Feminist Connect

Curator Sally Brown in conversation with artists Marie Bergstedt, Amy Chaiklin and Laurence de Valmy

In conversation with the artists

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Marie Bergstedt: Fading, Hand embroidery on cotton fabric, 2017, 22”H x20”W x 1.25”D

Marie Bergstedt, Amy Chaiklin and Laurence de Valmy were featured artists in Feminist Connect, on view at Charles Adam Studio Project in Lubbock, Texas, in March, 2022 and as part of a larger online exhibition by the same name, running through February 2023. The artists Bergstedt (fabric), Chaiklin (drawing/painting) and deValmy (painting) discuss their processes, concepts and relations with the co-curator, Sally Brown, expanding on the discussion the exhibition provokes around the feminist lineage of art.

Sally Brown: Each of you pays tribute to women in your work in a different way. Marie, you honor both professional (scientists, teachers, musicians) and familial (foster mother) women through your intricate expressive thread and fabric work. Amy Chaiklin, both famous, historical and friend artists, curators and writers are honored through your intimate painted profiles. Laurence, your paintings honor the artwork of women in art history that may have been overlooked and bring them into the contemporary by imagining them through appropriations and posts on social media. Tell me about your processes–both artistically and conceptually–in bringing your tribute works about.

Laurence de Valmy: My work on the Post paintings starts with the story and the research. I pick an artist I want to talk about and then choose an artwork that relates to a particular story. I create a composition with both the image and the dialogues. Once in the studio, I paint the image, appropriating the work of the artist, using acrylic.

Marie Bergstedt: I start with the concept or issue. From there I do research if needed and then I choose the person, materials and techniques that I believe best express the story, making it accessible to others.

Amy Chaiklin: My ’Cultured Pearls Portraits’ painting project (2017-ongoing) consists of more than 195 individual portraits of female identified artists, art historians, art journalists, and art curators. These portraits are painted from photographs which I source on social media. It is important for me to paint my perception of each woman’s essence by honoring their personal stance, individual hairstyles, and fashion choices. I draw each woman’s full length portrait with her eyes facing forward.

Sally Brown: Why is/was it important for you to honor these women through your work? What do you hope viewers get out of your work?

Laurence de Valmy: My work being about art history, it’s quickly very clear that women have been overshadowed by men. It seemed important to me to bring awareness to their work. To build a better future, it is important to be aware of the past. My best reward is when someone tells me that they have learnt something about one of these women I pay tribute to.

Marie Bergstedt: My work all stems from concerns I have about society and what is happening in the world around me. There are a number of issues related to the inequality of women, but I also do many pieces where men and their problems are featured. Some of the stories for which I use a portrait of a woman are not about women, but a more general concern. I mean for people to be able to interpret my images with their own story so often my story gets lost in the process. With the two pieces I have in this exhibit my focus is aging. I had a lot of contact with my foster mother when she was 90 to more than 100 years old. Studying her was a study of my own future. We are both women but I believe men face aging as well and I have done work related to that using my foster father as a model before his death, but I worked in photography at that time.

Amy Chaiklin: My intention is to amplify each woman and their work by including their portrait in the Cultured Pearls project. My Cultured Pearls Portraits honors the sisterhood of women who inspire, influence, and support my artistic practice and career. This project also includes portraits of women artists that came before us and led the way. I may know these women personally, or connect with them only through their work. Individually, each portrait is a gift of appreciation. An installation of the entire “Cultured Pearls Portraits” collection is my visual documentation of the diverse community of women in the international contemporary art world.

Sally Brown: What inspires you about each other’s work?

Laurence de Valmy: One of the themes in my series is to show the influences that artists have on each other, and that art is a continuum. The common point between our works is to pay tribute to women each in our own way. I’ve been inspired to focus more on women thanks to my connections with my many women artists friends.

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Laurence de Valmy: Lee’s Sun Woman, Acrylic on canvas, 2020, 40×30 inches

Marie Bergstedt: I am inspired by the very different approaches we have to our work. We use different techniques, we think differently, and our visuals do not overlap. We all are enlarged by what we learn from differences.

Amy Chaiklin: Creating art for me is both joyful and healing. I saw Marie Bergstedt’s

work for the first time in the “Feminist Connect” group exhibition. I appreciate Bergstedt’s visual language of her portraits, which to me expresses healing. The vibrant color palette of Laurence de Valmy’s paintings bring me joy. Laurence de Valmy and I both have produced paintings honoring Joan Mitchell, and my next group of “Cultured Pearls” portraits will include women artists that de Valmy has already painted: Lee Krasner, Niki de Saint Phalle, Alice Neel, and Sonia Delaunay.

