Bernice Steinbaum, director of the Steinbaum Krauss Gallery in New York City, knows that the test of art is the art itself not the gender or age of the artist.
And artwork that meets that test are the ones that will cross the threshold into the next millennium.
With that in mind, Steinbaum began putting together an exhibition to pay tribute to the milestones that women artists have achieved in the 20th Century. She made the project even more interesting by only including the works of women who were at least 70 years old.
The exhibition, ``Crossing the Threshold,'' is on display through Oct. 18 at the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art on the Kansas University campus.
``At this point, (Steinbaum) views that a show like this is still necessary,'' said Susan Earle, curator of European and American art at the Spencer Museum. ``Women have broken boundaries and haven't gotten the recognition they should, but they have persevered and have been productive.
``A lot of the work is from the last 10 to 15 years. They are women who are active as artists. ... She wanted to celebrate these women in particular and emphasize their vitality and continued contributions to the art world.''
Earle said the exhibition includes painting, sculpture, photography, ceramics, weaving and printmaking and reflects the artistic styles of 20th-century and contemporary art. The show was organized two years ago. Since then three of its 31 artists -- Clyde Connell, Lois Mailou Jones and Beatrice Wood -- have died.
Other artists represented in the show are Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, Louise Bourgeois, Agnes Martin, Muriel Castanis, Beverly Pepper, Miriam Shapiro, Sylvia Sleigh, June Wayne and Lenore Tawney.
Many of the women worked on their art only after meeting the demands of being a wife and mother. Some didn't start their art careers until late in life. All of them, however, had to deal with family expectations and their need for personal identity and the freedom to achieve their dreams.
Highlighting Kansas artists
Earle said the Spencer Museum selected the works of four women who developed their art careers in Kansas to be displayed alongside Steinbaum's choices. Those women are:
- The late Marjorie Whitney, professor emeritus of design at Kansas University and chair of its design department for 48 years. She developed both the bachelor's and master's in fine arts degree programs in jewelry and silversmithing.
- Mary A. Kretsinger, former associate professor of metalsmithing design at Emporia State University. She is known internationally for her metal and enamel work as well as her liturgical commissions for the interior of several churches in Kansas and on the East Coast.
- Margret Craven, a 1929 KU graduate who continues to have a career in silversmithing. Her works are in many collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in England and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
- Betty Dickerson, a painter and printmaker who taught at the Wichita Art Assn. for many years. Her most famous student is David Salle.
``Crossing the Threshold,'' Earle said, was inspired by two shows heralding the accomplishments of women during the 1940s at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery in New York City.
The exhibit, originally titled ``Crossing the Threshold with Thelma and Louise,'' was first shown at Steinbaum Krauss Gallery and traveled to Tyler Art Gallery in Oswego, N.Y., The College Art Gallery in Ewing, N.J., and Brevard Museum of Art and Science in Melbourne, Fla., before coming to KU. After its run here, the exhibition will be seen at 10 other museums or art galleries across the United States.
When the show opened at the Steinbaum gallery, Lawrence performance artist Janet Davidson-Hues was on hand to direct and perform ``To Be Continued,'' her tribute to the women artists who cleared the path so she and other women could follow in their footsteps. Helping her perform the work were Fran Bull, Teneille Haggard, Keiko Kira and Ana Lois-Borzi.
A video of the performance will be shown continously during gallery hours throughout the duration of the show.
``Obviously, the women artists represented in `Crossing the Threshold' are the ones who considered alternatives and rejected cultural mandates in order to find their own voices. They are the ones whose time in the studio was undoubtedly snatched in fragments, and was fraught with interruptions,'' Davidson-Hues said in an essay she wrote for the exhibition's catalog. `` ... Each of these self-defined women has spent a lifetime living, loving, giving and struggling, pleasing, seething, waiting -- devoting her life to her art even when contradiction and conflict surrounded her.''
-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.