The Eternal Feminine at Newport Art
By J. Fatima Martins
The “eternal feminine” is a layered and contentious construct that describes a set of defining idealized traits that is the archetypal “woman.” In the exhibition “The Eternal Feminine,” the concept is revealed and challenged, offering new expository possibilities that blur the line between Icon and Image.
Newport Art Museum curator Nancy Whipple Grinnell worked in partnership with artist, professor and collector James Baker, who originated the exhibition idea and serves as co-curator. From his private collection, Baker loaned photographs, drawings, prints, paintings and sculpture, some purchased specifically for the exhibition. In addition to Baker’s loans, and material from the permanent collection, Grinnell invited six regional contemporary artists to contribute to the discussion.
Baker’s curatorial assemblage is both serious and amusing. He suggests, through his diverse collection, that “woman” is everyone. He writes, “They tell us what they know about who we are,” and “They speak of both the otherness and the sameness of ourselves.”