PAFA celebrates Women's History Month with 'Women in Motion', 'Joan Semmel' exhibits

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts has two exhibitions on display, one in the old building, one in the new and both celebrating women artists. Karen Rogers has the story in this week's 6abc Loves the Arts.

Women in Motion, 150 years of Women's Artistic Networks at PAFA showcases the works of more than 50 women artists.

"We really went big in celebrating women artists," says Anna O. Marley, Curator and Vice President of Museum Research and Scholarship at PAFA.

Filling more than half the galleries of PAFA's historic landmark building, it explores the role of women artists at PAFA from its 1805 founding to the end of World War II.

"With a theme called Founding Mothers," says Marley.

One of them was Patience Wright, the first female professional sculptor in the U.S.

"She trained her son Joseph Wright to be a sculptor," says Marley.

He then trained PAFA founder William Rush.

"The whole theme of the show is about women's networks," says Marley.

The show was originally scheduled for before the pandemic.

"It was going to tie in with the centenary of 1920," says Marley.

Almost all of the works are from PAFA's permanent collection and one of the goals of the show was to get the women out of the vaults and into the public's view.

"I also wanted our students here at PAFA, to see a long legacy of women artists, and particularly queer women artists in the history of our institution," says Marley.

Across the plaza in PAFA's Hamilton Building, Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game is the first retrospective of Semmel's 60-year career.

"Joan came of age during the dominance of abstract expressionism. She takes the language of abstraction and transforms it and she starts doing these amazing large-scale paintings called the Sex and Erotic Series," says Marley.

At age 89, Semmel is still a practicing artist, and she was a pioneer in the feminist art movement.

"She's really calling attention to the beauty of the aging human body," says Marley.

Including her own.

"She is literally putting her skin in the game," says Marley.
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Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game through April 3 | Women in Motion through July 24
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