Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hen Party

Chris Rossi, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

Hen Party: A party for women only. First known use ca. 1885. (From Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

I had never heard the term Hen Party until I moved to Central New York. It’s a quaint folksy way of talking about a girl’s night out that for me, conjures up visions of ladies gossiping over their tea and knitting. The phrase has expanded meaning and in the 21st century can refer to a bachelorette party. Not quite the word picture I have in mind, but fun to think people are still using the term.

Did I mention the girl with the squirrel on her head?

We are having a Hen Party, so to speak, in the Clark Gallery here at the Fenimore Art Museum. Okay, our attendees are not as lively as those at the gatherings mentioned above. Instead they are quietly gracing the walls and pedestals of our exhibition, Picturing Women: American Art from the Permanent Collections, which opens on September 24.

Getting the ladies in place

Our collections hold a variety of portraiture from three centuries, which can make for some very interesting groupings. Laying out the gallery was like arranging seating at a dinner party. We have Abigail Adams keeping company with Dolly Madison while three folk art Madonnas enjoy each other’s presence. Perhaps they are comparing notes on childrearing? And I like to wonder what a very proper 19th century lady would like to chat about with her 20th century counterpart (who is shown lounging sans-clothing in a bed of water lilies.) We even have a kids’ wall, which is reminiscent of the kids’ table from the holidays of my childhood.

This eclectic gathering of women of all ages, social classes and occupations will be on view until the end of the year. Come visit the party, even if you are not a hen!

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