Show highlights surprising art by women

Going into the exhibition titled “Women Painters West” at the Burbank Creative Arts Center Gallery, one might expect a feminine version of westward expansion art like that of Charles Marion Russell or Frederic Remington. But the eclectic presentation of abstract, traditional, and assemblage art is surprising, and quite good.

Originally known as the Women’s Art Club of Southern California, Women Painters West has educational, fraternal, and charitable objectives through the encouragement of artistic expression. Members number approximately 200 and are comprised of established art professionals who are jury-screened for acceptance. WPW members have been recognized and honored nationally and internationally. In this exhibition, 56 works of art produced by this sorority impress viewers with a concentration of skill and experience.

Most artists would agree that watercolor is one of the most difficult mediums to control. JoAnn Formia’s painting, titled “Before the Fair Opens,” is wildly energetic in its color, brushwork and layered depth of field. Creating layers like this with a combination of running and blending colors along with dry-brushing requires expertise. Formia manages to retain the edges necessary to imply imagery, yet blurs enough with her mixed technique to impart motion. Confetti-like strokes indicate flags and tents, masts and lines, wheels and winds, all stirred together in an explosion of color. It is a skillfully controlled, fun painting.

The framing of the pieces, however, was lacking. Many of these great pieces could have been complemented and enhanced with better trimming. One artist, however, appropriately left her canvases unframed. Mila Benedicto’s oil-on-canvas painting, titled “Pasadena Nights II,” depicts a widescreen perspective that captures a busy city street on a rainy night. Wet pavement reflects city lights and automobile headlamps. Yellow cabs race toward the edge of the canvas, taking the viewer’s eyes along for the ride. The colors are realistic and the action is believable. Framing this piece would have trapped the energy. Benedicto was right to obscure the edges and run the eyes off of the picture plane. The result is very Degas-like.

Norma Wolfstein’s portrait in acrylics of “Daisy” is a lovely reclining image, an elegant picture. The drapery is rendered beautifully and the artist captures a mood. The technique looks like it was done effortlessly, not overworked. “Daisy,” however, deserves a warm frame to draw out her color and femininity. Her cool blue dress is enough contrast for the warm background and brown hair. Extending the warmth off of the picture with a nice gilt frame of the proper scale would make this image glow.

Women Painters West deserves credit for its longevity, as well as for providing an outlet for finding potential in emerging artists and nurturing it.


What: “Women Painters West: Since 1921.”

When: July 8-27, 2011 Gallery hours are Mon.-Thurs. 9am-8pm, Fri. 9am-7pm, Sat. 9am-1pm, Sun. closed.

Where: Burbank Creative Arts Center Gallery, 1100 W. Clark Ave., Burbank, CA. 91506

Price: Free

Contact: 818-238-5397 or or

Terri Martin is an art historian and an art critic for Glendale News Press.


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