• Courtesy image—

  • Goldthwaite-Gagne’s original portrait poster, featuring from left to right, top to bottom: Alma Thomas, Nancy Spero, Yoko Ono, Eva Hesse, The Guerilla Girls, Margaret Kilgallen, Zadie Smith, Swoon and Sarah Urist Green. Courtesy imagE

  • Courtesy image—

  • Mary Goldthwaite-Gagne Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 6:12PM

ConVal art teacher Mary Goldthwaite-Gagne’s new exhibit is a celebration of female power and artistry that could help reframe the feminine ideal for years to come.

Goldthwaite-Gagne’s longtime medium has been cut paper, scenes or words intricately depicted with the flick of an Exacto knife. In 2016, fed up with the “constant onslaught of negativity toward women,” she designed a poster made up of portraits of women she admired, like Zadie Smith, Alma Thomas and Yoko Ono. She sold all 50 copies in a day, donated the proceeds to Planned Parenthood, and knew she was onto something.

“A lot of people gravitated toward some of the people on the poster and knew some of them but nobody really knew all of them, so it ended up being this teaching opportunity,” Goldthwaite-Gagne said. “There’s the reflective element of celebrating these different people I admire but there’s this teaching aspect as well.”

The project took shape, and grew; over the course of a year, she expanded the series from nine portraits to 53, enough for a gallery show. And, she was able to expand the scope of the project as well as the scale. What started out as a celebration of “art rock stars” expanded out to include contemporary people, authors, writers and even local artists she knows personally.

“Anna [Von Mertens] and Rachelle [Beaudoin] are both friends of mine but they’re also both artists that I really admire who are making their way in the art world but are also committed to living [in Peterborough], which is not what you’re really told you’re able to do,” Goldthwaite-Gagne said.

Now, a paper cut portrait of Beaudoin lives side-by-side with a depiction of Louise Bourgeois, “one of the most influential artists of the past 100 years.”

“I can put those people side-by-side because they're kind of in the same category to me,” Goldthwaite-Gagne said. “I like that.”

Goldthwaite-Gagne’s daughter is five years old, and her mom is concerned for the future, with the gender norms and constant pitting of strong women against each other in pop culture.

“Four- and five-year-olds are already like ‘You're not pretty,’ Goldthwaite-Gagne said. “They're given this value system that I know they're not hearing at home ... Some of this series comes out of that as well, just looking at the people around me that I admire and not having it be out of envy, but celebrating them.”

Goldthwaite-Gagne’s exhibit, “Guided By (Female) Voices,” opens Feb. 1 at Aviary Gallery in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. The opening reception is from 6-9 p.m. and will feature performances by Paige Chaplin, Jordan Holtz and Elisabeth Fuchsia. The artwork will be on display through Feb. 24.

Arts Editor Ben Conant can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 226 or bconant@ledgertranscript.com.