It's a Masterpiece

Acclaimed San Antonio museum unveils major works from women artists

Acclaimed San Antonio museum unveils major works from women artists

The Green Dress Jane Peterson
The Green Dress, Jane Peterson. Courtesy of McNay Art Museum
Koinonia by Letitia Huckaby
Koinonia, Letitia Huckaby. Courtesy of McNay Art Museum
Deborah Butterfield Untitled
Untitled, Deborah Butterfield. Courtesy of McNay Art Museum
The Green Dress Jane Peterson
Koinonia by Letitia Huckaby
Deborah Butterfield Untitled

In the midst of mounting an ambitious show showcasing trailblazing female contemporary artists, San Antonio's celebrated McNay Art Museum is investing in several major works by women.

The museum announced March 25 that it has acquired three artworks by women artists spanning the last 100 years. The works, ranging from painting to sculpture to a mixed-media installation featured in the current exhibition, were purchased with support from an anonymous $500,000 gift made in memory of late Texas artist Madeline O’Connor, whose work is part of the museum's permanent collection.

“Spanning 100 years, these three artworks represent several generations of women artists, beginning in the early 20th century and continuing through the present,” said René Paul Barilleaux, head of curatorial affairs. “Each presents a distinct approach to portraiture — from realism in Peterson’s painting, to symbolism in Butterfield’s sculpture, and finally, to metaphor in Huckaby’s installation.”

In The Green Dress, Jane Peterson "portrays a young woman in a modernist style with an expressive use of cool green tones and fluid brushstrokes," the McNay says. "The artist reflects popular fashion choices of the 1920s through her model’s flapper haircut, dress with a neckerchief, and low-hanging necklace."

Deborah Butterfield's Untitled is a "nearly life-size sculpture of a tame horse ... made from steel armature, chicken wire, mud, sticks, paper, dextrin, and grass," says the museum. "The mare stands in as a soulful self-portrait and a feminist response to traditionally depicted images of aggressive stallions. The use of sticks jutting out beyond the smooth contours of the mud creates movement with the sculpture, and the artist’s experience owning horses adds to her ability to represent the animals with accuracy and nuance."

In Koinonia by Texas artist Letitia Huckaby, "the artist photographs five young girls (including two of her daughters) in silhouette, which are printed on fabric and mounted onto oversized embroidery hoops," notes the McNay. "The significance of presenting the images of five young girls refers to the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church by the Ku Klux Klan in which four young African-American girls were killed and one seriously injured. The title Koinonia is a Greek word that means Christian fellowship, which refers to the importance of Christianity in the artist’s life and art."

The latest acquisitions mark the introduction of both Peterson and Butterfield to the McNay collection. Huckaby's haunting Koinonia is currently on view as part of "Limitless! Five Women Reshape Contemporary Art," the McNay's ambitious exhibition running now through September 19.