University Art Gallery to dedicate upcoming exhibitions to women artists


The University Art Gallery will dedicate major exhibitions in 2020 to women and female-identifying artists.

It will partner up with Associated Artists of Pittsburgh for two companion exhibitions, “Mary Ethel McAuley: Behind the German Lines” and “Three Artists (Three Women),” which open Feb. 13 and run through March 28. Also, the art gallery will debut an exhibition from the Selma Burke Art Center this fall.

These exhibitions come as “dozens” of cultural institutions in the U.S. have made public commitments to showcasing works from women artists, according to a news release, in a movement started by the Feminist Art Coalition.

These commitments were inspired, in part, by 2020 marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which allowed women to finally participate in government elections. The overall goals are to shine a light on inequalities women still face in the art world and cultural institutions, the release said.

The “Mary Ethel McAuley: Behind German Lines” exhibit will present the work of McAuley, a reporter, author, illustrator, painter, teacher and an inaugural member of Associated Artists.

Her work has largely gone unnoticed, the release read, even though her reporting was regularly featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch. McAuley has been regarded as an “untrained” or an “outsider” artist because of her style, art gallery Director Sylvia Rhor said in a Pitt Constellations blog post on Feb. 2.

However, McAuley was a trained artist who taught weekend drawing classes and had been featured in galleries and department stores in Pittsburgh and New York.

“McAuley was a modern woman, forging a career as a painter and writer, and traveling the world at a time when women of her background were often expected to marry and raise families,” Rhor wrote.

This exhibition will feature 10 of her paintings on loan from collectors Rebecca and Tasso Spanos. The paintings were created sometime in 1919 to depict McAuley’s life experiences during World War I while she was a correspondent for the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch. For additional context, German WWI helmets and other objects on loan from Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum will be included in the exhibition, Rhor said.

“We hope that this exhibition is not the last word on the artist, but rather the start of renewed interest in and questioning of McAuley’s works and her career,” Rhor said in the release. “Many of the issues and challenges she faced and the subjects she explored are still relevant today.”

“Three Artists (Three Women)” presents the works of Associated Artists’ members Tina Williams Brewer, Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer and Fran Gialamas.

Their art, like MacAuley’s, examines themes of migration, family, history and place, according to the release.

“The beauty of both of these exhibitions is that they speak to rich past, present, and future of women artists working in this region,” AAP Executive Director Madeline Gent said in the release, “Finding those common threads between their work is exciting, but even more so are the differences. And these four artists are just a tiny portion of the great range of art by women who call this area home.”

There will be additional academic programming surrounding the exhibitions, including a panel discussion from 5 to 7 p.m. March 19 co-moderated by Gent and Rhor.

In March, the art gallery will open the inaugural Say Her Name Feminist Reading Room + Maker Space, which will be located in the rotunda in the Frick Fine Arts building

The Frick Fine Arts building will have a reception for the exhibitions from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 13 Admission is free and open to the public, and the exhibitions will be open until March 28.

The galleries are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with extended hours to until 7 p.m. Thursdays.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905.


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