Three sculptures by Cynthia Branvall, of beeswaxed antique blouses, standing up on their own, like they are having a conversation.



MAR – OCT 2020

CURATOR Michelle Nye, Interim Director, SFMOMA Artists Gallery

ORGANIZATIONS Organized by the SFMOMA Artists Gallery in partnership with the San Francisco headquarters of a global investment firm

ARTISTS Cynthia Brannvall, Pantea Karimi, Lisa Mezzacappa, Kathleen Quillian, Joanna Ruckman, Susie Taylor, Margaret Timbrell, Tom Zimberoff

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the eight artists in this exhibition explore both inspirational women and materials traditionally associated with women. The artists employ these materials intentionally, effectively transcending craft by creating evocative contemplations on femininity and personal power. The portraits in the exhibition range from the Pulitzer Prize winning feminist Susan Faludi in the photography of Tom Zimberoff; to Mary Ward, a scientist forgotten to time, featured in the embroidered scroll by Pantea Karimi; to Marianne North, a Victorian explorer, and the inspiration for the collaborative animation by Kathleen Quillian and Lisa Mezzacappa. Many of the women honored in this show might be unknown to viewers, given that the contributions of influential women often remain obscured or forgotten. Others stand out for their importance, such as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court justice, photographed by Zimberoff. When honoring the women’s suffrage movement it is compelling to evoke the historic fabric of women’s lives, as seen in the works of Joanna Ruckman, Cynthia Brannvall, Margaret Timbrell, Pantea Karimi, and Susie Taylor. Materials such as hand loomed weavings, lace, embroidery and personal garments become mediums for the artists to explore arenas such as femininity, heritage, intimacy, beauty, motherhood, family, power, material production, aging, and abstraction. The artists practice a reclamation when using materials traditionally associated with women’s craft to investigate complex and contemporary issues.

For instance, in Cynthia Brannvall’s Present Counsel, waxed antique garments stand upright, suggesting a gathering of women from the past. Indeed the artist thought of the 1848 meeting at Seneca Falls, which kicked off the women’s suffrage movement. The figures seem ghostly and ethereal, speaking to the fragility of hard won rights when undermined, such as recent restrictions on contraception, or the continued statistical scarcity of women in positions of leadership. Brannvall recontexualizes these fragile undergarments to present a nuanced take on one of the most significant moments of female empowerment in history and where we are today. This centennial gives an opportunity to evaluate where we have come and what the future holds. The women’s rights movement is effectively summarized in the words of Sarah Grimke, a self-educated Quaker and abolitionist, and the purported mother of the women’s suffrage movement: “I ask no favors for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks.”

Other exhibitions organized for this firm from 2018-2021: Pride, Veterans, Disabled Artists, Hispanic Heritage, Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage, Black Contemporary Artists





The encaustic sculpture installations are vulnerable ghostly presences evoking the hard fought historical battles for women’s rights and speak to the fragility of those rights in present circumstances. The 19th century blouses hold the memory of their wearers and the encaustic preserves and evokes their presence. Ghostly and fragile but holding hallowed ground. I am interested in creating visual language that is engaged in individual and collective identities and the history, culture, economies and geographies that they are tethered to. I like to use materials that have a historical fingerprint to make an unexpected contemporary statement. The abstract textile collages I make are composed of stained and heavily worn vintage lace, seams, trim, ruffles and bindings structured in a grid form. I like to think about the abstract patterns in the material as protein folds of DNA that cross bodies of water and continents, and cross the bodies of ancestors. I intend the textile patterns to evoke text, music, history, and the presence and work of women. Cynthia Brannvall is a California native of African American and Swedish descent and is amultimedia artist, professor, and art historian.


The Forgotten Women of Science features lesser-acknowledged female scientists, from ancient times to the nineteenth century, and highlights their contributions to science. History shows that there were many powerful, intelligent and professional women in a wide range of scientific fields. In the wake of the Centennial of the Women’s Suffrage movement, it is apt to celebrate not only women’s drive for equal rights but also their scientific gifts to humanity. Karimi has included female scientists from ancient times up to the nineteenth century when the suffrage movement took shape. Pantea Karimi was born in Shiraz and raised in Tehran, Iran. Her infatuation with science harkens back to a four-year science training in high school with the aim of becoming a doctor; a goal that she abandoned to pursue an art career. Her current project about early science and women scientists revisits Karimi’s interest in the topic through the lens of art. Karimi is a painter and printmaker and also holds a master’s degree in graphic design. Her work as a multidisciplinary artist explores the intersection of art, history and science. Karimi’s research encompasses illustrations and texts of medieval Persian, Arab and early modern European scientific manuscripts.


