Knowing that As She Sees It, July’s art exhibit at Modern Arts Midtown, is an all-women’s group show, may imply to some a feminist tract, to others a simpler “woman’s touch.” In truth, it is neither extreme nor an average of the two. At a time when women artists are still under-represented and undervalued in the marketplace, MAM’s current exhibit clearly demonstrates that its stable of female 2D and3D artists create significant contemporary art regardless of gender.           
    “As She Sees It” features fifteen or more artists whose aesthetic is a product of one’s shared DNA and similar interests rather than a singular male or female bias or POV. In particular, artists such as Judith Burton, Jacqueline Kluver, Heidi Bartlett, Nancy Childs and Jennifer Homan, among others, create work that crosses over traditional masculine-feminine expectations of medium, style and content.
    For instance, of the above, only Homan’s pastel landscapes and animal-insect studies could be considered traditional in genre and point of view. Though she often shares the idealistic scope of Keith Jacobshagen’s paintings, Homan’s choice of pastel softens and romanticizes her perspective. Yet, tempering the colorful sensuality of her vision is her determination “to preserve the present state of our land” despite open fields and farms being swallowed up by subdivisions and growing communities. Even her nature studies in microcosm point to her “calling to point out beauty in the ordinary in the countryside.”
    Burton too is motivated by landscape and the natural world, particularly that of Minnesota’s “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” but her representation hovers “between the tangible and abstract.” Geometric and color field abstraction, to be exact, as her aesthetic and connection to nature isn’t literal or realistic. Instead, Burton is more concerned with the formal issues of painting, namely exploration and reinvention of form, texture, muted color and close value changes.
The imagery, as seen in her recent series “Silent Waters,” as well as work in this exhibit, is subtle and full of contradictions: momentary and expansive, riveting but transitional, sensual yet spiritual. Each of her landscapes, elemental and atmospheric, is more a state of mind than a state of being, a visual reference to Wordsworth’s definition of poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of emotions recollected in tranquility.”
    The abstract monoprints of Childs are conversely less personal and more analytical. Her assemblage-like creations on handmade paper are motivated by such existential concerns as “shaky connections, turning points and choices that bring a person to a specific point in life/art.”
Her asymmetrical compositions of geometric and organic patterns throughout her imagery acknowledge her desire to reconcile both the transitions and serendipitous encounters that help link one’s past to the present. Seemingly in control of her fate in the cosmic “Five Elements” and peaceful “Summer,” Childs considers how tenuous one’s world can be in the chaotic “What a Tangled Web We Weave” and the precipitous “Where the Edge of the World Meets the Edge of the Universe.”
    While Childs’ tone is philosophical, Bartlett’s vision is more conceptual. This interdisciplinary artist describes her cut paper constructions as Social Sculpture: “How we mold or shape the world in which we live.” Her work, past and present, does not reflect a specific social or political conscience. Yet, not only do her sculptures go against the mold, they are the mold. That is, they suggest an evolutionary process, the foundation or structure for change and new possibilities.
    “That is why the nature of my sculpture is not fixed and finished,” Bartlett says. Particularly of her new work such as the companion pieces, the very large white-on-white “Territorial Longitude” and even more skeletal “Territory,” the merest suggestion of the former’s architecture. Each of these “houses” is a bare-bones construction of an idea, a work and an artist in progress.
    The work in this exhibit most motivated by women’s social or political history comes from Kluver. Her abstract variations on traditional quilt-making, the creation of every social class, are inspired by “the spiritual strength, quiet power and fierce passion of their creators.” In her hands, a so-called “woman’s work” has never looked more experimental and contemporary.
    Kluver’s colorful patchwork compositions, woven in a style of geometric abstraction, have always reflected both the stability and strength of their origin. But even more interesting in her current work is the subtle emergence of the figurative within her abstract weave. This matrix of representation within a pixelated structure is her take on quilt-making in the Digital Age. Like other women artists in this show, As She Sees It, art is less a matter of gender and more one of individual expression on a level playing field.

Exhibition runs July 5 - 27, 2013