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UN Exhibits Women's Art Works - 2002-03-13

An exhibition of miniature works by nearly 400 women artists is on display at the United Nations in honor of Women's History Month.

The Story of American Art through the Eyes of Women began as an exhibit for the new millennium.

There was no overarching theme. The National Association of Women Artists simply asked its members express themselves on miniature canvases.

Sculptor, Madeleine Segall-Marx, the group's president, says the collection now displayed in the halls of the United Nations represents a snapshot of the wide range of art created by women. "From traditional figurative realistic work, to abstract work, it's the whole gamu," she said. "What you don't see here obviously is video and performance, but [there is] everything else from computer work to photography. Watercolors, pencil drawings and prints."

At first glance, the small canvases hanging symmetrically on tall rectangular boards blend together. But close examination reveals that each miniature stands on its own.

One of the more traditional pieces-a still life of a silver cup and a fruit bowl - is noticeable for its skill and precision. Another tiny painting incorporates Chinese characters, illustrating the multiple identities of women artists working in the United States.

Gender is explored too. Several female nudes are displayed, and one miniature takes an unconventional look at motherhood. It is unclear if the woman in the portrait, who is surrounded by fire, is about to strike or sing to the baby in her arms.

The National Association of Women's Art was established more than one hundred years ago. Mrs. Segall-Marx says that displaying the work of almost half its 900 members helps achieve its goal of promoting women artists. "We're really an affirmative action group, which is to have women's work out there," she said. "Because even though half of the artists in the world are women if you go around to the museums anywhere on earth, you will find that 99.5 percent of what is on the walls or on the floor is works by men. And people don't think there's anything peculiar about that, even women don't. They're so used to it."

Mrs. Segall-Marx says it is appropriate that the exhibit was sponsored by a division of the United Nations, which promotes women's human rights, economic independence and political participation. She hopes visitors who see the exhibition during Women's History Month leave with a greater recognition of women artists working today.