‘200 Women’ at Pen and Brush

Art Scene

‘200 Women’ at Pen and Brush

The exhibition, 200 Women, asks the question: who will change how you see the world? The project, a book and exhibition founded on original interviews and accompanying photographic portraits, offers ample opportunity to find out. Featuring 200 women from diverse backgrounds across age, race, religion, status and nationality, the words, stories and ideas of each woman are equally as important as their image.

Gillian Anderson, copyright © 2017 Kieran E. Scott www.kieranescott.com

Although the title may imply to some viewers that the project is only about women, it is in fact about the evolution of humanity toward a more just and empathetic world. Photographer Kieran E. Scott and project creators, Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, intentionally chose to use a plain white backdrop for the portraits as a way to minimize the visual context of each woman, allowing their shared humanity to shine through instead. The simplicity of the portraits belies the impactful depth of the interviews that accompany each image. However, high achievers from the worlds of film, television, literature, music and sports situated alongside changemakers in the realms of activism, education and social justice draw viewers in visually.

200 Women, Installation View, Photo by Manny Fernandes

In many cases, the women have multi-hyphenate identities, for example: Masako Osada, who holds a PhD in International Relations and is a writer, translator, visual and martial artist, and adviser to the non-profit organization, Tears of the African Elephant. Other participants in the project include writers, Isabelle Allende, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Margaret Atwood; activists, Angela Davis and Linda Sarsour; actresses, Vidya Balan, Gillian Anderson and Ashley Judd; musicians, Inna Modja andNadya Tolokonnikova; a first lady and economist, Hodan Isse; and numerous women who fly under the mass media radar working as social workers, nurses, educators, or simply human beings in the world.

Nadya Tolokonnikova, copyright © 2017 Kieran E. Scott www.kieranescott.com

Hodan Isse, copyright © 2017 Kieran E. Scott www.kieranescott.com

In the exhibition at Pen and Brush, a 100-plus-year-old non-profit arts organization dedicated to women in visual and literary arts, the venue offers a perfect site in terms of size and history for the works on view. Large scale photographs, small groupings, and a grid of dozens of small scale portraits are all accompanied by wall text with quotes from each woman’s interview. The general subject of the interviews investigates the question: what matters to you? However, in an installation of 5 iPad monitors with headsets, that question is separated into five categories offering a chance for viewers to focus on a specific topic. The questions are: 1) What really matters to you?; 2) What brings you happiness?; 3) Stories; 4) What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?; and 5) What would you change if you could? By far, the intimacy of tuning into to these individualized stories is one of the most gratifying and resonating experiences of the exhibition.

Several of the interviews are also presented as part of a large video installation on the lower level of the exhibition space. In any case, however one chooses to enter the work in this exhibition, its power is its ability to open up minds, inspire and give hope through collective action across may fronts. There is strength in numbers.

200 Women, Installation View, Photo by Manny Fernandes

200 Women is on view at Pen and Brush through June 30, 2018.