Women Forward, Part 3:
Women Artists Who Have Helped Us Grow
Curated by Yuko Nii
Show Dates: March 5 – March 27, 2022
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 5, 3-5pm
Gallery Hours: Sat. & Sun, 1-5pm
Special Guest Artists: Judy Chicago (White American artist), Faith Ringgold (Black American artist), Toshiko Takaezu (Asian American artist), Yoko Ono & Yayoi Kusama (Japanese women artists)
Bridge Makers: Samia Halaby, Susan Jacobs, Cornelia Jensen, Sonomi Kobayashi, Mieko Mitachi, Renee Radenberg, Kayo Shido, Kiriko Shirobayashi, Linda Smith, Ellie Winberg, Mary Westring
While I was pursuing my artist’s’ career in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I experienced the hardship of exclusion from any exhibit from commercial galleries. The New York art world back then was considered to be “an exclusive Men’s club.” I was a woman artist, and a Japanese artist, and because my paintings did not fit the contemporary movements, I was ignored. The treatment I received from the art world discouraged me so much that I gave up looking for a gallery, but I kept painting anyway. Even after the women’s liberation movement started 1970’s, women artists’ exposure to the art world was very difficult.
When I opened my WAH Center in 1996, I wanted to make sure my art center would welcome all good artists without gender discrimination. Thus I curated a special show, “Women Forward, Part 1” in March 2009.
Because the month of March is Women’s History Month, which has been observed annually nationwide, I wanted to acknowledge the great effort some of the outstanding women artists have made in their long artists’ careers in trying very hard to open the tightly closed “old boy’s club door.” To honor these remarkable women artists, I invited four special women artists, including Judy Chicago (White American artist), Faith Ringgold, (Black American artist) and Toshiko Takaezu (Asian American artist), and Yoko Ono (Japanese artist) and 28 younger generation women artists. Realizing the fact that more women artists today are now able to exhibit their works much more easily and freely in galleries/alternative exhibition spaces, yet they didn’t seem to know much about the historical fact about the hardships some of the previous generation women artists had to bear. So, I felt very important for me to introduce those extraordinary prominent women artists by presenting their artworks to the public. The “Women Forward” show was considered to be “precedence” in the New York art world that then New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presented me a proclamation, stating on the occasion of the “Women Forward” art exhibit, “On behalf of the City of New York, I commend Yuko Nii and her staff at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center for broadening women’s opportunities in the arts and creating new possibilities.” Then New York State Governor David Patterson also sent us a wonderful proclamation. It was a very powerful show by all women artists!
“Women Forward, Part 2: Innovative Women” show was held 10 years later in March 2019 presenting 21 mid-career women artists’ works. This time was to celebrate special innovative women artists whose works express unique concepts, visions and observations though non-conventional techniques or manners by using their own created new medium. While some of these women artists use the more familiar, conventional mediums, they have a gift of opening the eye to an unseen mystery. They have a special ability to spot abstract shapes and forms in nature; these images reveal a hidden message that most people do not see. They opened a new window for us to see their envisioned world. They helped widen the visual vocabulary, and made us believe that our human nature seeks to see what is beyond the horizon, constantly trying to reach the unreachable.Their works confirmed to us that there is no limit in human creativity.
The Yuko Nii Foundation acquired some of the works by purchasing or receiving their generous donations from both shows, and full color catalogues were published. I would like to include their works in this up-coming “Women Forward, Part 3” show.
“Women Forward, Part 3: “Women Forward Part 3: Women Artists Who Have Helped Us Grow” show.
I have been always wanted to express my sincere appreciation for the wonderful women artists who have helped the WAH Center in special ways in the past, but I haven’t actualized my wish as of today. Because the scheduled show for the coming March was cancelled with a short notice, the slot for the March show suddenly became available. So, I had to think quickly about what show would be good for the month. I couldn’t think of a better time for me to invite those women artists to be part of ”Women Artists” show to honor them in March. I call the show, “Women Forward Part 3: Women Artists Who Have Helped Us Grow” show. Those kind women artists helped us by offering their talents/skills, time and labor as volunteers. One of them was to be coordinator of our Annual WAH Salon Pot-Luck Dinner after each WAH Salon show ended. The Pot Luck Dinner was a joyous time to socialize among the fellow Salon members while enjoying numerous dishes and desserts brought by the members with drinks provided by the WAH Center. And some other women artists now need to be recognized and to be honored. They were the curators of the shows. They presented some outstanding shows based on their own concepts or I selected capable women artists and asked them to curate shows by giving them a theme I conceived. Their shows were always refreshing, inspiring and very unique and quite different from what I normally curate myself for the WAH Center. And the viewers enjoyed their wonderful shows. I called these women artist curators “Bridge Makers” who helped connect us with their new artists and new audiences. The WAH Center’s mission statement is based upon the Bridge Concept I conceived when I founded the WAH Center in 1996. And I know how hard a curator has to work in order to bring his or her show to its fruition, but generally the curators laborious effort is hidden behind the scenes and people don’t know what it takes for a curator to put a show together. I would like to acknowledge their great effort and show my appreciation through this occasion.
Although the four special guest women artists’ works were already shown in the “ Women Forward, Part 1” show in 2009, I feel it necessary and important for me to remind everybody that those prominent artists, including Judy Chicago, Faith Ringgold, Toshiko Takaezu and Yoko Ono have kept pursuing their long artists’ careers traveling through with their creative insights, energy, strong commitment and endurance. And they worked hard (intentionally or not intentionally) to help open the tightly closed “old boy’s club door’ to the art world. They were far reaching real life-time achievers who have shown us “what is seemingly impossible is in fact possible” and helped the next generation of women artists could have the same privilege men artists had enjoyed. Although another Japanese woman artist, Yayoi Kusama’s work was not included in the “Women Forward, Part 1” show, she is another extraordinary outstanding woman artist who has been demonstrating endless creativity throughout her over 70 year’s long artists’s career.
These remarkable women artists have made us grow. We need to honor them by showing their works this time again!
Founder and Artistic Director of the WAH Center &
Founder of the Yuko Nii Foundation
Photos and Videos
1) Opening Day Scenes Photos taken by Terrance Lindall, 3.5, 2022
2) Opening Reception Video taken by Terrance Lindall, 3.5, 2022:
3) Installation Scenes Video taken by Hyemi Kim:
4) Installation Scenes photos taken by Yuko Nii: