Steven Alan Bennett established The Bennett Collection of Women Realists in 2009. His co-curator, Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt, thereafter joined him and, today, the two collectors limit their Collection to figurative realist paintings of women by women artists. The Collection now includes work by some of the most exciting women painters currently working: Margaret Bowland, Aleah Chapin, Andrea Kowch, Alyssa Monks, Katie O’Hagan, Pamela Wilson and dozens of others on the cutting edge of figurative realism.
The Collection is based on two similar but different beliefs. First, while women painters have produced remarkable work for centuries, they have not received the same degree of acceptance as their male counterparts. This lack of acceptance is demonstrated in a variety of ways---the number of museum exhibitions and solo shows granted to women, the smaller presence of women on visual fine arts faculties, and the lower prices paid to women artists for their work, among others. These actions have impaired the recognition of these painters and their work and tended to discourage them at the earliest and most critical moments of their artistic careers. As Steven says, “The Guerilla Girls are RIGHT!”
Second, in addition to the gender discrimination that has prevailed against women painters, over the course of time, figurative realism has come to be disfavored in many art schools, universities and galleries, disdained by academics and art establishment professionals whose preference for abstract or conceptual work has led them to ignore or repudiate the realistic depiction of persons or figures.
Steven and Elaine have chosen to limit the Collection to the work of women figurative realists to celebrate the fabulous work that these women are making as well as to counteract gender discrimination against these fine art painters. It is Steven and Elaine’s hope that their Collection will encourage and enable women painters to pursue figurative realism and likewise encourage others to collect figurative realist work.
In addition to their collecting activities, the Bennetts are the sponsors of The Bennett Prize, an art prize for women figurative realist painters that awards $50,000 to a woman artist to create her own solo exhibition, which will travel the country. The Bennett Prize is designed to propel the careers of women painters who have not yet realized full professional recognition, empowering both new artists and those who have painted for many years. The Prize will also expand opportunities for the public, who may not be familiar with figurative realist painting, enabling them to learn more about the creative vision of talented women painters working in this increasingly popular genre.