The female gaze, aptly defined as an extended reciprocal conversation between the artist, her art, and the viewer, is crystallized in the unbroken exchange between artist Nancylu Rosenheim, her early work, Big Girls—a series of larger than life figurative paintings of women—and its female collector.
In 1991, writer and multimedia producer, Gail Vida Hamburg stumbled on several paintings from Rosenheim’s Big Girls in a gallery in Granada, Spain that captured her imagination.
“The paintings were full of machisma—the subjects were larger than life, serene, defiant women demanding acceptance on their own terms. I was moved by the artist’s assertion of self and her claiming of territory” she said. “The paintings were highly rendered, layered, and detailed; drew from a deep well of mythology, religion, and ancient tales, and featured textural nuances and unexpected mixed media compositions, for example bark and gold leaf.”
Hamburg later learned that the work was inspired by the artist’s encounter with miniature Medieval manuscript illuminations she saw in The Wild Man: Myth and Symbolism exhibition at the Met Cloisters in 1981. “It was Gulliver’s Travels upside down, She inverted male Lilliputian figures to paint female Brobdingnagians. There was an unsettling paradoxical quality to the subjects, wild but solemn, confrontational yet interiorized, exhibitionistic but in a reverie, secular and sacred, that I found alluring, empowering, and subversive,” Hamburg said.
Hamburg began to acquire the collection over the next two decades. “Together the paintings are simply magnificent, referencing each other, while at the same time possessing narratives and meta narratives of their own. Many were painted in the same period, often on adjoining easels,” she said.
The collection is now for sale as Hamburg no longer has the walls to showcase the giantesses in her downsized coastal California cottage. “The artist created the collection over three decades, I collected them over two. Both she and I, and the paintings, have grown and are moving in new directions. It is time for me to release Big Girls to another collector who will continue the extended reciprocal conversation,” Hamburg said.
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