Like most of us, Maxine Yalovitz-Blankenship was stopped in her tracks by the events of Sept. 11.
Like most of us, she wanted to do something.
So Yalovitz-Blankenship, a painter and former Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, organized a “blood” drive. She asked some of the area’s most prominent artists, all of them former or current Radcliffe Institute Fellows, to donate a piece of their art to be sold to benefit the Sept. 11 College Fund.
The results of her appeal are on exhibit at Radcliffe’s Maurine and Robert Rothschild Gallery (34 Concord Ave.) through March 20. Filling the small gallery with works in a variety of media, from photography to prints to small sculpture to a quilt, the 22 artists are united in their generosity and distinguished by their talent.
“Everybody was so generous,” said Yalovitz-Blankenship. “They gave without hesitation” even though, she added, artists are always being asked to donate their work. “This was something they all thought was a wonderful cause.”
For Yalovitz-Blankenship, the cause had a face: in fact, two small faces. Her husband worked for the Boston office of insurance brokers Marsh McClennan, which lost hundreds of employees from their World Trade Center office on Sept. 11. One of his Boston-based colleagues, visiting the Manhattan offices for the day, also died; seeing the man’s two small children at the memorial service inspired Yalovitz-Blankenship to support the scholarship fund.
The eclectic exhibit displays an impressive array of talent and prestige. Clara Wainwright, whose fabric collage “Klee’s Coat Tails” represents her work in quilting, is currently the subject of a retrospective show at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln. Denise Marika, who entered the print “Neck,” has work in the Museum of Modern Art. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is home to a work by multimedia artist Lillian Hsu-Flanders.
Current Radcliffe Fellow Barbara Hammer’s “Charlene Atlas,” a digital photography work superimposing her body onto a bodybuilder’s, opens the show with a surprise and a smile. Still, “It’s been a difficult semester,” said Hammer, who left her home near the World Trade Center on Sept. 10 to start her Radcliffe residency. “I wanted to do something.”
Two works – Civia Rosenberg’s painting “My Mother’s Quilt” and Shelburne Thurber’s photograph “Dozier House: Kitchen Window with Frilly Curtain and Potholder, (View #2)” – sold even before the exhibit opened. Yalovitz-Blankenship prevailed upon her friend Robert Oppenheim to help her hang the show; he bought those two works for the collection of Simmons College’s Trustman Art Gallery, which he directs.
Rosenberg described her work as “about the generations: my mother and my daughter and my future grandson.” She was motivated to donate the piece not only because of her friendship with Yalovitz-Blankenship, but also to give back to Radcliffe. “My year as a Bunting Fellow was a very significant year for me,” she said. “It made me feel very good to come back and do something here.”
Yalovitz-Blankenship, a Guggenheim Award recipient who just sold the painting that she did as a Bunting Fellow in 1993-94 to the DeCordova Museum, heard such sentiments often in her appeals. “Many, many times, this fellowship has sent artists on their way, has helped establish them in their careers,” she said.
Even those outside the Radcliffe family got into the spirit of giving. Artist Ellen Phelan, former director of Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, ran into Yalovitz-Blankenship in New York and begged to join the exhibit, donating her stunning print “Veiled Roses.” And when May Stevens’ lithograph “‘Twas Brillig” arrived unframed, Stanhope Framers donated the framing.
By the end of the exhibit’s opening reception on Feb. 27, seven works had been sold, adding $7,000 to the coffers of the Sept. 11 College Fund, an effort of the higher education community launched with Harvard University’s donation of $1 million. “The artists gave themselves so willingly for some child to go to the college of his choice,” said Yalovitz-Blankenship.
While raising money is central to the effort, Yalovitz-Blankenship hopes the exhibit will help to heal, also. “My painting has been to make things right, because I have some control,” she said. After Sept. 11, “I didn’t know what I was going to paint anymore.”
Not coincidentally, her newest work is a piece she calls “The Mending Series,” featuring ripped pieces of paper sewn back together. “This exhibit has to do with mending wounds,” she said.
The exhibit to benefit the Sept. 11 College Fund is at the Rothschild Gallery, 34 Concord Ave., through March 20. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon – 6 p.m. and Thursday evenings until 9 p.m. Sales of posters (by Barbara Hammer) to the exhibit, will also be donated to the fund.