Celebrating women’s determination to make their own choices and be their authentic selves is demonstrated both by the art and the lives of award-winning local photographer Chelsea Bradway and Renaissance woman Bobbi Gibb.
Creations recognizing women’s empowerment by both artists will be on display at the Hopkinton Center for the Arts (HCA) show Breaking Away, running from March 8 through April 20 in the Lotvin Family Gallery.
“March is International Women’s Month and I wanted to do something to acknowledge that and celebrate women,” said Sarah Alexander, HCA’s director of visual arts. So Alexander approached both artists, who she calls “two really powerful women.”
Bradway focuses on the strength of ordinary women in her “Be a Lady They Said” series of photos that will be displayed during the show. Smaller versions of the 200 black and white photos she took of women and girls during the middle of the COVID pandemic will be hung from clothes lines along one wall of the Breaking Away exhibit. The series takes its name from the poem by Camille Rainville, which lists all the strictures women face through their lives.
In contrast to the poem, Bradway asked her subjects, who come from all walks of life, to bring whatever was important to them to her unadorned studio and pose in any way they liked. The “women were allowed to present their authentic selves, and to express through their faces and bodies how they felt: free to project their own force, strength, vulnerability, curiosity, whatever they were feeling about their place in the world,” wrote Bradway in her artist’s statement.
Saying her job as an artist was to gather all the individual assertions into one powerful voice of women seeking and being empowered, Bradway concluded, “This exhibition is my way to say that the female voices are whispering, speaking and shouting through these photographs, we will not be quiet.”
All the women and girls shown in the 200 photos will be invited to the HCA show.
Gibb, an icon of female empowerment, was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1966. Dropping into the race as an unregistered participant since women then were not allowed to run in competitions longer than a mile-and-a-half, she finished ahead of two-thirds of the male runners with a time of three hours, 21 minutes, 40 seconds.
Besides her athletic prowess, Gibb is an attorney, has worked as a neuroscientist and expresses herself through her writings, sculptures and paintings. The HCA show will feature a selection of her smaller bronze sculptures of women in motion along with impressionistic and abstract paintings reflecting the patterns she feels a kinship with in nature. “Each living thing seems so exquisitely aware of itself. It speaks to me in a language beyond words,” she wrote in her book ‘Wind in the Fire.’ ”
Breaking Away also will include historical photographs and articles about Gibb and her 1966 trailblazing run for women. In addition, HCA currently is the site for Gibb’s sculpture memorializing her first marathon run, A Girl in Motion. The sculpture will be placed in its permanent home near the Boston Marathon start line in the near future.
Reflecting on the show that combines the artists’ talents, Alexander said, “We wanted the powerful running figures to have a conversation with the photos of these ordinary women from all walks of life. And be a celebration of all that is strong and beautiful about women.”
Breaking Away is free and open to the public. Those visiting the gallery at 98 Hayden Rowe Street are invited to donate menstrual care products for Dignity Matters, a charity that assists women and girls who are without a home or living in poverty.
For more information, visit HopArtsCenter.org.