An ever-growing number of Montgomery County residents are becoming aware of the fascinating exhibits being presented year after year at the George Bush Presidential Library in nearby College Station. With the launch of a new traveling exhibition titled “Women of Our Time,” the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery celebrates 75 women who have challenged and changed America. It is a stunning collection of photographic portraits of women whose brilliance, courage, style and enduring spirit have helped shape America, as we know it. The exhibit has been showcased in museums in Florida, Alabama, California, and North Carolina, and it has now taken up residence at the Bush Library through January 2, 2005.
“Women of Our Time” includes photographs of activists and artists, designers and dancers, politicians and poets, all of them agents of change in their own field or society at large. Lending each image the poignancy of a struggle overcome and a triumph earned, the photographs reveal their subjects at pivotal moments in their lives – Eleanor Roosevelt just after the passage of the Declaration of Human Rights; Jessye Norman the year she made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera; Joan Baez at the 1963 March on Washington.
Featuring the work of such distinguished 20th Century photographers as Edward Steichen, Lotte Jacobi, Irving Penn, Philippe Halsman, Adolph de Meyer, Lisette Model and Arnold Newman, “Women of Our Time” is as much about the art of photographic portraiture as it is a celebration of its subjects. “Photographic portraits are biographical documents,” said Frederick Voss, senior historian at the National Portrait Gallery and curator of the show. “These pictures do more than tell us how these women looked. They also capture significant moments of their careers and, at their best, add to our understanding of the nature of their achievements.”
Highlights of the exhibition include: Helen Keller, photographed by Charles Whitman in 1904. Helen Keller once said, “Paradise is attained by touch; for in touch is all love and intelligence.” As if to illustrate this particular quotation, the portrait shows Keller holding a book written in Braille with one hand, while with the other hand she grasps a flower.
Margaret Sanger, photographed by Ira Hill in 1917. Founder and leader of the birth control movement, Margaret Sanger was a fiercely determined feminist reformer.
Josephine Baker, photographed by Stanislaus J. Walery in 1926. When Josephine Baker made her Paris debut in 1925, no one could have predicted the lasting impact this teen-age showgirl would make as a dance sensation at the Folies-Bergère.
Georgia O’Keefe, photographed by Irving Penn in 1948. She has been called a surrealist, an abstractionist, a precisionist and a realist. Critics widely agree, however, that she is one of America’s most respected painters.
Judy Garland, photographed by Bob Willoughby in 1954. Immortalized as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” Judy Garland will always be one of America’s most beloved child actors. Garland continued to mesmerize audiences as an adult, her irrepressible talent overriding an increasingly difficult, and very public, personal life. Hollywood photographer Bob Willoughby captures her here during the filming of “A Star Is Born.”
Perhaps Cokie Roberts summed it up best in her Preface to the exhibition catalogue (available from Amazon.com – $35.) when she remarked, “Look into the eyes of the subjects of these photographs and you see the triumphs, failures, hopes and disappointments of some of the truly talented women of our time.
The George Bush Presidential Library and museum are open seven days a week, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Museum admission is $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for senior citizens 62+ and groups of 20 or more with reservations. Children 6 and older are $2.00, while A&M and Blinn College students, as well as children under 6, are admitted free. Hours are Monday-Saturday, 9:30a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For further information and directions call 979-260-9552).
(The Courier 11.7.04)