Art Exhibit Asks: “When Did ‘Friend’ Become a Verb?”

BY Erica Varlese

Ever felt the sting of being “de-friended”?

Have you “friended” someone you barely knew?

Spent more time talking to someone online than in person?

The first exhibition from the New York chapter of the Women’s Caucus for Arts examines these modern phenomena in “When Did ‘Friend’ Become a Verb?” The show, which opened Thursday, May 19, is on view at La Galleria at Boricua College on Broadway at W. 155th Street and includes 21 works of art by 18 New York-based women artists.

Heather Stoltz, co-president of the WCA-NY, came up with the idea last year and, with a touch of irony, sent out an email to fellow WCA-NY members requesting their participation. “Any art show is just an exploration of a theme,” Stoltz said. “Each artist approached it in a different way. There are those who think it [technology] is hurting us, and others who think it’s a positive change.”

The works of art vary in media and style, ranging from photographs to paintings, installations to conceptual pieces.

Marcia Annenberg, fellow co-president of WCA-NY, included an installation called “2,654 Friends,” a piece that comments on the different ways in which her daughter’s generation bonds. It includes Barbie dolls, “fortune teller” origami, a jump rope, and a kid’s computer mouse, reflecting the old and the new.

“It is a nostalgia for the way I grew up,” Annenberg said. Holding a “fortune teller” piece, she continued, “You can’t play this game by yourself. Kids are missing that bonding time.”

Other notable pieces include Elizabeth Sowell-Zak’s “Here and There by the Nose,” which incorporates four anonymous, paper-mache masks with the collaged logos of such notable networking Web sites as LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

Anca Pedvisocar’s “Yin and Yang I and II” is a detailed painting that portrays the intimacy of female friendships and the balance or completeness that a best friend can provide. Dara Lippmann’s “I felt it shelter to speak to you,” named from an Emily Dickenson poem, portrays just how small the Internet can be as plastic, happy-faced figurines wearing anonymous masks are trapped in a mesh bag, representing the Web.

The show was met with a “great turnout,” according to Stoltz. The interpretations of the themes showcase the diversity, and plethora, of women artists in New York. Five of the artists participating in the show are based in Northern Manhattan.

“A bunch of us from New York were asking why there was no New York chapter [of the WCA], so we decided to bring it back and launched at the National Conference in October,” Stoltz said.

The WCA was originally founded in 1972, during the height of the feminist art movement. The organization strives to “advocate for equity in the arts,” according to its Web site. Previously, there was a New York chapter that shut down years ago. When the National Conference for the WCA was held in New York City last October, for Stoltz and Annenberg, it sparked the idea to re-start the chapter.

“New York is the art capitol of the world. There are probably thousands and hundreds of thousands of women artists here,” Annenberg said.

Even though there are a variety of venues for women artists in New York these days, Annenberg said, “A lot has been done, but there still isn’t the same kind of representation [in galleries and museums]. It’s an ongoing struggle.”

WCA-NY plans to host more group shows in the near future. For now, the next planned event is a workshop on how to use social media to promote art, scheduled for June 12.

For more information about joining WCA-NY or the upcoming workshop, contact Heather Stoltz at heather@sewingstories.com or Marcia Annenberg at m.annenberg@att.net. The exhibit at Boricua is on view until June 17.

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