Tom Zimberoff is an accomplished commercial photographer and photojournalist whose photographs have appeared on the covers of Time, Fortune, Money, People, and numerous other magazines. His subjects include global luminaries such as Ronald Regan, John Lennon and Steve Jobs. He is an authority on the topic of photo-business automation, on which he regularly teaches seminars at universities and trade schools such as RIT and the Art Institute of Atlanta. He writes for “Photo District News”. He created the Desktop version of PhotoByte and wrote the book about the business of photography: “Focus on Profit” (Allworth Press, 2002) is used as a college textbook. His photographs are published worldwide and are included in several museum collections. The ZImberoff Photography Archive, including all negatives & transparencies (i.e., original film) produced throughout his career, have been acquired by the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas, Austin.


Margaret Timbrell is a text based fiber artist with a multi-disciplinary degree from NYU. Her work is inspired by various influences (such as technology, parenthood, and social media) that alter language and inter-personal engagement. Timbrell has exhibited around the US and featured in the SF Examiner, LA Times, Bust Magazine. In 2012 she was selected as a Heart Artist for SF General’s annual fundraiser. From 2015 to 2017 Timbrell participated in the StARTup Fair. Currently Timbrell is a studio artist and board member at Root Division. She also participated in Lenka Clayton’s Artist Residency in Motherhood and in 2018 Timbrell was the Artist in Residence at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. In the Fall of 2018 Timbrell curated 140 Characters at Root Division. The Redwork Series documents sometimes mundane details of my life as a parent. Combined with crying children, lack of sleep, relationship changes, and other external stressors, early parenthood becomes a sort of flawed madness which I work capture in this series. Each piece incorporates traditional stitching techniques, invented needlework techniques, and data drawn from my daily life as a parent.


Susie Taylor weaves abstract and dimensional textiles. As a veteran textile designer and master weaver, she combines technical skill with artistry with influences from the Bauhaus movement. She has exhibited her work in the U.S. and in international fiberart and contemporary textile biennials in China and Ukraine. Her 2018 solo exhibition, Poetic Geometry, at Textile Center Minneapolis highlighted 38 works including her flat woven abstractions and dimensional origami pieces. She was included in MATERIAL MEANING: A Living Legacy of Anni Albers at Craft in America Center in Los Angeles and FIBER ART: 100 YEARS OF BAUHAUS at Art Ventures Gallery in Menlo Park, CA. She is the recipient of a Handweavers Guild of America, Certificate of Excellence in Handweaving Level 1 and received an HGA award and for Beautiful Struggle at the National Fiber Direction 2015 at the Wichita Center for the Arts. “In terms of influences, Anni and Josef Albers have had long-term effects on my development as an artist. Anni enrolled at the Bauhaus as a painting student but was told that she could only study in the weaving workshop or the pottery studio because she was female. She chose the weaving workshop and took to this new medium to produce some of the most iconic works to emerge from the Bauhaus.”


Lisa Mezzacappa is a San Francisco bassist, composer, and music curator and producer. An active collaborator in the Bay Area music community for more than a dozen years, her music spans avant-garde jazz to ethereal chamber music, scores for experimental film and immersive sound installations. Mezzacappa was voted “Rising Star” bassist in the Downbeat 2013 and 2014 critics polls. Glorious Ravage, the cycle from which Marianne was pulled was an evening-length song cycle for large ensemble and films Inspired by writings of Victorian women explorers who made epic trips—first pioneer women headed west in covered wagons, then all sorts of women from all over the world, each of them hitting the road for their own reasons. Some of these ladies wrote so evocatively that their words immediately inspired lyrics. Others were so single-minded in their pursuits—for whatever new experience, for solitude, for a glimpse at a rare species of plant, for connection with people of other cultures, for anything but what awaited them in their suffocating Victorian parlors—that Mezzacappa began to score these different aspects of their ambitions. The fact that there was no contemporary precedent for how they chose to live their lives, and the great lengths they went to live so fully off-script, resonated with the musician enormously.


Kathleen Quillian is an Oakland-based artist who works primarily with found imagery, collage and stop-motion animation. She has exhibited in venues and festivals internationally including International Film Festival Rotterdam, San Francisco International Film Festival, Antimatter Film Festival, Animasivo, REDCAT, the Exploratorium and Pacific Film Archive, among others. She has served on the boards of directors of San Francisco Cinematheque and Artists’ Television Access and is currently co-director of Shapeshifters Cinema, an experimental microcinema in Oakland, CA. Her work explores collective and individual ways humans engage with the unknown.


Joanna Ruckman’s work explores intersections of social engagement and creative practice. Her research considers how hair shapes identity, and can be used as a tool to combat systems of institutionalized oppression of particular bodies. She is an anti-disciplinary artist, layering diverse media to create works ranging from public printmaking to her visual and oral history project to formal gallery installations. Generations, a series on view, explores textural and visceral connections to ancestral roots. The series is designed to be “generative” by building personal iconography through the repetition and recycling of particular shapes, objects and imagery, embodying how familial identities are formed over time through patterns and their alterations. Joanna is a candidate for the dual degree MA/MFA at SFAI and earned her BA in Visual Arts and Cultural Anthropology from Brown University. Her current thesis research asks: how might hair be mobilized as a material in contemporary art and culture to perform social critiques and towards creating decoloniality.