The Taft Museum of Art Highlights Women in Photography

A new exhibit now on display at the Taft highlights the talent of female photographers from the past to the modern day.
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Ever since the advent of photography, pioneers have made progress in capturing moments and documenting stories, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that women started exploring the field with innovative techniques and inspiring work. Now through September 10, the Taft Museum of Art‘s new exhibit celebrates women’s photographs throughout the course of modern history.

Modern Women/Modern Vision: Photography from the Bank of America Collection opened June 3 and displays an extensive collection of images photographed by women around the world during different periods of time.

The exhibit “visually traces the influential role of women photographers over the past century”, says Taft Museum of Art President and CEO Rebekah Beaulieu. More than 100 photographic prints at this traveling exhibit were loaned by the Bank of America.

Sandy Skoglund (American, born 1946), “Revenge of the Goldfish, “1981, Cibachrome print; artist’s print 7/30.

From Bank of America Collection; Image courtesy of the artist

“The exhibition honors women’s accomplishments in creating radically inventive images at each phase of modern history, and it is really due to our friends at Bank of America,” says Beaulieu.

The Bank’s organization Art in our Communities is all about loaning out artwork to museums. “Since 2009, more than 170 exhibitions have been a part of museums worldwide and for Cincinnati, this is our first time doing this,” says Lanae Barnes, the organization’s local market executive.

The Taft has been preparing to bring this exhibit to the museum for the past three years after Cincinnati became part of Bank of America’s consumer banking market. “This is a traveling exhibition so I didn’t select the works, but we identified this show as one we wanted to bring to Taft almost three years ago,” says exhibit curator Tamera Muente. “Bank of America has a huge corporate collection of art and to borrow one of their shows you have to be in their market.”

The new gallery captures the course of history through the lens of many inspiring female photographers, including modernists Imogen Cunningham and Margaret Bourke-White as well as post-World War II photographer Cindy Sherman and documentary artist Dorothea Lange.

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895–1965), Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936, 1936 negative; posthumous print 1967, gelatin silver print. Bank of America Collection

One of the highlighted works, Sandy Skoglund’s Revenge of the Goldfish (1981), depicts a vivid blue bedroom filled with bright orange fish and showcases Skoglund’s talent for sculpting and designing intense and surreal visions.

Through the lens of Dutch contemporary photographer Rineke Dijkstra, three portraits track Oliver Silva’s growth as he is recruited by the French Foreign Legion. Through each frame, his soft and innocent gaze soon turns into a shaved head, army uniform, and grim stare.

Olivier, Quartier Viénot, Marseille, France, July 21, 2000, Olivier, Camp Raffalli, Calvi, Corsica, June 18, 2001 and Olivier, Quartier Monclar, Djibouti, July 13, 2003 displays three portraits out of seven that trace Silva’s evolution in his intense training, showing a perspective where a portrait isn’t necessarily meant to be a single photograph. An exhibit plaque quoting Dijkstra reads: “The idea is to follow someone who comes in soft and young, then turns tough, but I’m really talking about mental change, not a physical one.”

Muente says the Taft has an incredible collection of works with old master paintings from the 17th through the 19th centuries and beautiful European decorative arts and Chinese porcelains. However, for this exhibit, they want to represent a wider, more diverse group of artists to their audience.

“In our permanent collection, we have just one work by a woman—a beautiful renaissance enamel plaque—and we don’t purchase works of art for our collection, as other larger museums are actively buying art all the time,” says Muente. “The way that we can represent people is by bringing shows like this to the Taft, which also helps us broaden out the scope of the work that we present.”

Ana Casas Broda (Mexican, born Spain, 1965), Videogame, 2009, from the series Kinderwunsch (The Desire to Have Children), 2006–2012, inkjet print on cotton rag paper.

With this fascinating and dynamic exhibition, Muente hopes attendees are inspired by the fact that women made all these compelling and remarkable works. “I hope that they come away with a sense of how photography changed over the decades because I wanted the show to give people the experience of beautiful black and white images made in a dark room and how that opens up to these large color images that are made in a different way,” she says.

Modern Women/Modern Vision: Photography from the Bank of America Collection will be displayed at the Taft Museum of Art now through September 10.

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