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THE SISTER CHAPEL

"The Sister Chapel invited viewers to reconsider familiar and often unconscious presumptions about gender roles and women’s achievements," Andrew D. Hottle, art historian and author of The Art of The Sister Chapel, Exemplary Women, Visionary Creators, and Feminist Collaboration.

The Sister Chapel

An Essential Feminist Collaboration

Rowan University Art Gallery West

The Sister Chapel, an important collaborative installation that materialized at the height of the women’s art movement, has been permanently installed at Rowan University Art Gallery West, located in Westby Hall, 201 Mullica Hill Rd., Glassboro, NJ. Please visit www.rowan.edu/artgallery for directions.

 

Andrew D. Hottle, spent eight years writing an extensive history of this important collaboration, entitled: The Art of The Sister Chapel: Exemplary Women, Visionary Creators, and Feminist Collaboration, Ashgate Publishing, 2014.

The work was conceived by Ilise Greenstein, and between 1974 and 1978 she was joined by twelve other women whose individual contributions shaped the character and appearance of The Sister Chapel. In its final form, the installation consisted of Greenstein’s eighteen-foot abstract ceiling suspended above a circular arrangement of eleven nine-foot canvases, each depicting the standing figure of a heroic woman. The choice of subject was left entirely to the creator of each work. As a result, the paintings form a visually cohesive group without diminishing the individuality of the artists.

Contemporary and historical women, deities, and conceptual figures are featured in The Sister Chapel. They include Bella Abzug—the Candidate, a portrait of the American Congresswoman and social reformer, painted by Alice Neel; Betty Friedan as the Prophet, a portrayal of the influential author of The Feminine Mystique, by June Blum; Marianne Moore, the American poet, by Betty Holliday; Frida Kahlo, the celebrated Mexican artist, by Shirley Gorelick; Artemisia Gentileschi, the seventeenth-century Italian Baroque artist, by May Stevens; Joan of Arc, the sainted fifteenth-century French military heroine, by Elsa M. Goldsmith; Lilith, the rebellious first wife of Adam, by Sylvia Sleigh; God, a female manifestation of the creator of the universe, by Cynthia Mailman; Durga, the powerful Hindu goddess, by Diana Kurz; Womanhero, a conceptual embodiment of female strength and power, by Martha Edelheit; and Self-Portrait as Superwoman (Woman as Culture Hero) by Sharon Wybrants.

 

To house the components of The Sister Chapel, a twelve-sided fabric structure was designed by Maureen Connor but never constructed. To celebrate the return of The Sister Chapel, an enclosure based on Connor’s original design has been fabricated. For the first time in its history, The Sister Chapel will be permanently exhibited as its creators intended.