"Angela Fraleigh: Our world swells like dawn, when the sun licks the water" at Inman Gallery

September 12 – October 31, 2020

Exhibition open by appointment: Tues. – Sat., 11 – 6

Inman Gallery is pleased to present two concurrent exhibitions to celebrate the gallery’s 30th anniversary: Our world swells like dawn, when the sun licks the water by Angela Fraleigh, and IN PIECES ON FIRE by Robyn O’Neil. The exhibitions present new bodies of work by each artist.
Opening Saturday, September 12, they will continue by appointment through Saturday, October 31, 2020. In lieu of a public opening, there will be public programs via Zoom scheduled throughout the run of the exhibitions.

Angela Fraleigh’s lush and complex works mine the history of academic and avant-garde painting, and are often created as site specific projects to recontextualize the unique collections of public institutions. Our world swells… consists of five large, immersive canvases from two bodies of work. Three of the paintings were part of Fraleigh’s recent solo exhibition commissioned by the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, Delaware. Sound the Deep Waters responded to the institution’s strong holdings of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and American illustration using the lens of historical narrative art to explore contemporary issues of gender and identity.

She describes the exhibition as being “…part of a longtime project that asks, What if the female characters we’ve come to know from art history—the lounging odalisques, the chorus that whispers in the background—present more than a voyeuristic visual feast? What if these characters embody a flickering of female power at work? Can we see these passive characters as subversive and powerful? And if we do, how might it affect women today and of the future?”

These ideas are carried forward in her newest body of work, created on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of a woman’s right to vote. Two of the paintings are on view for the first time. While conducting research for the Delaware Art Museum exhibition, Fraleigh came across several first edition feminist texts from the 18th and 19th centuries with unique marbled endpapers, and some with unexpected provenances. She points to one book in particular as a source of inspiration: a copy of the “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" by Mary Wollstonecraft, which featured a gift inscription to "Mrs Horace Brock with Dr Henry Biddle's respects and best wishes, January 1915". Mrs. Brock, was the President of the Pennsylvania Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage and Dr. Henry Biddle was a known suffrage supporter.

Fraleigh states, “I love that this gorgeous marbled cover, from a male suffrage supporter to a female anti- suffragist, came to represent something uniquely different to both of them, and that something so benign as a marbled cover could come to be a stand in for a revolutionary subversive text."

In Fraleigh’s two newest paintings figures emerge from a similarly hand- marbled background, but at a massive scale of 5.5 x 7.5 ft. In Take root among the stars, a work whose title references Octavia Butler's novel “Parable of the Sower,” three black women loom large, emerging from the marbleized paper and communing as the mythological goddesses the Fates. In both paintings, Fraleigh presents her women as archetypal, powerful figures who share and hold knowledge. The title of Fraleigh’s second work, With ready eyes, references transcendentalist author Margaret Fuller, whose book “Woman in the 19th Century” is thought to have inspired the women's suffrage movement. In Fraleigh’s composition, we see two female figures listening intently to a third figure reading aloud. Perhaps they are scheming with seditious intent or telling the tale of the hallucinatory feminist utopia that unfolds in the main gallery.

Study in Yellow by Angela Fraleigh
Study for "With ready eyes" by Angela Fraleigh
Study for "Veronica Mars Reading" by Angela Fraleigh
Study for "Octavia Butler Reading" by Angela Fraleigh

Lost in the Light: Vanderbilt Mansion

Frank Futral, Curator,
The Vanderbilt Mansion

October 9th, 2015

Angela Fraleigh
Lost in the Light

The Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park, NY

October 9th, 2015 - May 25, 2016

HYDE PARK, N.Y.—The Vanderbilt Mansion is pleased to present Angela Fraleigh: Lost in the Light October 9, 2015–May 25, 2016. Fraleigh is widely known for lush, complex paintings that examine and explore power dynamics. Fraleigh’s work often tugs at the shadows of art history in search of invisible histories and dormant new narratives that might restore agency to the women that inhabit them. Mounted in the historic rooms will be 10 intimate “portraits” of female heads from behind, as well as one large 5x8ft painting in the main entry.

Much about the cast of characters that inhabited the Vanderbilt mansion remains a mystery, but none more so than the women of the era. We can find logs of men’s lives and men’s matters; men mattered. But even the female sex of the upper class were regarded with little account unless tabloid worthy. And although various members of the Vanderbilt family plastered the penny pages, Fred and Louise Vanderbilt shunned the spotlight. Perhaps that’s why we know so little about them.

There is very little evidential account of Louise Vanderbilt, and the upper-class guests that frequented the residence, as well as the servants, maids and cooks that scuttled in the shadows, behind closed doors. Much about the women who lived on the estate during this period remains elusive, as do the women in Fraleigh’s paintings.

Installed in the guest bedrooms of the Vanderbilt mansion are 10 small portraits of female heads seen from behind, the features of their face removed from view. The compositions are pared back to four elements: the limited background and the subject’s hair, skin and clothing.

In many of the back portraits—we cannot tell whether the subject is a maid or a member of the elite, or even guess what she is doing. She is enigmatic, contemplative, absorbed in some task, or dashing out of the room to continue with the responsibilities of the day. The silent figure is closed off from us and removed, enlivening our interest in the figure’s interior world. She is confessing a gulf of human experience into and out of the painting, a space beyond our reach, beyond our vision.

The tight framing of the work gives the perception of closeness to the viewer, as perhaps expected of a traditional portrait. Yet the portraits are without overt symbolic detail: no clear reference is made to class, interests or hobbies. There is a democratizing quality to this approach, one that makes all the women equal regardless of their very un-equal station in life. Yet, this highlights the lack of autonomy women had during this period; whether it be equal wages for equal work, property and custody rights or the right to vote, women were second-class citizens regardless of their economic standing.

The paintings are fixed within this state, communicating an atmosphere or essence, but firmly removed from storytelling. The portraits are mute. There is a silent refusal to expound a narrative; an emphasis on stillness, and the passage of time. These images are somewhat impenetrable and isolated, arousing longing for the stories that peopled this home, but offering only a whisper.

Accompanying the exhibition will be a unique book collaboration between Fraleigh and writer Jen Werner. The book is an attempt to give a voice to the women that lived, visited, and worked in the Vanderbilt's country house at Hyde Park. Based on oral histories, primary and secondary historical documents, and the muse of invention, this book is a tribute to the physical and psychological aspects of female life during the Gilded Age. Included in the book are partially invented stories meant to invoke not only the spirit of Louise Vanderbilt and the women who surrounded her, but also the necessary role that women played in this grand American history.

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The thin skin of our eyes by Angela Fraleigh
Our Story Was a Ghostly One by Angela Fraleigh
Lost in the LIght by Angela Fraleigh
Let Drip the Spirits by Angela Fraleigh
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