Women Painting Women: Internationally noted exhibit coming to Chattanooga

photo Lookout Mountain artist Meg Aiken's "Warehouse Row" is among the 36 pieces that will be part of Women Painting Women: (R)evolution 2013.
photo "Talking Stick" by Nicole Alger is part of a series based on Native American lore and ceremony.
photo This pencil on paper drawing by Angela Cunningham is titled "Safe Keeping."

IF YOU GOWhat: Women Painting Women: (R)evolution 2013Where: Townsend Atelier, 201 W. Main St., through Sept. 28.Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday and by appointment; opening reception is 2-9 p.m. Saturday, with Art Throw Down from 5-8 p.m. featuring Cindy Procious and Mia Bergeron.Information: 423-266-2712, townsend@atelier.com

Peggy Townsend knew the idea was a good one, she just never pictured it taking on an international flavor.

She knew that bringing part of the Women Painting Women exhibit to the Townsend Atelier gallery would draw interest because it has garnered plenty of attention elsewhere since its creation in 2008. What she didn't expect was more than 500 entries from 26 states and countries such as Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada and the Philippines.

"We were just overwhelmed," she says.

Townsend says the series seems to have resonated with people -- especially, but not unexpectedly, with women -- because each work tells an individual story, but collectively they tell much more.

"People identify with the subjects," she says.

For the upcoming exhibition at her gallery, she enlisted the services of Ellen Simak, former chief curator at the Hunter Museum of American Art, who selected 36 pieces that will be part of Women Painting Women: (R)evolution 2013.

The Women Painting Women idea -- yes, it's exactly what it sounds like -- was created in 2008 by artists Sadie Jernigan Valeri, Alia El-Bermani and Diane Feissel, who started a blog with the title. The blog now features the works of 320 figure painters, has more than 1,100 followers and more than 7,500 Facebook fans. WPW exhibits have been held or are scheduled in Nashville,Brooklyn, Sag Harbor, N.Y., and Glasgow, Scotland, among others.

The pieces in the Townsend exhibit represent numerous styles, including painting, drawing, mixed media, printmaking and pastel, and they showcase women in various stages of life and poses.

"Almost half of the works in Women Painting Women remain squarely within the tradition of creating portraits of beautiful women and languorous nudes," Simak writes in her juror's statement. "On the other end of the style spectrum, Elain Despins paints with a loaded brush and uses sharp, rather acidic colors in the strong portrait, 'Magali.'"

Simak says she also chose works that broke with tradition.

"In 'Warning,' Mary Chiaramonte infuses a note of mystery and danger in her painting of a woman standing on the edge of a burning field. Similarly, Amanda Hext's 'Self Portrait 2' contorts and compresses a nude into a dark box creating a distinct sense of unease and discomfort in the viewer."

During the opening day reception on Saturday, local artists Cindy Procious, wife of Times Free Press editorial cartoonist Clay Bennett, and Mia Bergeron will paint live in front of an audience in a friendly competition. Both works will be auctioned off at the end of the demonstration. Many paintings in the exhibit are for sale, as well.

Townsend Atelier is a teaching studio that offers classes and workshops in painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and figure drawing.

"This is a good exhibit for us, and we will definitely do it again," Townsend says.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.