A mother holds her child securely in her arms in a print hanging on the far right wall of the Handwerker Gallery. She is surrounded by swirling colors of light blue, peach and black that twist around her body, filling the frame.
Across the gallery, another print shows two women standing gracefully. Reaching to their sides and looking to the ground, they touch hands only slightly. Their long gray skirts hang still on their bodies and their chests are covered, one by a deep red heart and the other by a bright blue globe.
These images, found in the prints “Madre” by Gloria Escobar and “La Loteria” by Cynthia Alderete, are part of two exhibits in the Handwerker Gallery that celebrate the glory of women and their accomplishments.
One exhibit, “The Birth Exchange Project,” is inspired by the beauty of the ultimate maternal experience — giving birth. The other, “21st c. New Propositions,” draws from the prosperity of women around the world. Both are collections of prints gathered by former lecturer in the Ithaca College Department of Art, Patricia Hunsinger.
The two collections, featuring only female artists, are an exploration of women, by women. The exhibitions complement each other both thematically and technically, showing the viewer different facets of printmaking as well as different perspectives on women’s accomplishments, said Cheryl Kramer, director of the Handwerker Gallery.
To the right of the gallery, “The Birth Exchange Project” presents visual interpretations of birth stories from several women. Each of the prints is accompanied by a written story by the artist, detailing her birthing experience.
Inspiration for this collection came during a printmaking conference Hunsinger attended in 2006, where the female artists participating in the conference began talking about their different birth stories.
“It came about as this circle of conversations between women,” Hunsinger said. “And I just asked, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if we had all these stories together as visuals, as art for people to see?’”
Senior Lendy Krantz attended the opening of the exhibits last Thursday and said she was most intrigued by this exhibition and the role it plays in a woman’s life.
“It’s so important for women to tell their story of birth, because it is a really profound experience — emotionally [and] physically,” she said.
A print by Kore Loy Wildrekinde-McWhirter is one of many that illustrate the timeless event in a woman’s life. The black and white etching shows a plump woman, darkened with shading and lines, lying on her back, looking at her child floating above her. The newborn stares down at her, still attached by the umbilical cord, its source of comfort and nourishment.
To the left of the gallery, the celebration of women continues with the “21st c. New Propositions” exhibition, a collection Hunsinger originally completed in 2002 for the Southern Graphics Council Conference. It has made appearances at colleges and universities across the country since its completion.
Hunsinger said she began with a broad worldview of women in mind and contacted artists internationally to contribute to the project. She said her collection of female printmakers’ works is meant to be a celebration of women’s accomplishments across the globe in art and society in the new millennium.
Through different mediums — from lithographs to woodcarvings — each of the artists displays not only the glory of the past but also apprehension for the future.
In “Fragile,” a print made from liquid materials like paint and ink, Argentinean artist Lucrecia Urbano conveys her concern for her country’s people, both male and female. The print, created just after the collapse of Argentina’s economy in 2001, shows a reflection of the word “fragile” in large silver block letters, meant to inspire people to examine their own reflection and discover the fragility of life.
At the opening, sophomore Rebekah Shyloski said she was intrigued by the complexity and diversity of the art.
“I like the variety of the different prints,” she said. “They especially amaze me because for some of them, there are things that you see when you look up closely that you wouldn’t see at first.”
Freshman Terri Trovato was also struck by the beauty of the art and the message behind its creation.
“It’s all very captivating,” Trovato said. “I like that they took a more feminist perspective and focused on more modern art.”
Hunsinger said the idea behind the exhibit, when she began work on it seven years ago, was to question what women are doing now, in the 21st century.
“It’s more of a celebration for women,” Hunsinger said. “Look how much we have done — look how much we have progressed.”
“21st c. New Propositions” and “The Birth Exchange Project” will be featured through Feb. 16 at the Handwerker Gallery. There will be a walk-through tour with curator Patricia Hunsinger at 12:15 p.m. Feb. 5 in the gallery.