Women Celebrated in Distillery Gallery’s Art Exhibit ‘I See You’

'Current' by Michelle Doll

It’s International Women’s Day today, March 8, and it’s a great time to look at the women in your life and really see them.

That’s what eight artists aim to do in “I See You,” the latest show at the Distillery Gallery and Artspace, located at 7 Hutton St.

“It’s about not just noticing the person but really looking at who the person is in their all, and in this case, really acknowledging just the woman,” says curator Gabriel Pacheco. “It means, ‘I accept you, I see you, your presence, what you do, who you are’ — just the entirety of that person. This show looks at how complex women are and their journey while appreciating the roles they play in life.”

The show, which was recently part of JC Fridays, a citywide festival of free arts events, highlights all sorts of women — old, young, Black, White.

“We wanted to have different types of women in the show,” says Pacheco. “We wanted different ages and also wanted different types of media — photography, paint, charcoal, mixed media, even scratchboard.”

Some highlights include “Harlem Sunday” by Carl Posey (seen in the gallery below), which celebrates the woman as a mother and source of life. Also, one of Pacheco’s favorites are Michelle Doll’s wind-whipped self-portraits, one of which can be seen above, right.

“She has three pieces and they’re quite large pieces…they’re also very powerful and very dramatic in the sense of how she painted herself. Two of them are done with oil and the other is charcoal. In all three of them, interestingly enough, her eyes are closed, but there’s a lot of movement. In one of them she shows her hands, in another she’s a wearing fur hat and in another she’s wearing a fur collar. She’s not wearing anything other than these fur accessories and it looks like the wind is blowing on them. The movement is really quite beautiful,” says Pacheco.

Her self-portraits are part of a larger series that features other models also nearly-nude, protected only by single items of winterwear. In the past, Doll has described the “Winter Wind” paintings as explorations of human vulnerability and the methods we use to protect ourselves. Pacheco says Doll will be one of the participants in an upcoming artist talk for the show and that he’s excited to ask her more about the works.

“What were her feelings in the sense of being naked in that piece? Is it being open or being free? I want to ask why she presented herself in that way,” he says.

Pacheco also has work in the show, a mixed-media portrait of Janette Yarwood, his wife of eight years. Using India ink, Pacheco created a high-contrast likeness of Yarwood against a background made from her notes from South Africa where she worked on her dissertation (“She’s a doctor of anthropology,” explains Pacheco. “It’s a lot of work, but a nice title!”).

“I wanted to capture who she is, not just as a researcher and anthropologist but also as a beautiful woman,” he says. “And in some societies, a woman is not allowed to face a man and has to look down or be submissive, but here she looks right at you. She is strong and proud.”

Right now, the entire Heights community is also feeling pretty proud, for a special reason — the area’s zoning as the Riverview Arts District was finally codified by the City Council on Feb. 27. “We were the first show after the ruling and it made it that much better,” says Pacheco, who feels that the Distillery Gallery’s work in the past three years since its inception has contributed greatly to the Heights arts community.

“We’ve been working on this for a while and we’re so elated about the whole thing,” says Pacheco, noting that artists have been fighting to get arts officially recognized in the area since the 80’s. “Hopefully this means more traffic and more galleries here. We have more than enough artists to create some momentum. Hopefully soon people will be able to go through the Heights and go on excursions to attend different types of receptions and it will create a nice wave of energy in this neighborhood.”

Other featured artists in “I See You” include Laura Bochet, Saheve Greeff, Voodo Fe’ Mathelier, Sarah Zimme and Sasha Kinens. The show runs through March 31.

© Harmony Media, NJ. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without written permission.

Top photo Catherine Hecht; gallery Mickey Mathis © Harmony Media, NJ

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.