen Torr’s paintings. Helen’s paintings were nautical and used shades of gray and blue. Her paintings took a more realistic turn on modernism, but are equal in beauty to Zorach, Stettheimer and O’Keeffe’s.

Tag along with the Portland Museum of Art on a journey that displays the abstract paintings and “busy, mom-friendly” embroidery of Marguerite Zorach, Georgia O’Keeffe’s bold flower close-ups, Florine Stettheimer’s paintings of public events, parks and beaches, and Helen Torr’s nautical paintings that feature the shores of New York and Long Island. Come meet the friendly staff at the Portland Museum of Art today and travel back to the early 1900s to see the clean, right brush strokes put into place by the women who started it all, risked it all and demanded the rights they deserved.

Long story short, don’t see this as just another review, use this as an opportunity to embrace what art really is: the ability to express yourself.


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