The Diana Center's small art gallery—the Louise McCagg Gallery—overlooking Broadway puts works of painting, photography, and sculpture into dialogue. The fourth-floor space opened "Re-turn," an exhibition of Barnard alumnae artists, on Feb. 7, and it will remain open until Feb. 25. The alumnae show is a first for the Diana Center. And rather than focusing on a particular theme or idea, the show represents the work of 11 female artists of several different generations who all emerged from the same liberal-arts college environment. The artists work in various mediums and explore different themes, though most of them live and work in New York. The work of Louise McCagg, BC '59, is prominent as viewers enter the gallery. McCagg is an internationally recognized artist whose work was included in the Hungarian Pavilion of the 2009 Venice Biennale. The bronze sculptures, from her "LP Series," are comprised of discs dotted with small, emaciated Giacometti-esque faces. Lying face-up on the ground, these discs are at once haunting in their unusual depiction of the human form and elegant in their geometry. In a sculpture from her "Thumb and Drape" series, Michelle Lopez, BC '92, blankets a model tractor with leather, giving the machine an eerie, skin-like texture. The flowing, organic surface applied to something otherwise rigid and mechanical, leaves gallery-goers wondering if the artist even used a tractor model to begin with. The largest and most eye-catching work gracing the gallery walls is "Red Painting," created by Marisol Limon Martinez, BC '97, which incorporates a variety of red, pink, and beige hues in a painterly, abstract style. Martinez applies sheets of paper onto the surface of her canvas, giving the piece a three-dimensional and compartmentalized aesthetic that still blends into a cohesive whole. The black-and-white photographs by Debbie Grossman, BC '99, have the aesthetic sensibility of the early 20th century but are thoroughly contemporary. Indeed, she used Photoshop to replace the male subjects from Russell Lee's 1940 photographs for the United States' Farm Security Administration with women. The photographs are playful and subversive, but viewers might question the basis of a feminist agenda for a world filled exclusively with women. To further enhance the Barnard focus of the show, the curators, Marley Blue Lewis, BC '05, and Julia Westerbeke, BC '03, are also alumnae of the college. The show doesn't explicitly trace the work of Barnard alumnae back to their undergraduate roots, but it doesn't need to. It is a compelling celebration of the triumphs of Barnard women after they leave Morningside Heights. Fortunately for the Columbia and Barnard communities, these successful alumnae have sent some of their work back to this corner of New York.
Maria Castex / Staff Photographer