Exhibition of 20 century women artists with ties to the South coming to the CMA

Our Own Work, Our Own Way: Ascendant Women Artists in the Johnson Collection opens January 21

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Columbia, S.C. – The Columbia Museum of Art announces featured exhibition Our Own Work, Our Own Way: Ascendant Women Artists in the Johnson Collection, on view Saturday, January 21, through Sunday, May 21, 2023. Presented by the Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina, the exhibition brings together 42 female artists of the 20th century who had connections to the South — including Emma Amos, Beverly Buchanan, Elaine de Kooning, Zelda Fitzgerald, Gwendolyn Knight, and Columbia’s own Laura Spong — while shining a spotlight on several other regional artists. Opening day festivities include a CMA members drop-in as well as a public talk featuring Carter Johnson and Sarah Tignor of the Johnson Collection.

“This exhibition allows us to consider the artistic innovations of the 20th century — from Cubist-inspired still lifes to fully abstract and conceptual works — through the unique lens of women artists with ties to our region,” says CMA Curator Michael Neumeister. 

Our Own Work, Our Own Way presents a window onto the artistic developments of the 20th century, shown from the vantage of women artists with ties to the South. These artists routinely encountered resistance in their quest to gain parity, especially when their mode of expression was distinctly modern in style or subject, and many are just beginning to receive critical attention. Furthermore, contemporary female artists of color faced what Loïs Mailou Jones, also featured in the exhibition, termed the “double handicap” of racism and sexism. Like their sisters to the north, these Southern women often worked alongside, but in the shadows of, their more celebrated male counterparts, despite the commonalities — dynamic brushwork, bold color, and abstract imagery — of their canvases.

Comprised of artwork from the 1930s to the 1990s, Our Own Work, Our Own Way champions a roster of artists whose aesthetic achievements transcended convention and invigorated the South’s modern milieu: Anni Albers, Emma Amos, McDonald Bane, Nell Blaine, Dusti Bongé, Beverly Buchanan, Selma Burke, Margaret Burroughs, Mary Callery, Josephine Couper, Elaine de Kooning, Jeanet Dreskin, Jeanet Dreskin-Haig, Caroline Durieux, Zelda Fitzgerald, Maud Gatewood, Judith Godwin, Anne Goldthwaite, Lee Hall, Fannie Hillsmith, Marie Hull, Valerie Jaudon, Elizabeth Jennerjahn, Loïs Mailou Jones, Karen Karnes, Gina Knee, Gwendolyn Knight, Dorothy Kohlhepp, Adele Lemm, Edith London, Corrie McCallum, Augusta Oelschig, Pat Passlof, Mavis Pusey, Jo Sandman, Gladys Smith, Laura Spong, Anna Heyward Taylor, Grace Taylor, Alma Thomas, Mary Thomas, and Susan Weil. These artists pushed boundaries not only in terms of their gender, but also the artistic styles in which they worked.
Hailed by The Magazine Antiques with having staged a “quiet art historical revolution” and expanding “the meaning of regional” through its “exhibitions, loans, publications, and institutional partnerships,” the Johnson Collection seeks to illuminate the rich history and diverse cultures of the American South. With holdings that offer an extensive survey of artistic activity from the late 18th century to the present day, the collection works to advance interest in the dynamic role that the art of the South plays in the larger context of American art and to contribute to the canon of art historical literature. Founded in 2002 as a private collection for public good, the Johnson Collection is located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. 

“It’s an honor to have Our Own Work, Our Own Way so beautifully installed at the Columbia Museum of Art, says Carter Johnson, co-curator of the exhibition and daughter-in-law of the collection’s owners. “The artists in this exhibition, both familiar and new, provide an important reminder of the essential, but often overlooked, role of women artists in the tapestry of American Art.”

Opening Day Members Drop-In
Saturday, January 21 | 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
To celebrate the exhibition opening of Our Own Work, Our Own Way: Ascendant Women Artists in the Johnson Collection, members are invited to bring a friend and drop by the museum for an afternoon of refreshment and artistic enlightenment. Enjoy complimentary coffee, pastries, and other treats from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. At 2:30 p.m., get insights about this new exhibition from the folks at the Johnson Collection at an opening day talk. Free. Members only, but as a special perk, members are encouraged to bring a friend along.

Opening Day Talk: Our Own Work, Our Own Way
Saturday, January 21 | 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.
On opening day of Our Own Work, Our Own Way: Ascendant Women Artists in the Johnson Collection, don’t miss this special opportunity to hear directly from the folks at the Johnson Collection. Carter Johnson — co-curator of the exhibition and daughter-in-law of the collection’s owners — discusses the featured artists and exactly how this exhibition came to be. Following the talk, Johnson and Sarah Tignor, chief operating officer of the Johnson Collection, answer questions from the audience. Free with membership or admission.
  Our Own Work, Our Own Way: Ascendant Women Artists in the Johnson Collection is presented by the Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina. Contributing Sponsor: Prisma Health. Friend Sponsors: Barbara B. Boyd; Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin M. Gimarc; Brenda Wheeler; Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, PA. Patron Sponsors: Bill Schmidt; Beth and Matthew Richardson. Grantors: City of Columbia; Richland County Government; South Carolina Arts Commission; South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.

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Alex English
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