Two views of women

Longtime McGuffey artist Judy McLeod brings two series of work to the main display space this month— “Wanted Women (Fugitives from the Law)” and “The Mothers and the Sisters (Womenkind).” As the titles imply, both of McLeod’s exhibits share women-centric themes. In execution, however, they could hardly be more different.
“The Mothers and the Sisters” includes the kind of art that inevitably attracts trampled words like “celebration.” This work, paper collage highlighted here and there with a touch of watercolor or pencil, comes overloaded with bosomy, barefoot, and wide-hipped women who apparently spend their time a) touching other women who look exactly like themselves, b) standing around in awkward positions, or c) hanging out with extremely large vessels overflowing with liquids.
McLeod has obviously spent a great deal of time and effort assembling the collages. It shows in the small patches of gold and the contrasting patterns of “Bearing the Burden” or the complementary colorscape in “Women: Forever United.” But in the end, skill doesn’t overcome her subject matter and execution, which has been fashioned from the same tired clichés— rounded women in robes with water jars on their head as nurture+love emblems— that generate entire lines of greeting card artwork. 
Those in search of antidote need look no further than across that very room: McLeod’s other, far more palatable exhibit, “Wanted Women.” Out from under her celebrationist impulses, McLeod finds edgier source material for this exhibit: the photos of wanted women in New Orleans-area police blotters and bail bondsmen ads. McLeod has filled an entire wall with portraits she’s painted from these pictures, which are really nothing more than mug shots of women in varying degrees of trouble. 
Far from presenting them at their best, these shots tend to capture blank stares and scowls— harried and hollow expressions that McLeod transmits to her oil paintings. These are hardly the idealized women McLeod must have had in mind when working on “Mothers and Sisters.” Though, by locating a degree of dignity and humanity in these fugitives— which she does, in part, by even choosing to paint them— McLeod offers a much more engrossing, complex view of women.

Judy McLeod’s two series, “Wanted Women (Fugitives from the Law)” and “The Mothers and the Sisters (Womenkind)” run through April 28 at the McGuffey Art Center. 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973

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