The collaboration between the Berkshire Art Museum and NAWAMA (The National Association of Women Artists, Massachusetts Chapter) is a natural one; the director of the BAM, Eric Rudd, bore witness to the issue of the inclusion of women in the art world, having been involved through his years of teaching at the Corcoran College of Art in Washington, D.C. in the 1970s. A visual artist as well, Rudd reflects on the fact that Washington in the 1960s was an exception to the rule of the male-dominated landscape of museum and gallery directors in the area. When he was out of the gate beginning his long exhibition history, he cites many galleries or museums that were run by women.
Rudd’s experience is in line with the manifesto of NAWAMA, through the eyes and leadership of its Massachusetts Chapter’s president, Jennifer Jean Okumura. In her catalog entry, Okumura reflects on the changes that have occurred in the 134 years of the NAWAMA’s existence but maintains that the original mission of the group remains — to keep the visibility and aware- ness of current female artists, and to ensure the nurturing of the group and women artists in general, going forward. Rudd and Okumura have taken advantage of the museum’s generous, light-filled exhibition rooms, installing a carefully curated representation of NAWAMA members’ works in the forms of paintings, sculpture, textiles, prints and more.
On the first floor of the museum is a small, intimate gallery space with an abundance of light streaming from plentiful windows. On view in this space is “Sanctuary: A Feminine Palette,” an intimate exhibition of the watercolors of Anita Helen Cohen. Brightly hued, yet intense and mysterious, these works are a strong compliment to the adjoining “Female” main exhibition. The artist works with watercolor on Yupo paper, which takes the paint to an entirelydifferent spatial and textural place had it been done on traditional watercolor paper. The paint pools and finds pockets to settle in, mimicking the methods of a stream meandering through rocks and finally finding a place to become a pond.