Around the Institute

Art Curator Melva Bucksbaum on ‘The Distaff Side’: An exhibition

February 24, 2014

In conversation with Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson CEO, Director, and Chief Curator, Aspen Art Museum
The Distaff Side is an extensive exhibition survey of works by more than 100 female artists from Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy’s collection including Jenny Holzer, Cindy Sherman, Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeois, Mika Rottenberg, Barbara Kruger, Kathe Kollwitz, Kiki Smith and Mickalene Thomas, among many others.
About the Catalogue:
With essays by Ryan Frank, Steven Learner, Joan Simon, Caitlin Smith and an interview with Elisabeth Sussman and Melva Bucksbaum.  Designed by Hans Cogne and printed at Meridian Printing in an edition of 1,500.  240 pages, hardcover, cloth-bound, color illustrations.  Published by The Granary.  Release date: February 18, 2014.

“The exhibition takes its title from an expression used colloquially to describe the maternal side of a family,” writes Caitlin Smith. The word distaff, derived from the Old English distæf, refers to a tool used in spinning, a task traditionally done by women in the home and therefore associated with “women’s work.” While some of the art works included offer insights into the lives and experiences of women, The Distaff Side did not originate as a thematic exhibition. As it took shape, however, curatorial connections arose. Melva’s effort to bring together diverse artists, each with a singular view of the world, will give viewers a sense of the extraordinary richness and scope of “women’s work” that she has witnessed in the field of contemporary art.”

Dating from 1921 to 2013, the works in the show and are also diverse in media including painting, sculpture, photography, video, installation, drawing, and print-making. The artists include those of international renown and others known locally, by artists from many parts of the US, Europe, South America, Africa and Asia.
“Through her curatorial eye and her perceptive and at times provocative installation groupings,” Joan Simon writes in her catalogue essay ‘The Women’, “Melva Bucksbaum critically explores the ongoing conversation between past and present, between artists, between artworks and those who tend them, and between exhibitions and their publics, notably placing the women at the forefront. A bold accomplishment in its own right, The Distaff Side—as well as the collections from which it is drawn—offers an example for galleries and museums to note and  perhaps also to follow.”