The exhibit’s title is a mouthful: Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury to Today. But it is a quite thorough summary of the collection currently on display at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
The exhibit collects the work of more than forty artists from WWII to today, focusing on the spaces that women have made for fine art in so-called crafts. Much of the collection is textiles and ceramics, mediums that began as functional. Kay Sekimachi’s woven nylon pylons are there, tall ghostly pillars of loomed mono-filament. There is an elegant white knot-and-bead curtain designed for the UN Delegate’s lounge by Hella Jongerius in 2013, done in a centuries-old fisheries style. There are hand-burnished vases and a forest of copper piping with working shower-heads and wall after wall of hand-woven and beaded wall-hangings. There are garments and furniture, teapots and video.
Critics have pointed out that including contemporary artists has taken something away from the show’s message about historical women being closed out of fine art spaces and having to invent them anew, but it is difficult to look at this collection and pick out which piece was made this June and which was made in 1950.
At least one artist in the forty, Eva Zeisel, is both contemporary and historical, with works from both categories in her long career. Pathmakers features art from her made in 1947, 1957, and 2008. With one of the longest designing careers ever, Zeisel worked in ceramics, clothing, and furniture design for more than eighty-seven years before her death in 2011.
Whether you think Pathmakers has hit its mark or not, the collection is worth a lengthy visit. It will be on exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts through February 28th.