Members of artinsight-sarasota discuss fifth show, 'Y Not Women'


Members of artinsight-sarasota discuss fifth show, 'Y Not Women'


Date: September 28, 2011
by: Heidi Kurpiela | A&E Editor



There’s a lot going on in Janet Mishner’s Lakewood Ranch home.

There are women mingling, a little white dog yipping, a plate of raisin cookies circulating and an assortment of painted canvases accumulating.

It’s the kind of friendly commotion and camaraderie you don’t get often when you step into an artist’s world.

The vibe is neither solitary nor tortured. There’s coffee brewing, and photos of Mishner’s new grandson line the kitchen counter.

It’s exactly what Mishner, Bettina Sego, Gail Rubinfeld and Susan von Gries had in mind when they formed their contemporary artist group, artinsight-sarasota, one year ago.

“In all my years of painting, I never had girlfriends who were artists,” von Gries says. “I can’t tell you how nice it is to be surrounded by women who share my passion.”

The other women nod their heads in unison.

“Creating art can be a very lonely experience,” Rubinfeld says. “When you get together as a group, it becomes more — ”

“Of an exchange,” Sego interrupts.

“Because when you’re alone, you’re alone,” Rubinfeld says, finishing the sentiment.

The artists met several years ago in artist Joseph Melancon’s class at Art Center Sarasota. Established painters, each with a rich resumé and decades of experience behind the easel, they were an obvious foursome.

“We came together out of common ground,” Mishner says.

Soon the women were meeting for lunch, meeting to paint and then meeting to discuss the obvious: forming a group.

“As an individual, when you approach a gallery and ask, ‘May I have a show here?’ 2,000 other artists have as well,” Sego says. “From a marketing perspective, you’re in a better position if you’re in a group.”

They founded artinsight last fall to coincide with Festival sARTée, the two-week arts event that runs concurrently with the Ringling International Arts Festival.

In just one year they’ve held four exhibitions, proving that in a struggling economy there’s strength in numbers.

“So many galleries have closed in the last couple of years,” Rubinfeld says. “I think art groups are the wave of the future.”

The group’s fifth show, “Y Not Women?” which will run Oct. 7 through Oct. 26, at The Studio at Gulf and Pine on Anna Maria Island, is its biggest exhibition.

An homage to American female artists, the show will include a lecture by Ringling College of Art and Design instructor Kevin Costello and music by an Irish harpist.

To prepare for the event, the women brushed up on the biographies of dozens of 20th-century female artists, including Lee Krasner, an abstract expressionist whose marriage to Jackson Pollock often overshadowed her career.

“Women have been painting all along,” Sego says. “But they don’t have their place in history as they should. Ask people to name a female artist, and you’ll get ‘Georgia O’Keeffe’ and that’s about it.”

Despite the focus of this upcoming exhibition and the obvious fact that the group lacks a male presence, the women of artinsight do not consider themselves feminists.

Rather than labeling the group as “women artists,” Rubinfeld says she’d rather artinsight be referred to as “artists who happen to be women.”

“In the New York art world, if you’re a woman artist over the age of 50, forget it,” Rubinfeld says. “It’s the kiss of death.”

But this is the Sarasota art world, and middle-aged female artists are in good company, which is why “Y Not Women?” poses much more than a rhetorical question.

Given the area’s demographics, artinsight is almost a better fit for Sarasota than the other (younger) contemporary arts groups making headlines — for instance,

s/ART/q, which was founded in late 2008 by a cast of 30- and 40-something artists.

This is not to say that artinsight lacks edge. The women’s paintings, as well as their bios, are colorful and diverse.

Rubinfeld, a Connecticut native who owns the Turtle Beach Resort and Inn on Siesta Key, didn’t start painting until the late 1990s, when she was bequeathed a box of art supplies from her twin sister, an artist who died of cancer 13 years ago.

The German-born Sego worked in marketing for luxury fragrance lines before moving in 2000 to Florida, where she carved out a reputation for painting abstract landscapes using textured acrylics, mixed media and collage.

Mishner, a former elementary school art teacher from Baltimore, was so drawn to abstract figures inspired by psychological metaphors and storytelling that she began bringing her work to psychoanalysis sessions.

And, then, there’s von Gries, who spent 20 years living as an expatriate in El Salvador, Brazil, Venezuela, Belgium, and the Netherlands, where she worked in sculpture before settling down seven years ago in Sarasota.

All of the women have studied art, held solo exhibitions and sold work to private collectors and businesses.

“We each make our own marks,” von Gries says of their four distinct styles.

Von Gries’ marks are bold and spontaneous, the product of whatever music she happens to be listening to at the time. Mishner’s marks are more purposeful, although lately she says she’s begun to embrace an impulsive style.

Rubinfeld loves to render figures and faces, often in multiples, a touching nod to her twin sister. And Sego’s canvases are heavy with metallic layers, semi-abstract icons and symbols that conjure up nature in an elemental and prehistoric way.

“What we all had in common was that external observation was a moot point,” Mishner says. “Our work is the product of interpretation.”

She looks to the other women for approval. They concur.

“And, of course,” she adds, “almost everything we do is personal.”

“Y Not Women” runs Oct. 7 through Oct. 26, at the Studio at Gulf and Pine, 10101 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria Island. artinsight-sarasota will host an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 15 during the Ringling International Arts Festival’s Festival sARTée. For more information, visit


VIDEO: Contemporary artists Janet Mishner, Gail Rubinfeld, Bettina Sego and Susan von Gries discuss what they look for in an exhibition space.

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