Hera Gallery in Wakefield, Rhode Island is a cooperative gallery founded in 1974 as an innovative outpost of feminist art activism. In a 1983 New York Times article, “When Artists Start Their Own Galleries,” Lawrence Alloway wrote that Hera was one of just a handful of galleries run by women for women nationally. The article critically acknowledged Hera alongside A.I.R. Gallery and SOHO20 in New York City, ARC and Artemisia Galleries in Chicago and the Womanhouse installation in Los Angeles.
At the time, it was significant recognition of Hera’s agenda of female empowerment for creating opportunities for women artists in a field deeply biased against their commercial success. Over the years, along with stewarding exhibition opportunities for its membership, Hera has brought in guest artists such as Lois Dodd, Mary Miss, Ana Mendieta and Howardena Pindell to enrich its programming.
The June 15 through July 20 Hera Members Show will include four artists. Among them will be one of its founding members, Roberta Richman. This artist’s abstract paintings are created with oil sticks on paper mounted on canvas. Her visual vocabulary is drawn from memories about places she has recently travelled. Richman’s color choices, texture and spatial reasoning are derived or inspired by encounters with nature when visiting national parks, the Canadian Rockies and New Mexico. These places are remembered by the artist in a considered and emotive style.
In Richman’s studio, I saw neatly arranged suites of paintings that, despite their compact size, related dexterity of color and a sense of abstraction. During my visit, Richman pulled out a photo album with images she took while traveling. From these photographs, the painter’s astute eye for unusual or important color details convert phenomena into a painterly language.
Richman was raised in Brooklyn and studied at Brooklyn College and Pratt Graphic Art Center before receiving a Master of Fine Arts from Indiana University. In New York, her teachers included Ad Reinhardt, Philip Pearlstein, Jimmy Ernst and others. Hera as a feminist space encourages women artists to take chances in their work perhaps not possible in the traditional gallery circuit, which is dominated by artworks by men. While we spoke, Richman expressed a deep interest in the ideas of her showing mates. Richman likes the liveliness of juxtaposing her paintings with those by the other three artists in the show: Molly Kaderka, Abigail Wamboldt and M.J. Yeager. Wamboldt, a painter, and Yeager, a collage artist, will veer into installation formats for this show.