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Panopticon: Ladies Only

I remember some mild outrage rippling through the Twitterverse late last April over the claim, in a New York Times opinion piece on gender inequality in art collecting, that men far outnumber women among notable collectors because collecting "is more like hunting than shopping." I must have read the piece myself at the time, but it didn’t really strike a nerve, or stick with me, probably because I couldn't relate it to my life at all. I hate shopping, for one thing. But more importantly, despite being an optimistic citizen of the United States of Anything Can Happen, I’m roughly 99.9% certain that even if I become a man, I’ll never have the cash for even one or two pieces of the commodities-grade art the NY Times piece focuses on.

Panopticon Gallery co-owner Anne DeVito had a different reaction after reading that piece last year. She says it prompted her to start the gallery’s Ladies Only events, which bring women together to look at and talk about art, and to hear about work directly from the artists. Categorized as collectors’ events but open to anyonelady, the Ladies Only events offer opportunities for education, discussion, and networking. Irritated at the article's assertion that most women are merely interested in "browsing" art, DeVito wants to provide us with ways to become better informed and more deeply engaged with art, particularly photography.

At the Ladies Sunday Afternoon Tea on March 2, 20-25 women gathered in Panopticon’s "private room" for informal artist talks by Elizabeth Ellenwood, Alena Kuzub, and Andrea Greitzer. After a spot of tea and some mingle-time in the lovely space (that’s not just lady-speak, it really is lovely in a stately, bow-front parlor way), each photographer spoke casually about her own work on view in the Architectural Analysis show (which also includes photos by John D. Woolf and Gustuv Holland), as well as her process, motivations, and background. Each brief talk was followed by a lively and informative Q&A.

Content-wise, this grouping of artists worked really well. They ranged from freshly-graduated (Kuzub, from NESOP) to more established (Greitzer, who teaches at Northeastern), and they were all open and engaging in talking about everything from the ideas and motivations behind their work, to their process and technique. While their projects are all very different, hearing each artist talk about their own approach to elements common to all, like negative space, brought a nice cohesion to the event, and really enhanced the experience of viewing the work. It was also great to see them each tie questions about technical details back to their larger process and goals, answering enthusiastically when asked about their cameras and printing methods, but deftly bringing the conversations back to intent and content. In the end, I walked out of the gallery with a deeper appreciation for all of these artists' work, whether it had resonated with me on first viewing or not.

Boston could use more events like this, where participants can hear artists speak informally about their work, ask questions, and talk with the artists and with one another. Part artist’s talk, part mixer, with just enough structure to keep the focus on the art and to encourage deeper looking—it’s a great format. This can only be a good thing, for both artists and the public: while the 1% fight it out amongst themselves for the art only they can afford, Boston's artists can help the rest of us connect more meaningfully with work that's accessible to the 99%. If we’re lucky, the Ladies Only format will take off and start a trend for similar events. Maybe someone will even let the "hunters" in on the party.

About Author

Bonnie B enjoys talking with non-artists about art. She excels at non sequiturs, has a last name no one pronounces correctly, and tweets as @6x6pix and can be found here - https://instagram.com/6x6pix/.

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