Fort Lauderdale Photo Exhibit Reaches Diverse Audience, LBT Women

Caribbean-American lesbian poet Audre Lorde once wrote that poetry is not a luxury. Art is also not a luxury.

We need art that speaks to our sense of self, art that challenges us—intellectually and emotionally.

The Girls’ Club art collection in Fort Lauderdale offers this challenge with “Re-framing the Feminine,” a photography exhibit on view until September 30.

Artists and collectors Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz founded Girls’ Club in 2006 as a place “to educate the public, nurture the careers of female artists, and to serve as a resource for art students and scholars, curators, and practicing artists” (  Art exhibitions, events, workshops, artist talks and film screenings support this mission.

When asked about the current state of women in the arts, Creative Director Michelle Weinberg replied: “Women have made great strides, not only as artists, but as critics, dealers, curators and collectors.  However… men outnumber women in major gallery shows, exhibitions and collections.”  She added that “Girls’ Club is the only private collection of contemporary art by women open to the public—in the entire world.”

LBT women are encouraged to become involved with Girls’ Club as artists, program participants and gallery visitors.

Gallery Director Sarah Michelle Rupert confirmed that the art workshops are a “safe place [for all women, particularly LBT women] to share and work out artistic ideas.”

Although the collection is committed to supporting women, Rupert noted that male artists have a place at Girls’ Club:  “The next exhibit will be a drawing show that includes both genders… [our exhibits] pull the focus towards women artists, but we are in no way exclusionary.”

“Re-framing the Feminine” features 45 artists including revered photographers such as Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman as well as local and emerging artists.  Yet the subject matters of the photographs explore various themes that relate not only to gender, but race, class and/or culture.

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s Momme Portrait Series (floral comforter) (2008) is a portrait of the artist and her mother.  Frazier grew up in the steel-mill town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, which was abandoned by the government in the early 80s.  Her work speaks to this context.  Dressed in sleepwear—white tank tops, pajama pants—mother and daughter stand against a floral backdrop, shoulder to shoulder.  The mother’s eyes half-closed, her stare is distant.  Frazier looks out at her viewers but stays emotionless.  The photo conveys a profound enervation; yet also expresses the strong will to survive what has been devastated.

Brenda Ann Kenneally’s Upstate Girls: Dana at 21 (2008) portrays a young woman who has just given birth at a hospital.  Pale, she sits upright in bed, her hospital gown falling off one shoulder as she nurses her infant.  She gazes at the camera, stunned—uncertain about her transition into motherhood.

In contrast, Kenneally’s Upstate Girls: Melting Pot (2008) is a loving portrait of a multiracial family of five, entwined in bed, sleeping.  Here, motherhood is about connection.

Diane Arbus’ Woman with her Baby Monkey (1971) takes a humorous turn.  Gallery Director Rupert shared that at first some viewers don’t notice that the woman is holding a monkey.  They notice the woman who sits on a gaudy couch in a wood paneled living room.  She is content, that’s all that matters.

Another portrayal of contentment—the drag queens in Nan Goldin’s Jimmy Paulette and Tabboo! Undressing, NYC (1991).  One performer is in the background, reflected in a mirror—his head down, searching through a bag on the floor.  The other is directly in front of the camera with lipstick, eye make-up, and a sheer cut-off shirt.  He beams—half-dressed, emotionally complete.

Cuban-born artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons’ De las Dos Aguas (2007) studies the connection between cultures and countries.  Two women stand in an oceanic blueness, facing the viewer, holding between them a wooden boat with four passengers.  Dreadlocks cover their faces, extending over and under the boat—all simultaneously rooted and displaced from home.

“Re-framing the Feminine” surveys the middle-class suburbia of Julie Blackmon’s Patio (2010); the working-class porch of Jo Ann Walters’ Untitled, from the series “Vanity and Consolation;” the European crisis of Maria Michelogianni’s Barbie in Athens (2009).

But not all of the photos deal with somber subjects.  Delia Brown’s Some of My Clothes (2002) is pure whimsy as the artist creates almost one-hundred self-portraits.  Clothes create personality, and Brown strikes a pose in mini-skirts, blazers, T-shirts, evening dresses.  Seductive, self-conscious, professional, casual, confident, immature—her clothes show every side.

“The current exhibition… truly demonstrates how women have taken complete charge of the…medium of photography and made the most intimate and radical contributions to contemporary art,” Weinberg said.

Somber or whimsical, politically conscious or simply joyous—”Re-framing the Feminine” is a collection of photographs that awakens the worlds within and outside of our selves, and proves art is not a luxury.

Girls’ Club
Re-framing the feminine:
Photography from the collection of Francie Bishop Good & David Horvitz
On view until September 30, 2012
Free and Open to the Public
Wednesday- Friday, 1-5pm or by appointment
117 NE 2nd Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL

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