In September, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) opened a showcase of two groundbreaking female printmakers. Entitled “Helen Frankenthaler and Jo Sandman: Without Limits,” the exhibit highlights two pioneers of modern art, who were trained within the realm of Abstract Expressionism.
Anne Goodyear, the museum’s co-director, worked with Elisha Osemobor ’22 to bring these works to the museum. Goodyear spoke on the extensive thought that went into putting these two artists in an exhibit together.
“Something that Elisha and I were interested in is the creative ethos that the work of each artist represents,” she said. “And my hope is that through this juxtaposition, which is a brand new juxtaposition, that there is an opportunity for audience members to indulge and experience their own creative synergies and to find their own connections as they look at the work of these two artists brought together within the framework of a single exhibition.”
Goodyear referenced the juxtaposition that lies within the unusual similarities of these two artists. Helen Frankenthaler and Jo Sandman had only a three year age difference between them, and they had related approaches to breaking out of the art-making mold in the 1960s. Yet, the two women lacked any personal connection.
“To me, it’s sort of exciting to see these two women developing in tandem in slightly different fashions but along a pathway that is juxtaposed chronologically,” Goodyear said. “I think they are each extremely interesting artists who are responding in slightly different but somewhat complementary ways to a call in the 1960s to develop new strategies for art making that take art beyond purely the realm of painting.”
Goodyear hopes that this will be reflected upon museumgoers through the exhibit as well as through essays she and Osemobor wrote about Frankenthaler and Sandman in booklets available free of charge. They contain more detailed information about the artists’ work and give context with which to view the pieces.
“The show really foregrounds experimental approaches to art making and juxtaposes the work of two artists who were deeply committed to experimentation, but whose work is at the same time, visually different. My hope is that in seeing the exhibition, viewers will be able to see the work of both Frankenthaler and Sandman with new eyes, and that the work of each artist helps us to see the work of the other in new contexts,” Goodyear said.
The complementary nature of the two artists is seen in their similar educational paths and histories, as well as their existence outside the norms of the art world of their time. But Goodyear is hesitant to label them or place them into boxes unnecessarily.
“I think with Frankenthaler, I want to say that she was part of this print Renaissance, because it connects with this experimental ethos connected with printmaking. But I think I would connect Sandman with this idea of process and conceptual art,” she said. “I want to be a little cautious about imposing new labels on them, because I think once we put labels on somebody, we tend to box them into a certain preconception.”
Though Frankenthaler passed away in 2011, Sandman is still living, and she was able to visit the exhibit with her family prior to the College’s Thanksgiving Break. The exhibit will remain open to all until March 15, 2023.