“The Sky’s The Limit” sculpture exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts will be on display until Feb. 25. The exhibit features art created using unique materials and techniques that challenge notions about the artistic process.
Monumental works of 13 artists came together on the second floor of the downtown D.C. museum to craft the exhibit.
NMWA reopened in October 2023 after it closed in 2021 for renovations. The museum’s team knew they wanted to display an exhibition that showed off the new space, including the reinforced support system in the ceiling. They decided there was no better way to do so than with a sculpture exhibition, according to a press release.
Showcasing work created by women throughout the past few decades, “The Sky’s The Limit” features hanging silver, frosted flowers, a cameraless photograph and more. The museum pulled works from their own collection and also reached out to artists and private collections to complete the exhibition.
“The Sky’s The Limit” presents ambitiously large and complex works, highlighting women artists participating in a medium that may have been difficult to work in before.
“Sculpture historically was a really difficult medium for women to participate in, primarily due to lack of access to training,” said Hannah Shambroom, the museum’s exhibition coordinator. “With more modern and contemporary sculptors, more women certainly excelled. Even still, it was a bit harder to access adequate studio space to work on a large scale.”
Viewers come face to face with Petah Coyne’s “Marguerite Duras,” a massive hanging black sculpture of spindly wire containing dark globes bathed in acrylic paint.
Not many steps later, viewers find their own reflection in the dangling orbs of “Marola” by Beatriz Milhazes. This joyful mobile utilizes beads, flowers and bright colors.
In another section of the gallery floats Cornelia Parker’s “On Thirty Pieces of Silver,” suspended just barely above the floor. Further down, in a room of her own, stands the cedar woodworks of Ursula von Rydingsvard, which are geometric yet organic creations of various scales.
The art pieces are all three-dimensional, but little ties them together visually, at least upon first examination.
“Most of the works are very process-focused,” said Shambroom. “Pushing boundaries and innovating new ways of making things is definitely something that unites all the artists in the exhibition.”
One example of boundary-pushing processes can be found in Mariah Robertson’s “9,” a large photograph on metallic paper. Robertson describes her piece as a conceptual project, and it explores how changing the traditional photo-developing process can create something entirely new.
Once “The Sky’s The Limit” leaves the museum, a new exhibit will fill the space on April 14. “New Worlds: Women to Watch 2024” will bring 28 artists’ work to the gallery.
Since its founding, the museum has been dedicated to highlighting the work of women artists. A 2019 study estimated 87 percent of art in the United States is created by male artists, and 85 percent by white artists.
NMWA was founded by two art collectors who were concerned about the lack of women, as well as racially and ethnically diverse artists, in large museums, according to the museum’s website. In 2023, they released a statement explaining the importance of advocating for gender equality in arts beyond the binary model.
“NMWA recognizes that not all people who experience gender inequity are women or present as women,” the Museum’s website said. “We work with artists who identify with marginalized identities, including women, transgender people, and nonbinary individuals.”
At NMWA, admission is free to anyone under 21 and is $13 for D.C. residents. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Mondays and hosts various free and paid events.
A free art talk celebrating Black History Month will take place on Feb. 23. They also host “NMWA Nights” every third Wednesday of the month, an evening event that includes music, cocktails and plenty of art, which costs $22 for students. Their next event is on Feb. 21.
This article was edited by Marina Zaczkiewicz, Zoe Bell, Sara Winick, and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis, Charlie Mennuti and Julia Patton.