Exhibit highlights work of Midwestern women


Courtesy Woman Made Gallery

The work of Cathleen Clarke will be displayed at Woman Made Gallery March 2-24 as a part of the Midwest Open.

By Miranda Manier

Deb Flagel started 2018 by asking a question: What kind of art is coming out of the Midwest? 

As executive director of Woman Made Gallery, 2150 S. Canalport Ave., Flagel curated an exhibition to help herself answer that question. From March 2–24, Woman Made will display its inaugural Midwest Open, featuring work from female artists from all 12 Midwestern states. 

Flagel hopes the Midwest Open will explore several other questions as well, such as whether the immediacy of sharing art over the internet has made the concept of “regional art” disappear. 

She also wonders whether contemporary artists are influenced by the style, themes and work of other artists they are exposed to online, rather than their own geographical surroundings.

 “These are questions [Woman Made’s board] had in our minds, but we didn’t have the answers to,” Flagel said. “So we thought a nice way to start gathering some of those answers is just to host a Midwest Open.” 

Cathleen Clarke, a figurative artist from Chicago, was excited about the Midwest Open when she heard about it. 

“Midwest artists are really underrepresented,” Clarke said. “There’s a lot more great artists out here that nobody knows about because everyone’s focused on [Los Angeles] or New York [City] artists. So it’s so important they’re bringing a spotlight to artists in the Midwest.” 

The Midwest also has more room for older female artists, compared to New York City, said Barbara Kay Herring, a fine arts artist also from Chicago. In the Big Apple, those opportunities might  be available only at exhibits that are specifically for artists 55 and older. 

The discrepancy in representation outside the Midwest can boil down to regional differences, Flagel said. If an art gallery in LA has a national open call for submissions, and a Midwestern artist enters their work, she said the people judging the exhibit might have different experiences and the work may not resonate with them. 

 “I would like to see artists talk more about what it means to live where they live,” Flagel said. “It’s wonderful that we’re all influenced by each other … [but] I also think there’s room that should be made for reflections from a particular area in the United States, just so that we don’t lose the flavor of where we live.” 

 While Flagel does not think the Midwest is inferior to the East or West coasts, she said it can sometimes feel that way. With the Midwest Open, though, she hopes Midwesterners will feel proud of their contributions to the arts. 

“It’s nice for Midwestern artists to not always get lumped together with other artists, but to get showcased themselves,” Flagel said.