We sent Culture Connoisseur Julia Goodman to check out the latest exhibit at the Wallach Art Gallery, running through March 15.
If you like art and have never been to the Wallach Art Gallery, you’re missing out. Personally I had never set foot in it before going to check out the current exhibition entitled Goddess, Heroine, Beast. On the eighth floor of Schermerhorn, we have our own little mini-Met, and you don’t even have to take the bus to get there. Stepping into the gallery, I entered a world of dark paneled wood and understated glass display cases—basically, it’s extremely classy in there.
The exhibition focuses on the work of New York artist Anna Hyatt Huntington, a sculptor whose name most people may not know, though they would undoubtedly recognize her work. At the entrance to the gallery stands a bronze sculpture of Joan of Arc, a subject Hyatt frequently returned to. The full-size version of the sculpture was the first public monument by a female artist and is located at the entrance to Riverside Park at 93rd Street. In case you haven’t seen that, the exhibit also includes a 360-degree view of the Riverside version of the statue.
Besides Joan of Arc, Huntington carved and sculpted images of many other famous heroes. On one wall hangs a series of panels done for the Hispanic Society of America that feature characters inspired by the story of Don Quixote. In one case lie carvings of heads that range from animal (Head of a Bear and Head of a Llama) to everyday (Head of an Old Man, Head of a Woman) to royalty (Isabel of Portugal).
Huntington was clearly fascinated with the relationship between humans and animals, particularly between women and animals. Besides Joan of Arc astride her horse, the other large work in the exhibition is a towering, gorgeously lifelike sculpture of Diana of the Chase, the goddess of the hunt and protector of animals. She is depicted with a dog chasing alongside her as she runs. Huntington’s work also includes statues of wild animals, such as swans in flight, jaguars (two of which guard the entrance to the Bronx Museum), and monkeys enacting vaguely human scenes.
Finally, in the last room of the gallery sit three aluminum casts of hands. One is Huntington’s, one is her husband’s, and the last is her father’s. This interest, not only in the human form, but in how we construct the human form, is one of the most compelling things about Huntington’s work. She is in touch with both the ways humans and animals can be similar and the things that separate them. She plays with the lines between goddesses, human women, and animals, and the result is elegant and intriguing.