Women have been the cornerstone of operations and exhibitions at Gross McCleaf since Estelle Shane Gross opened her gallery in 1970 on the second floor of 1713 Walnut Street. Over 50 years later, Gross McCleaf is commemorating its rich history during (re)Focus 2024, a citywide festival celebrating women-identified and BIPOC artists.
Fortitude at 50: A Resilient Five Decades at Gross McCleaf Gallery features Martha Armstrong, Jan Baltzell, Joan Becker, Elizabeth Geiger, Eileen Goodman, Penelope Harris, Heidi Leitzke, Bertha Leonard, Ying Li, Ann Lofquist, Chelsey Luster, Bethann Parker, Nicole Parker, Jane Piper, Kimi Pryor, Mary Putman, Celia Reisman, Val Rossman, Mickayel Thurin, Leigh Werrell, and Lauren Whearty with self-portraits, dreamy narratives and formally complex still-life and landscape paintings. The works suggest a deep reflection of the self and a strong point of view conveyed through their distinct subjects and styles. The exhibition represents women artists in all stages of their careers who have helped shape the Gross McCleaf legacy and brand focus toward what Sharon Ewing, former owner and director, refers to as “painterly realism” – representation in painted form.
In this context, the word “representation” can mean at least three things - the depiction of the physical world in art, the gallery-artist relationship, and the existence of a demographic group within the field. In this show, women artists represent in all meanings of the term. They are both seeing and being seen. Fortitude at 50: A Resilient Five Decades at Gross McCleaf Gallery poses (at least) two essential questions: After 50 years, do audiences still need to be led to see women artists? What does “representation” in the arts mean in 2024? Fortitude at 50 invites you to engage the legacy of women being represented at Gross McCleaf Gallery as you ponder what remains unresolved regarding feminism in the visual arts and beyond.
In conjunction with the exhibition, pictures, documents, and memorabilia from the gallery’s archives will be on display. Additionally, excerpts of recorded interviews from: Marina Pacini's 1989 interview with Estelle Gross for the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art; Sharon Ewing; longstanding exhibiting artist, Martha Armstrong; artist and former staff member, Bill Scott; current owner/director, Rebecca Segall, assistant director, Morgan Hobbs, and registrar, Emma Rose Cook, will be available.