Flashback: Hera Artists in the 70s,
Elena Jahn Clough and Friends
May 27 – June 24, 2017
Opening Reception: Saturday, May 27th, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Artist Talk: Thursday, June 15th, 7 pm
Hera Gallery is proud to present Flashback: Hera Artists in the 70s, Elena Jahn Clough and Friends. Elena Jahn Clough was one of ten women artists who became the founding members of Hera. Upon her death last year, Hera was approached by her daughter, Lisa Jahn-Clough, with a request to install a show of her work. Hera Gallery, and the artists and friends who knew her well during her time in RI were more than happy to accommodate her wish. The exhibition will include a selection of Elena’s work chosen by her daughter and work by her friends and contemporaries, all members of Hera Gallery during the 1970s, including Marlene Malik, Connie Greene, Donna Croteau Gustafson, Alexandra Broches, Mary Ann Stella Killilea, and Roberta Richman. The group show will include work that these artists did during the 1970s. The exhibition will take place at Hera Gallery, 10 High Street in Wakefield, RI, May 27-June 24. The public is invited to attend the opening of Flashback: Hera Artists in the 70s on Saturday, June 3rd from 6:00 to 8:00pm, and the artist talk taking place on June 15th, at 7:00pm.
Elena Jahn was born in 1938 in Moscow, Idaho and raised in Syracuse, New York. In 1949 her family began spending summers on Monhegan Island, Maine where her career as an artist began. She lived in Rhode Island for ten years, then moved to Brunswick, Maine until 1988. After 1988 she began dividing her time between her Monhegan studio and Culebra, Puerto Rico.
Elena’s artistic preoccupation has always been with the landscape and a sense of place. She traveled the fine line between personal, lyrical abstraction, and figuration, moving back and forth between them. Primarily, she worked with two-dimensional media, including drawing, painting, and collage, often incorporating more than one medium into a piece. Her subject matter spans from realistic rocks, cliffs, sea, and vegetation of her island homes to more abstract renditions of light and sky. In addition, Elena has always drawn the live model and kept plentiful notebooks of sketches from the many places she lived and traveled: upstate NY, Sweden, Norway, Paris, Rhode Island, Nova Scotia, Iceland, the southwestern US, Maine and Puerto Rico. She painted up until her death in 2014, leaving behind a legacy of spirited and energetic art.
In her 1999 artist’s statement, Elena wrote:
“As I review the many facets of my own work, I see that they are all threads connected to my inner core. Each change reflects an urge to move into unknown territory, leading to the place where I find myself now.”
During the early 1970s, women artists around the country were organizing to assert their place in the art world. In a male dominated art scene, women artists were relegated to minor roles in every arena - museums and galleries, collections and reviews featured male artists and ignored women.
In 1972 a group of 15 professionally trained women artists clustered in South Kingstown began meeting for mutual support and sharing their work. Inspired by other women artists organizing in New York and Chicago, 10 of them, including Elena Jahn Clough, decided to find a space to show their work to the Rhode Island arts community. They were offered a large raw space previously a laundry, on Main Street in Wakefield by Roy Poulsen, a faculty member at URI, for the very reasonable rate of $300 a month. Each artist contributed $100 to clean and paint the space, build interior walls and install rudimentary lighting, supplying the labor themselves with help from family and friends.
The first group show opened in May 1974 and was very well received. The Opening Reception was crowded and exciting. The show was reviewed in the local papers and in the Providence Journal. Encouraged by all of the support and a small grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, the decision was made to incorporate, seek tax exempt status and establish a Board of Directors comprised of the first ten artist members. Their landlord agreed to install a furnace and Hera was off to a great start. That show was the first of hundreds of shows mounted by Hera over the course of its 43 year history.