Bright works arise from dark subject Art: Hollis Sigler's colorful paintings and collages reveal her struggles with fear and hope as she battles breast cancer.; Inside Today: Fine Arts


In 1985, Chicago artist Hollis Sigler was stricken with breast cancer, the disease from which her mother and great-grandmother died. Since then, she has been battling the cancer in her life and in her work.

In her "Breast Cancer Journal," consisting of paintings, drawings, prints and collages, the brightly colored and deceptively simple works alternate between fear and a sense of lack of control and hope and determination. Her current show at the Steven Scott Gallery is both harrowing in its evocation of the nature of the disease and inspiring in its testament to her courage in dealing with it.

Sigler always represents herself or her condition symbolically. "My Body Is No Longer a Temple" (1995) shows a house in decrepit state. Tattered curtains, broken windows, chairs lying on the lawn, vines growing over the house unchecked, and an open door admitting anything that wants to enter, reflect how Sigler feels about the violation of her body.

In "Feeling Robbed," boards have been nailed over the broken window of a room that looks under siege. A text written around the frame states, "Like being stalked, I never know what will turn up. I often have dreams about being stalked by a killer. ... Only when I wake do I realize that the dream is about cancer."

But "I'm Holding Out for Victory, Winning Is My Greatest Desire" shows the other side of Sigler's battle. A hand with wings on it cuts through the picture of a desolate landscape and shows a lighted city behind with fireworks in the sky. The frame text reads, "As medical research unlocks another clue to solving the mystery of breast cancer, they bring us closer to a cure. Every good news story about this disease lifts my heart with hope ... health is love is power."

Powerful stuff.

The Steven Scott Gallery, at 515 North Charles Street, is open from Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The Sigler show runs through June 27. For information call 410-752-6218.

First Fontana show

Livia Fontana of Bologna (1552-1614) was one of the most successful women artists of her time. The daughter of Prospero Fontana, also a leading Bolognese artist, she became so successful that her husband gave up his own artistic career to handle her accounts and help care for the children.

Her portraits and biblical and mythological scenes gained her wide fame. Her patrons included popes Gregory XIII and Clement VIII, and she moved to Rome in 1603 at the invitation of the latter.

The first U.S. exhibition of her work is on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. It brings together 25 of her paintings, drawings and engravings and includes works from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York and the Borghese Gallery in Rome.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts, at 1250 New York Avenue, N.W., in Washington, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. There is a suggested donation of $3 adults, $2 seniors and students. The Fontana show runs through June 7. For information call 202-783-5000.

Child labor photography

Also in Washington will be a photography show on child labor in the United States and Brazil. To be shown at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters headquarters, "Children Without Childhoods" will bring together works by American photographer Earl Dotter and Brazilian-based photographer Iolanda Huzak.

Dotter's photographs show American children operating hazardous farm equiment, and others working in sweatshops in Manhattan's garment district. Huzak's photos show Brazilian children working in mines, making bricks, and working in the orange industry. Since Brazilian orange juice is imported to the United States, transported by teamsters and sold by leading brands, the exploitation of children in Brazil's orange industry is of direct concern to American consumers.

The exhibit runs in conjunction with the last leg of the Global March against Child Labor, which will take place in Washington on May 27.

The exhibit, at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters headquarters, 25 Louisiana Avenue, N.W., in Washington, will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Saturday through May 29. For information call 202-624-8700.

'Light' in London

"Masters of Light," the Walters Art Gallery's exhibit of 17th century Dutch painting from the city of Utrecht, has traveled from the Walters to the National Gallery in London and opened there to appreciative reviews. The Financial Times called the paintings by Ter Brugghen, Bloemaert, Van Honthorst and others "colorful and powerful images," and predicted that "the show will almost certainly be a great critical success."

The London Times called the show absorbing, and the London Evening Standard said that "Masters of Light" together with two concurrent shows at the National Gallery "combine to give the public the most illuminating exhibition of the decade."

"I'm really ecstatic," said Walters curator of renaissance and baroque art Joaneath Spicer, who conceived and organized the show and traveled to London for the May 7 opening. She also said she was enlightened by seeing the show with a few pictures in it that didn't travel to Baltimore. "Seeing new juxtapositions offered new perspectives and slightly different interpretations," she said.

Pub Date: 5/19/98

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