The doors to the opening reception of the art show “HER” at Black Umbrella Tattoo and Art Gallery in Garden Grove opened like a storybook on Saturday. Inside, the walls were embellished with the artwork of 20 Southern Californian female artists, who told the tale of what it’s like to be a modern-day woman.
Artwork made of many different types of mediums was featured at the show, including graphite, oil paint, marker, photography and acrylic paint. The crowd that mirrored the artwork, were very diverse, as both men and women gazed at different pieces in the exhibit, pondering their intricate relation to the condition of women.
Christine Lee Smith, the curator of the show, envisioned an intimate setting where people could talk about the issues that surround women in Western society. She sifted through 200 individual art submissions from 80 to 100 artists and selected 20 to display at the show.
“I see people being drawn in, which is exciting to watch. I see people having conversations around the pieces; that’s also really exciting to me,” Lee Smith said. “I think some people feel a little discomfort with some of the pieces, but that’s not unexpected.”
Before curating “HER,” Lee Smith had previously curated her own art shows. She had worked the last 13 years as a commercial photographer, until she had a change of heart and decided to pursue her own stories through portraiture.
Lee Smith approached her long-time friends and owners of the gallery, Krystin and Kurtis Gibson, with an idea for the “HER” exhibit based off of a photograph, where they eventually spent about nine months planning for the show with them.
The exhibit was Lee Smith’s first time curating the work of other people, and Black Umbrella Tattoo and Art Gallery’s first time letting someone else curate a show in their gallery.
Black Umbrella Tattoo and Art Gallery was the creation of Kurtis Gibson, a tattoo artist and oil painter whose work is peppered on the back walls of the tattoo parlor. In his co-ownership of the shop with his wife, Krystin Gibson, he hoped to shed light on the marriage between art and tattooing.
“I hope the community just loves and appreciates the art and finds value in walking in and looking,” Krystin Gibson said.
The gallery is normally dedicated to showing the work of local Orange County artists, but the “HER” exhibit showcased the work of artists from all over Southern California. One exhibiting artist, Palmer Earl, was originally from Manhattan, New York and later lived in a studio in Los Angeles.
Earl had three pieces on display at the art show. Her piece “Helping Hand,” was situated on the right side of the gallery, where viewers observed its ornate details. It depicted a woman with missing arms sitting in a bright yellow chair surrounded by several arms clutching items like a baby bottle, bra, paintbrush and feather duster.
To Earl, this piece was a representation of the societal pressure women feel to be perfect in everything they do.
“Women today are supposed to be the career woman, but they’re also supposed to be the wonderful mother who is always fun and nurturing, and then they have to be the sexy wife who’s in great shape,” Earl said. “And all of those things you still have to do, but it’s just more pressure to be all of those people in one body.”
A common theme throughout Earl’s work in the show was faceless figures. Earl said that the theme made her paintings more relatable to other women because faces are so personal. Without a face, he viewer can themselves into the painting.
“I just want people to remember that it’s not just about the laws, it’s about how we’re treated, how we treat each other and what we feel like is expected of us,” Earl said.
All of the pieces in the “HER” art show were chosen because they portray strength without overwhelming viewers with aggression, Lee Smith said. Though the artists at the show were diverse, they were united with their understanding of the resilience it takes to be a woman in today’s Western society.
The “HER” art show will continue through April 27 and is open from noon to 8 p.m. daily.