Gallery 1: "Feminism! Protection! Sexuality!" The Art of Linda Stein


Linda Stein is a feminist artist, activist, educator, and writer, based in New York City, who has been practicing for the last six decades. When Stein came to age, her path was paved by supportive teachers who encouraged her not to assume the norms of the time but to pursue her studies in art. The woman’s movement of the 1960s influenced Stein heavily, sparked in part by a Betty Friedan lecture at Cooper Union, and she became a prominent second-wave feminist herself, which is apparent in her practice.

Her Blades series, for example, was produced when she was asked to participate in Connie Robbins’ 1990 “Bad Girls” exhibition. Stein dulled machete blades by hand and used them in sculptural works, which were a response to the idea that: “This is the baddest thing I could imagine. Girls shouldn’t play with knives.” Stein’s Blades are on view in this exhibition. Another series Holocaust Heroes: Fierce Females highlights the bravery of World War II female heroes and includes a book of the same title that includes a forward by Gloria Steinem.


Stein’s work also addresses issues of persecution and protection, focusing on the oppression of the Other through the lens of anti-bullying and social justice. Her work was influenced by the collapse of the Twin Towers. Post-9/11, her sculptural work took a transformative turn from abstract to figurative, adopting an armor-like quality. The androgynous, sentinel-like figures of her Knights of Protection series are emblems of defense, symbolizing vigilant protectors. Over time, Stein added aspects of pop culture and mythic symbols (Wonder Woman, Princess Mononoke, Lisbeth Salander, Lady Gaga, Storm, and Nausicaa) to spark dialogues on the dynamics of power and the human condition of vulnerability. Works in this exhibition include several of Stein’s Knights.


In her youth, Stein also confronted her struggles with her sexuality, which is most apparent in her Profiles series - drawings, collages, and paintings of facial profiles, which start below the eyes - reflecting her need as a youth to avoid being “seen” because she felt different. Stein’s diaries starting from the 1960s are filled with sketches and text revealing the artist’s strife and confusion growing up at a time when homosexuality was considered anathema. Four of Stein’s profile paintings are included in this exhibition.

My goal as an artist is to use my art to transform social consciousness and inspire activism for peace, equality, and diversity. With my androgynous forms and pop-culture icons, I invite the viewer to seek diversity in unpredictable ways, to ‘try on’ new personal avatars and self-definitions.

(Linda Stein)

Stein’s influential work has been recognized through various grants, residencies, and public art commissions. Internationally, her sculptures and artworks are featured in the permanent collections of esteemed museums and institutions, including the Espoo Museum of Modern Art in Finland, Museum Arnhem in the Netherlands, and Manchester Art Gallery and Victoria Gallery and Museum in the UK. Konstmuseet I Skövde in Sweden exhibited Stein in a retrospective in 2023 and currently has rotating Stein rooms on continuous display. In the US, her work is in the permanent collections of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Smith College, and Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, as well as in numerous private collections.

Linda Stein has been honored with the NYS Assembly Citation for Outstanding Leadership and her significant contributions to art education are celebrated through “The Linda Stein Upstander Award” at Penn State University, endowed to inspire courageous advocacy for justice. She is the Founding President of the non-profit Have Art: Will Travel! Inc. (HAWT) for Courageous Kindness, addressing bullying and diversity. The Stein Art Archives are at Smith College and the Linda Stein Feminist Art Education Collection will be housed at Penn State University. Stein’s recent awards include the 2018 “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s eNews; the 2017 “Artist of the Year” by the NYC Art Teachers Association/UFT and the 2016 “Artist of the Year” by the National Association of Women Artists.

Gallery 2: "The Previous Female Generations." The Art of Lynne Drexler, Amaranth Ehrenhalt, Carol Hunt, Buffie Johnson, Jeanne Miles, Louise Nevelson, Jeanne Reynal, Ann Ryan, Nancy Steinson, Yvonne Thomas, & Charmion Von Wiegand

The women showcased in Gallery 2 represent female artists from the first and second generation of abstract expressionism. Throughout their careers, they endured significant inequalities and forms of bullying, facing barriers of acceptance and recognition that their male counterparts rarely encountered. Despite these challenges, they persisted, forging paths that would later be followed by others, including the courageous Stein.

Since its inception in Soho, New York, in 1982, the Anita Shapolsky Gallery has been an unwavering advocate for these remarkable artists, dedicating itself to elevating their work and stories to deserved prominence. The gallery continues to honor their legacies, ensuring that their contributions to the arts are celebrated and remembered.

Lynne Drexler, an influential figure in the post-war American art world, studied under Hans Hofmann in New York City. Her art, characterized by vivid colors and textures, drew from Abstract Expressionism and hinted at the emerging Color Field movement. Drexler masterfully translated the rhythms of nature and depth of emotion into a rich tapestry of color in her drawings and paintings. Her commitment to color and form brought her acclaim, with her works now featured in numerous prestigious collections and institutions.