Sally Brown: What has it meant for you to be a part of Feminist Connect?

Laurence de Valmy: Art is meant to be shared to spread the word. It’s an honor to be part of such a community and to get the support from the curators.

Marie Bergstedt: For several years Sally Brown has kept in touch and supported my journey as an artist. I am all the more grateful for this since I don’t see my work as feminist focused. It is an honor to be included.

Amy Chaiklin: The “Feminist Connect” group exhibition is a true expression of the sisterhood + feminism! Abundant gratitude to Laurence de Valmy who introduced me to Sally Brown and Leslie C. Sotomayor, the artists + co-curators of “Feminist Connect.” Sally Brown and I are both figurative artists that express female empowerment in our work. Like my “Cultured Pearls Portraits,” Brown’s “Tribute” series of drawings honor female artists both from art history and working today.

Sally Brown: What are you working on next?

Laurence de Valmy: I started to explore NFTs with videos titled TikTok Timeless. It is based on my concept of social media in the past, applied to TikTok. The NFTs are available on Voice.com. Currently I’m working on a series exploring hashtags. I love how this technical tool can be very poetic. We say an image is worth a thousand words. A hashtag connects to millions of images… I am also delighted to share the release of a mug in collaboration with Art Girl Rising in support of women artists. 

Marie Bergstedt: I am just finishing a complex piece that recognizes and thanks people who have reached out to help me advance in my art career. It includes both women and men, with 2 of each receiving the prominent portraits. The next piece will focus on women again. Inspired by the research and work I did about women scientists, I plan to do a dress about the many leading women in the fight against COVID-19.

Amy Chaiklin: While I continue producing new paintings for the “Cultured Pearls Portraits” project, I am also painting images of goddesses for my “Femme Power” series. These two bodies of recent work are imbued with female empowerment and sensuality, which has been the theme of my work for over 40 years.

For more information on Feminist Connect, visit here.

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Amy Chaiklin: Cultured Pearls Portraits: Artists Guerrilla Girls, Acrylic Ink & Graphite on Paper, 2019.

Residing in San Francisco, California, Marie Bergstedt entered a full-time art career in 2005, following 25 years as a development director. Concentrating in mixed media fiber art she tells stories, all about people. Her artwork has appeared in six solo and more than 100 group national and international exhibits, receiving 28 awards. Bergstedt has participated in four artist residencies and has been invited to present lectures, workshops, webinars and videos, including at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles and Surface Design Association. She was invited for the European Cultural Centre’s Art Biennial Venice 2022, “Personal Structures”. IG: @marie47bergstedt

Sally Brown is an artist, curator and writer. Her artwork including drawing, painting and performance, explores womanhood, motherhood and the body. She has exhibited her work in spaces nationally and in the UK. She has won awards for illustration for Intimates and Fools and Leaves of Absence, with poetry by Laura Madeline Wiseman. Her writing has been published in Hyperallergic, Women’s Art Journal and Artslant, among others. She has curated shows in Omaha, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Morgantown. She holds a Bachelor of Arts-Studio Art, a Master of Public Administration and Master of Arts- Art History and Feminist Theory. IG: @sallery_art

Amy Chaiklin is an internationally exhibiting artist, participates in diverse artist residencies, and has work in museum collections. Chaiklin’s paintings were presented in Ms. Franco’s lecture “When Woman Artists Are The Image Maker Of The Female Nude” at the New Britain Museum of American Art (2022) and on Beyond The Paint With Bernadine podcast: “Amy Chaiklin Expressions of Women’s Experiences’ ‘(2021). Chaiklin presented an artist talk on her painting theme of female empowerment and sensuality to the Less Than Half Salon.(2022). The Curious Frenchy published an interview “Amy Chaiklin: A woman artist, painting empowering images of women from the female gaze.”(2022). IG: @amychaiklin

Laurence de Valmy is French American and lives in the USA. She was awarded an Artist Residency in 2017 by the ESKFF at Mana Contemporary, NJ (USA) and her work has been displayed in solo, group shows in galleries and Museums and art fairs internationally. Her work is represented by galleries in New York, London, Honfleur and Paris.