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USC Roski artists shine at LA Woman exhibition

by Lillian Insalata
In Gayle Garner Roski's “My Bedroom, My Birthday, Shock,” two pairs of feet face a television blaring footage of the burning Twin Towers, and a wreath of lit candles encircles the scene.
Photo: In Gayle Garner Roski's “My Bedroom, My Birthday, Shock,” two pairs of feet face a television blaring footage of the burning Twin Towers, and a wreath of lit candles encircles the scene.

Perched atop a scenic cemetery hill in Glendale, Calif., the Forest Lawn Museum has most recently hosted a number of remarkable exhibitions by European modern masters.

This fall, the museum is setting its sights on Southern California with LA Woman: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, a group exhibition featuring 24 of Los Angeles’ leading artists, including no fewer than six faculty and alumnae of the USC Roski School of Fine Arts.

During its earliest days in the 1950s, Forest Lawn Museum served as the home for a compendium of artifacts, from an Easter Island Moai head to replicas of the crown jewels. Founder Hubert Eaton wanted to share fantastic curios that museumgoers would otherwise never have a chance to see. Over the past few decades, the museum has broadened Eaton’s vision, offering solo exhibitions by Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, as well as a unique collection of works on paper from Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger.

Museum curator Joan Adan said that the inspiration behind LA Woman was to showcase female artists who have profoundly shaped the culture and history of Los Angeles, as well as the next generation of young female artists already making waves.

Of the two dozen selected artists, six are from USC Roski: former dean and Professor Ruth Weisberg, Professor Margaret Lazzari, Associate Professor Ann Page, MFA alumna Marisa Mandler ’08, MFA alumna Margaret Garcia ’92 and the school’s naming patron, Gayle Garner Roski. Weisberg attributes the weighty influence of USC Roski women to the university’s history of inclusivity.

“We had a much more enlightened hiring policy than many other schools early on,” Weisberg said. “There was rampant discrimination against hiring women in art departments, and that was much less true at USC.”

That institutional support has allowed female artists of USC to flourish in and beyond their academic tenures, becoming key agents of the Los Angeles art community on an international scale.

“They are all powerful women,” Adan said. “You can see it in their artwork. Some of them emote that quietly, some a little more loudly. But they all have strength.”

A selection of works is detailed below:

Weisberg’s oil and mixed media piece “Ravished” is in dialogue with Venetian artist Tintoretto (1518-1594). “A lot of my art is nourished by and makes reference to the history of art,” Weisberg said.

Lazzari said her “Self Portrait in Water” was a gift she gave herself when she turned 50. “Festooned with flowers and submerged in water, my body is supported but also partially dissolved,” she said.

Page will show two pieces: “Prosody — Alliteration VII” and “True Things, Wrong Names — Alliteration VI.” Page described her work as experimentation in the process of “making,” specifically, the effects of transforming simple elements into multiple perceptions.

Mandler explores “the impossible human desire for control and perfection” through her three pieces, “Between Yes and No,” “Untitled (Machine I)” and “Untitled (Machine II).”

Garcia’s “The Woman Is a Doctor” is an oil on wood panel portrait of Ana Anikian, who first entered the United States as an undocumented immigrant. Garcia said her work offers insight into her community “through the presence of the individual.”

Roski is a prolific en plein air watercolorist showing four works from her series on her reaction to 9/11. In one, “My Bedroom, My Birthday, Shock,” two pairs of feet face a television blaring footage of the burning Twin Towers — a wreath of lit candles encircles the scene.

LA Woman: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow will be on view at Forest Lawn Museum until Jan. 5, 2014, following the opening reception on Sept. 7 at 6 p.m.

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