By Tom Austin
Photography by Jill Weisberg
The seminal Guerrilla Girls activist group once made the sad point that there are often more paintings of naked women hanging on the walls of any given museum than female artists with work displayed in museums. My, how things have changed.
In Fort Lauderdale, the fight for female artists begins and ends with the nationally recognized Girls’ Club, a private collection and foundation founded in 2006 by the husband-and-wife team of David Horvitz and Francie Bishop Good. About 80 percent of the Girls’ Club collection, which also has a strong multicultural focus, consists of work by female artists.
Bishop Good, a Fort Lauderdale transplant who hails from Allentown, Pennsylvania, will exhibit her own work, “Comus,” at the David Castillo Gallery in Miami Beach and at the Allentown Art Museum. The exhibition, which shares a name with the ancient Greek god of mirth and Bishop Good’s high school yearbook, features portraits from that school’s yearbook. Using digital layering with a mix of painting, photography, collage and drawing, Bishop Good transformed the traditional yearbook photos into something that she says is very personal yet universal.
“Coming from Allentown, I’m used to living in places that are off the beaten track,” Bishop Good says. “I’m part of the Miami art scene, too, but Fort Lauderdale is more bohemian, a place where institutions and artists can take more chances.”
Just after Art Basel Miami Beach 2016, the Girls’ Club was integrally involved in Now Be Here #3, a group photo of more than 300 female-identifying artists in South Florida taken in December at Pérez Art Museum Miami. Organized by Los Angeles artist Kim Schoenstadt—who has mounted similar efforts in L.A. and New York—and guided by local artist and curator Jane Hart, Now Be Here #3 was a kind of “I am woman, hear me roar” convocation for female artists.
“Now Be Here was an amazing experience, and we were so thrilled to be part of it,” says Girls’ Club gallery director Sarah Michelle Rupert. “The energy in the room that day was palpable. It’s important for female artists to have a network of support.”
In June, Bailey Contemporary Arts (BaCA) in Pompano Beach will exhibit “Gritty in Pink,” a continuation of the Girls’ Club’s “Pink Noise: Flexing the Frequency,” an exhibition that ended in February. “Pink Noise” examined how the color pink is loaded with multiple meanings in contemporary culture. Co-curated by Lisa Rockford and Megan Castellon, BaCA’s “Gritty in Pink” is a juried group show highlighting female artists.
Broward County is a “surprisingly nurturing environment for emerging artists,” says Sarah M. Benichou, director of BaCA. “The art that has been brought to me with a focus on social critique has been presented almost exclusively by women.”
Graffiti and street murals are often considered a boys’ club of sorts, but the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project—a Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency initiative—features 11 female muralists whose work makes up half of the 22 murals in the project. The TM Sisters painted a mural of a sunset, while Tati Suarez created a mural with her trademark images of dreamy, ethereal female figures. Some of the other female muralists involved include Molly Rose Freeman, Diana Contreras and Nicole Salcedo.
To celebrate the Hollywood street murals, the Art and Culture Center/Hollywood is hosting “Outside In: The Downtown Hollywood Mural Artists Exhibition.” On view from April 22 to June 4 and featuring original work by the artists from the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, “Outside In” is co-curated by Laura Marsh of the Art and Culture Center/Hollywood and Jill Weisberg, curator and project manager for the city’s mural project. (Weisberg’s own street mural, which uses pink sequins to spell the words “She Comes First,” is on view at FATVillage.)
Apart from donating millions of dollars in challenge grants to the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, Horvitz and Bishop Good have made a promised gift of some 100 paintings from their collection to the NSU Art Museum. Featuring such artists as Mickalene Thomas and Laurie Simmons, the donation adds to the museum’s already sizable collection of work by female artists.
Earlier this year, the NSU Art Museum wrapped up the exhibition “Belief + Doubt: Selections from the Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz Collection.” The 70 pieces in the show were drawn from the promised gift of 100 paintings to the NSU Art Museum and included such artists as Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger.
For Bonnie Clearwater, director and chief curator of the NSU Art Museum, the gift from Bishop Good and Horvitz is an important educational tool, particularly in the current political climate. “These are artists who help us question propaganda and belief systems, sharpen critical thinking and make us all more sociologically aware,” she says. “A sixth-grader can come here on a field trip and enter an artist’s dialogue about where evil comes from.”
The title of the “Belief + Doubt” show is drawn from a Kruger piece, Untitled (Belief + Doubt = Sanity), which was part of a politically charged 2012 installation at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. In the age of assorted assaults on women’s rights, Kruger’s thoughts on the process of belief ring all too true: “Belief is tricky because left to its own devices, it can court a kind of surety—an unquestioning allegiance that fears doubt and destroys difference.”
Originally appeared in the Spring 2017 Issue.