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Magnetic Fields Celebrates Black Women



The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) opened their latest exhibit, Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today, on October 13, 2017. Her Campus got a preview of the exhibit with a guided overview from the talented NMWA curator Virginia Treanor and Magnetic Fields co-curator Melissa Messina. While the exhibit originally debuted in Kansas City, the curators are excited for the art’s message to be seen and heard in Washington. Many of the artists are actually from the D.C. area, and several have attended Howard University. The history of abstract art has been characterized as “very white and very male,” so this exhibit breaks down this conception.

The title of the exhibit comes from Mildred Thompson’s painting entitled “Magnetic Fields.” Since magnetic fields are invisible, the goal of the piece is to visualize magnetic energy. This metaphorically captures the essence of the show-providing visualization of outstanding art that hasn’t received the recognition it should.

(Magnetic Fields by Mildred Thomas, courtesy of NMWA)

Each work of art tells a story and acts as a reaction to experiences in the artists’ lives while beautifully displayed in harmony. While some pieces are as minimalistic as solid pieces of sound-proofing material arranged in stripes, others incorporated every color in thick coats of paint across a floor-to-ceiling length canvas. The ability for such versatile pieces to work well together speaks greatly. The artists also represent an intergenerational account of abstract art as the oldest artist was born in 1891 and the youngest in 1981.

The piece by Mavis Pusey was extremely moving considering her story. Pusey now has Alzheimer’s disease and although not mentally being able to partake in the discussion the exhibit provokes, her art is able to speak for her.


(Commes Des Garcon Fall 2017- Candida Alvarez, Photo from WWD.com)

While some of the artists haven’t been as recognized for their work as they should, others, such as Candida Alvarez, have made great strides. Her painting was used as the pattern in the Fall 2017 menswear collection from Commes Des Garcons. You can see this piece and several other breathtaking works at the Magnetic Fields exhibit until January 21, 2018. Admission to the museum costs $8 for students, or you can attend on the first Sunday of every month for free admission.

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Pippa Leigh

Georgetown '18

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