Women’s history rendered in paint and mirrors


Rosemary Gallick stands in front of her painting of the faces of13 female singers, from Barbra Streisand to Dolly Parton to Madonna.at Northern Virginia Community College’s Manassas campus. (Julie Zauzmer/For The Washington Post)

Rosemary Gallick has tried out a lot of roles in her life. After stints as a lawyer, a teacher, a student of communications and a stay-at-home mother, she found long-term fulfillment as an art history instructor. After years of teaching art, she thought, why not start creating art herself?

Since her first piece was accepted for an art show in 2006, Gallick, 64, has exhibited her work all over the country. Her latest show, honoring Women’s History Month, explores a topic she knows well — the many roles of working women.

The exhibit, now on view at Northern Virginia Community College’s Manassas campus, includes portraits of Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, rendered in swirling lines of bright, thick paint, and of Georgia O’Keeffe, depicted in the sort of pastel desert landscape O’Keeffe often painted. A large canvas that Gallick calls the centerpiece of the exhibit includes the faces of 13 female singers including Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton and Madonna.

“It’s trying to get all the different women, all the different facets of powerful women from artists to politicians,” Gallick said.

The show invites viewers to enter the conversation. In one piece, Gallick framed one of her daughter’s old T-shirts, printed with the words “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like.” Above the neck of the shirt, she affixed a pink-jeweled mirror, so that the viewer will see his or her reflection.

“You can evaluate — are you or are you not?” she said.

Her own self-portrait completes the exhibit. In homage to her background as an art history instructor, she painted herself into the center of Edouard Manet’s “A Bar at the Folies-Bergere.”

Gallick’s show, which runs through April 4, includes only a small percentage of her portraits. Since she took up painting in 2005, she has created more than 150. About 30 have been sold. Another 30 are on display in an exhibit ending Friday at Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge campus, where Gallick teaches courses in art history and studio art.

Her most popular portraits, she said, have been of Johnny Cash and of the Beatles. As soon as she sells a painting of somebody, she starts another one. “Some people are more fun to paint than others,” she said. “There’s more character in their faces. More lines.”

When she did a show featuring all the players in the 2008 presidential election, she said, she found Mitt Romney’s made-for-TV good looks particularly uninspiring to paint. Her favorite portrait so far: the craggy face of Keith Richards.

Gallick said she tries to reserve judgment on her subjects — who have included Stephen Colbert, Lady Gaga, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Keith Olbermann. “I try not to take a political stance.” she said. “I have my own opinions, but I think people should interpret it for themselves. Different people have different reactions.”

She does offer one opinion, as she sits under her portrait of Clinton — depicted with intensely bright blue eyes: “I certainly would have no objection to having a female president. It’s about time.”

Julie Zauzmer is a local news reporter.
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