“She Persists”: An Unprecedented Show of Art by Women in “the People’s House” — Andrea K. Scott

The New Yorker, 02.07.2019

Last month, a record-breaking hundred and twenty-seven women were sworn in to the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. Now forty-four women have taken over the walls of Gracie Mansion, the official home of the Mayor of New York but also “the people’s house” of New York City. The occasion is “She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York,” an ambitious exhibition inventively curated by the young art historian Jessica Bell Brown, at the invitation of Chirlane McCray, the city’s First Lady. Sixty paintings, sculptures, videos, prints, textiles, drawings, and photographs are installed throughout the formally appointed rooms on the first floor of the Federal-style house. The results are harmonious and unexpected. Museum staples (the Abstract Expressionist painter Lee Krasner, the photographer Cindy Sherman) share the stage with rising stars (the sculptor Simone Leigh, the category-defying Mickalene Thomas). Bell Brown also introduces some unsung heroines—including the First Lady’s late mother, Katharine Clarissa Eileen McCray, who sewed and embroidered hundreds of enchanting cloth dolls that she dubbed “Quashies,” in honor of own mother’s West-African maiden name. Three are on display, representing her daughters, Chirlane, Cynthia, and Cheryl.