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Shirley Gorelick 1924-2000: Painter of Humanist Realism

Andrew D. Hottle, 2014

Shirley Gorelick (1924–2000) was an American artist who evolved a distinctive realist technique that allowed her to create penetrating psychological portraiture, often on a large scale. This profusely illustrated book is the first in-depth study of Gorelick’s oeuvre. Her development is traced from the early influences of Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism to her artistic maturity as a painter of compelling realist works. Gorelick’s creative achievements are revisited and illuminated through interviews, artist’s statements, press releases, published reviews, and detailed discussions of her major themes and important works.

Shirley Gorelick’s acrylic paintings, silverpoint drawings, and intaglio prints were exhibited widely in the 1970s and early 1980s. Her work was lauded by reviewers in the New York Times, Newsday, Soho Weekly News, Long Island Press, Arts Magazine, Feminist Art Journal, and Womanart. In 1979, Ellen Lubell aptly declared that Shirley Gorelick “deserves consideration with the leading figure painters of the day.” She was also an early member of SOHO 20 Gallery (est. 1973), the second artist-run, all-women exhibition space in New York City, and was among the founders of Central Hall Artists Gallery (est. 1973) in Port Washington, New York, the first cooperative of its kind on Long Island.


Andrew D. Hottle is Associate Professor of Art History at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. He earned his PhD at Temple University, where he studied European art of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Since 2005, his research has focused exclusively on the work of women artists. In addition to published articles on Peter Paul Rubens, Marie-Thérèse Reboul-Vien, Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, and John Everett Millais, he has written essays about June Blum, Martha Nilsson Edelheit, Sylvia Sleigh, and the Feminist Art Workers. His recently published book, The Art of the Sister Chapel: Exemplary Women, Visionary Creators, and Feminist Collaboration, is an extensive historical and contextual study of an important installation that premiered in 1978 at the height of the feminist art movement.


The Art of the Sister Chapel: Exemplary Women, Visionary Creators, and Feminist Collaboration, Andrew D. Hottle, 2014

The Sister Chapel (1974-78) was an important collaborative installation that materialized at the height of the women's art movement. Conceived by Ilise Greenstein as a nonhierarchical, secular commemoration of female role models,The Sister Chapel consisted of an eighteen-foot abstract ceiling that hung above a circular arrangement of eleven monumental canvases, each depicting the standing figure of a heroic woman. The choice of subject was left entirely to the creator of each work. As a result, the paintings formed a visually cohesive group without compromising the individuality of the artists. Contemporary and historical women, deities, and conceptual figures were portrayed by distinguished New York painters--Alice Neel, May Stevens, and Sylvia Sleigh--as well as their accomplished colleagues, June Blum, Martha Edelheit, Elsa Goldsmith, Shirley Gorelick, Betty Holliday, Diana Kurz, Cynthia Mailman, and Sharon Wybrants. Among the role models depicted were Artemisia Gentileschi, Frida Kahlo, Betty Friedan, Joan of Arc, and a female incarnation of God. Maureen Connor also designed a fabric enclosure for The Sister Chapel, but it was never executed. Although last exhibited in 1980, The Sister Chapel has lingered in the minds of art historians who continue to note its significance as an exemplar of feminist collaboration. Based on previously unpublished archival materials and featuring dozens of rarely seen works of art, this comprehensive study details the fascinating history of The Sister Chapel, its constituent paintings, and its ambitious creators.

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