After spending more than thirty years living in France and Italy, Amaranth Ehrenhalt returned to New York where she had lived during the early '50s and been acquainted with Al Held, Ronald Bladen, and Willem de Kooning. As an expatriate, Ehrenhalt exhibited with contemporaries such as Sam Francis, Joan Mitchell, Shirley Jaffe, and others. Amaranth Ehrenhalt has established herself as a multifaceted artist with many solo and group exhibitions in Paris, Italy, New York, and California. Her work expands beyond the canvas to include drawings, prints, watercolors, tapestries, mosaics, murals, sculptures, poetry, prose, and more. To experience the surprises and treasures of Amaranth Ehrenhalt's art, it must be seen and contemplated by the viewer.

Carol Hunt, born in Berkeley and educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, has established a significant presence in the art world with her abstract paintings. Her work captures the essence of femininity and nature with a compelling interplay of light and texture. Hunt's art is part of both private and public collections, such as the Parrish Art Museum, and corporate holdings like General Electric. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at venues such as the Spanierman Modern and Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York, as well as in group shows including “Artists on Film” at the Pollock-Krasner House.

Buffie Johnson was born in New York City and studied art in Paris as well as in the Art Students League. Her canvases bear witness to her creative process: from the world's largest abstract mural at the Astor Theatre in the 1950s to her gestural paintings of the ’60s, her monumental plant images of the ’70s, and then her numbering series of the ’90s that explores the power that arises from zero. Always striving to represent divine female power even when met with resistance and discouragement, Buffie embodies that very power. She was included in the 1943 Peggy Guggenheim The Art of the Century Gallery.

Jeanne Miles was an extraordinary woman, who lived her entire life producing and celebrating art. While she became one of the first female members of “the Club,” the regular meetings of the Abstract Expressionists in New York, her work grew increasingly more geometric. Although abstract, her work refers to illuminated manuscript pages and mandalas, reflecting Miles's long-standing interest in Asian art, and her commitment to the spiritual implications of Western modernist art. “The mandala form is universal and deeply fixed in our psyche,” she said in an interview. Her works can be found at the Guggenheim Museum, Newark Museum, Santa Barbara Museum, Corcoran Art Gallery, and many others.

Renowned for her monumental, monochromatic wooden wall pieces and outdoor sculptures, Louise Nevelson's legacy as an artist is deeply rooted in the New York City art scene. Having studied at the Art Students League and under the tutelage of Hans Hofmann, Nevelson's work evolved from early terra cotta and plaster creations to her iconic, large-scale assemblages. Her art, often painted in uniform black or white, challenged traditional notions of sculpture and space, and was a profound exploration of her own experience as an immigrant and a woman. A key figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement, Nevelson's pieces command a presence in galleries and museums, such as the Whitney Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A pioneering mosaicist, Jeanne Reynal brought the ancient art of mosaic into the modern era with her innovative techniques and abstract designs. Trained in Paris and deeply influenced by her work with Russian artist Boris Anrep, Reynal established herself in New York City, where she infused the traditional craft with a contemporary spirit. Her mosaics are characterized by their dynamic textural surfaces and vibrant interplay of color and form, reflecting her belief in the medium's expressive potential. Reynal’s contributions to art extend beyond her mosaics, as she was an active supporter of emerging artists and a vibrant participant in the New York art community. Her work is celebrated in collections like the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Ann Ryan was an American artist known for her distinctive collages and rich use of color and form. Part of the Abstract Expressionist movement, her work is characterized by a harmonious yet bold interplay of materials and textures that capture the dynamism of the era. Ryan's work is often celebrated for its layered complexity and emotional depth, securing her a respected place in the modern art landscape.

Nancy Steinson’s sculptures appear lyrical, sensuous, and refined; however, these words minimize her intention. Made of steel yet exceeding industrial terms, Steinson’s works stay true to the clarity of form, merging curvilinear and planar forms, resulting in objects appearing hard yet soft, enticing viewers.

Yvonne Thomas, was a follower of Automatism, the idea that an artist can express their innermost thoughts and feelings through free, uninhibited, action-painting. Thomas studied with Hans Hofmann, whom she credits for giving her the “courage of color.” In 1951, she participated in the first series of annual exhibitions of abstract art, the Ninth Street Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, held in Greenwich Village in May and June of 1951. The subsequent shows between 1953 and 1957 were held at the Stable Gallery in uptown New York. These venues offered a vital exhibition space for women artists at a time of greater recognition for their male peers. Thomas's commitment to abstract expressionism secured her presence in all five Ninth Street shows and membership in the exclusive Artist's Club (“the Club”). Her works are showcased in esteemed institutions such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Riverside Museum in NYC.

Charmion Von Wiegand, an American journalist turned abstract painter, writer, and art critic, transitioned from her initial interest in Chinese culture to become a significant figure in the cultural avant-garde of New York. She developed close relationships with artists like Mondrian and Richter, who influenced her shift to abstract and Neo-Plastic art. Her later work would embrace Eastern religious and cultural themes. Von Wiegand exhibited widely, with over 21 solo shows and numerous group exhibitions, earning prestigious accolades including election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her work is held in collections such as the Guggenheim and MOMA.

(Text by Petra Valentova)