New show at GPAC spotlights leading artistic ladies

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 22, 2015

 Estela Boudreau, of St. Clair Shores, created this casting — to be used to make a bronze sculpture of its subject, Pope Francis — after meeting the pope while she was in Italy.

Estela Boudreau, of St. Clair Shores, created this casting — to be used to make a bronze sculpture of its subject, Pope Francis — after meeting the pope while she was in Italy.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran


GROSSE POINTE CITY — Their exhibitions have been held as far away as Petoskey and Alpena, so local art lovers are fortunate to have the latest show by the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors close to home.

The DSWPS has chosen the Grosse Pointe Art Center to host “Femmes Detroit.” Jurored by painter Vianna Szabo, “Femmes Detroit” opened with a reception April 17 and will be on view through May 3.

Grosse Pointe City artist Linda Allen wasn’t in this show but was on hand for the opening.

“It’s a great group,” Allen said of the DSWPS, of which she’s been a member for about 20 years.

From its origins to today, the DSWPS has included some of the most acclaimed female artists to hail from metro Detroit, including Pewabic founder Mary Chase Stratton.

Jackie Rybinski, of Grosse Pointe Farms, has a work in the show, but she was responsible for securing the exhibition space as DSWPS’ second vice president in charge of exhibitions.

“We’ve been wanting to do something here (at the GPAC) for a while,” she said. “It’s a short show, but it’s a very, very, very good show.”

True to juried form, not all of the artists who submitted works for consideration were chosen for this show, which features just over 50 pieces from roughly 50 DSWPS members.

Carol LaChiusa, of Grosse Pointe Farms, received second place for her watercolor, “Midnight on the Sucolo,” which depicts a lively nighttime carnival scene inspired by the artist’s trip to Pueblo, Mexico. She said it’s something she’s wanted to paint for years but wasn’t able to create until recently, when she used a different kind of paint and layered colors on one at a time, but avoided the use of black.

“Black (paint) dulls it, but the reds and blues and yellows make their own black,” LaChiusa said of the painting, in which she achieved the desired effect.

Kathleen O’Connell, of Dearborn, received an honorable mention for her playful oil, “Chicken Dance Trio,” which features three images of a hen named Tiv who belonged to a family that the artist knew. She said the chicken — who appears to be doing dance moves, and finally, making a bow in the painting — would even watch TV with the family.

“She was a family pet, along with the dogs,” O’Connell said of Tiv, who has since died. “She was a real character.”

Another honorable mention winner, Janet Kondziela, of Dearborn, said she worked with a live model for her acrylic, “La Femme Fière.” The vibrant portrait is a result, she said, of just putting down colors and letting the face “develop out of the colors.”

“I’m exploring acrylics, where I’m doing different things with the colors and skin tones,” Kondziela explained. “This is part of a series.”

Nina Ashraf Asmi received best of show for her conté crayon work, “A Moment Too Soon.” Other award winners included third-place honoree Regina Dunne for her pastel, “Dona,” and honorable mention winners Barbara Clay, Denise I. Dunn and Lori Zurvalec.

Erica Chappuis, of Grosse Ile, who previously lived in Grosse Pointe Park for years, continues to work in multimedia to good effect in “Celestial Navigation,” which was painted on silk and features glittering jeweled embellishments in the hair of its female subject, along with a sequined fish that the artist bought from a thrift store.

“It’s about dreaming,” Chappuis said of the painting. “The woman is dreaming. Her hair is turning into water. She’s navigating by the stars like a true sailor. I think we all navigate by the stars when we dream.”

Another Grosse Pointe transplant in the show is Estela Boudreau, of St. Clair Shores, a former Grosse Pointe Shores resident. She said that she and her husband met the subject of her latest work — Pope Francis — by chance while visiting a church in Italy last year.

“When he came, he blessed us, and I was crying from happiness,” said Boudreau, who said she’s originally from Argentina, as is the pope. Her fireclay casting, “Pepe Francis” — which is part of this show — is a casting for the bronze sculpture that she plans to create and hopes to deliver to the pope in person.

“He’s such a great pope. He’s the pope for all Christians,” Boudreau said.

Nobuko Yamasaki, of Grosse Pointe Shores, was inspired by the power lines she saw on the Ohio-Michigan border, which led her to create the acrylic painting, “Connected Lines.”

“I liked the structure of the highway,” she said of her work, which was created on yupo paper.

Grosse Pointe Park artist Charmaine Kaptur said that “Theatrical Fantasy,” her collage from homemade paper, was one of the last pieces she created from her own paper.

“I did a series like that,” she explained.

Another longtime member of the DSWPS, Kaptur estimated that she joined the organization in the mid-1990s.

“They have good meetings,” she said. “They have good speakers. There are a bunch of older women (in the group), but there are also young people joining. It’s a very active organization.”

The largest single contingency of members, Kaptur said, hails from the Grosse Pointes.

Julie Sabit, of Harper Woods, who said she’s been a DSWPS member since about 2000 and is a member of its board, called the group “a supportive environment” for female artists.

“It’s a (way) to meet other artists and to have shows and other events,” she said.

Sabit’s work in the show, the oil painting “Pontificating,” pays tribute to another important figure in her career: veteran Wayne State University art professor Jim Nawara. Her painting depicts Nawara leading a class outside in front of Chene Park in Detroit as a student paints nearby.

“I’ve been taking a class with him for years now,” said Sabit, who received her bachelor of fine arts degree from WSU in 1993.

Roselyn Rhodes, of Grosse Pointe Park, captured a different outdoor scene in “Belle Isle Bridge with Rowers,” an oil painting on linen. The span of the bridge is the centerpiece of the painting, but upon close examination, viewers will see student rowers practicing on the Detroit River.

“This is early in the morning, when the light is just coming up. You have to paint fast and furious” to capture the light, Rhodes explained.

Visitors can learn more about the DSWPS, which was formed in 1903, from informational panels that were used in an exhibition last year at the Detroit Historical Museum.

“Our mission is to support each other, to educate and to encourage female artists,” said Rybinski, noting that they award scholarships annually to female artists at an accredited art school.

The GPAC is located at 17118 Kercheval in the Village. Hours of operation are noon-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. For more information, email, visit or call (313) 881-3454.