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Embracing The Contemporary: "ALL ABOUT SEVEN"

by Janet Murphy Robertson

ALL ABOUT SEVEN is a playground for the imagination. If ever there was a kid in you who wanted to explore different visions of reality, here is your opportunity.

Let go of any preconception of what you thought art "should" be. This large exhibition of contemporary art of Cape Cod will debut at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA, on February 14, running through March 31, 2014.

In the words of the museum's Curator Michael Giaquinto, "A wave of artistic energy has swept from one end of the Cape to the other, and will crest at the museum during Women's History Month, 2014."

Freeing the Light, Sculpture, Tessa D'Agostino
Freeing the Light, Sculpture, Tessa D'Agostino

The exhibit of 49 Cape Cod women ranges in media from painting, printmaking, and sculpture to mixed media, glass, fiber, and conceptual art. Reflecting one of the several senses of "seven" embodied in the show, Guest Curator Shawn Nelson Dahlstrom organized the participants into seven groups with seven artists in each.

In Dahlstrom's vision, "SEVEN" is far more than an organizational element. It is also an over-arching theme and a driver for intense, and often daring, collaboration, as each group has explored the artistic possibilities of such diverse "sevens": Seven Deadly Sins; Seven Sisters; Spectrum; Intentions; Seventh Generation; Elements; and Formal 7.

Each group or "pod" of artists was challenged by the innovative curator to create entirely new work and, where possible, to push beyond comfortable borders of media and subject matter. Dahlstrom conceives of the gallery itself as a large-scale piece of conceptual art inspired by the myriad facets of a single word/number.

Groundbreaking projects entail risk and Dahlstrom realized this from the outset. "I wondered how each of the seven groups - comprising women of different ages, from all over the Cape, working in a variety of media, each following an individual pilgrimage - would be able to incorporate its unique path into a larger vision."

Her bold venture paid off. "Not only did the collaborating artists seize the vision. They also created a full plate of delectable fruits showcasing the wealth of the arts on the Cape."

One of the catalysts for "ALL ABOUT SEVEN" evolved from discussions at the weekly meetings of "Morning Muse".

"Recognizing that artists tend to work alone and might benefit from a forum to talk about art - personally, philosophically, or mechanically - I started a weekly discussion group," explains Dahlstrom.

Morning Muse meets weekly for discussion, field trips, or "play dates" in which artists share their insights and techniques. One of the topics that arose through Morning Muse was the great concentration of artists on the Cape - from nationally known professionals to Sunday painters.

Guitar, by Dale Wade
Guitar, by Dale Wade

"I wanted to show case this bounty in a collaborative show of Cape Cod contemporary art."

Dahlstrom's curatorial style is far from autocratic. She conceives of her role modestly. She sees herself creating a supportive space where her artists can meet and find common ground and shared goals for collaboration.

Ever the nurturer, Dahlstrom set the artists free not only to create their work, but also to define a collaborative process that would work best for the individual groups of participants. Some groups gathered to talk and share a meal. Others conducted studio tours or held meetings in their studios.

They met regularly to expand their ideas together and share sketches to show the directions they were pursuing, or they worked with relative independence, touching base less frequently. One way or another, all developed work probing some aspect of "seven" and many identified common visual threads of various sorts, such as color, shape, line, or form.

Dahlstrom actively encouraged the artists to experiment in different directions from their prior work. Some resisted this call, but developed fascinating dimensions of the "seven" through their customary styles. "Others leapt off the cliff into the unknown, their wings spread as their creativity expanded," according to Dahlstrom.

Dale Wade in her group "Seven Deadly sins…?" chose the word "lust". Using the trompe l'oeil process, she chose a guitar as the means to convey the meaning of lust, producing a thought-provoking piece.

"Every day, I would go into my studio and work on this piece. Just when I thought it was finished, I would go back and add something. I've never had so much fun making my art."

Wrath by Anne Garton, oil on canvas
Wrath by Anne Garton, oil on canvas

Anne Garton, in her piece "Wrath" from the same group, captures the fierce power of nature.

Mike Wright in the group "Spectrum" chose the color orange and gives us a piece that relates back to anthropological findings. "My D'mba, the Baga's iconic ritual shoulder headdress, has the spherical head and round belly representing their ideal woman at the zenith of her power and beauty."

In the Pleiades group, Tessa D'Agostino said of her piece, "For many ancient, indigenous cultures Pleiades was a source of timekeeping and also helped predict a season's harvest. From the perspective of an ancient tribesperson, I could only imagine ceremoniously looking up for guidance, to find one these stars missing. This sculpture embodies the deep spiritual energy of paying homage to this fallen star."

A Multi-Media Exhibit by 49 Cape Women Artists
At the Cape Cod Museum of Art

The exhibit opens February 14 and close March 31, 2014, to coincide with Women's History Month.

Additional events are planned each weekend, most of them featuring Cape women performers and literary artists, and will take place at the Museum in conjunction with the All about SEVEN exhibit:

  • March 1: Reception
  • March 8: Music to celebrate International Women's Day
  • March 15: Poetry
  • March 22: Theater
  • March 29: Dance/Drumming

Complete details for all events can be found on the Museum's web site:

The Museum is located at 60 Hope Lane, off Route 6A, in Dennis. 508-385-4477

Much of this returns us to the vision of the curator who appreciates the process of art making.

"Art is not merely the work products that reside in a museum. Art is the creation of a new reality. In many ways, the exciting process that artists from Falmouth to Provincetown have experienced over the past year brings art back to its original purpose. The process we experienced through the prism of a single word/number, and the experience CCMA visitors will have, is one of seeing everyday reality in an entirely new and fresh way."

Complete details for all events can be found on the Museum's web site:

For more information, contact Shawn Dahlstrom at

Janet Murphy Robertson serves as Executive Director of She applies both her business acumen and her nonprofit experience to assisting local artists and musicians connect more fully with the marketplace.

In this new venture, Janet and her team work closely with the outstanding cultural organizations already serving the Cape and other culturally-rich regions across the country, and engage in this important work many of the talented marketing professionals and writers she has come to know through her business career.

Janet and her husband Jon moved to the Cape in 2007 to live in the summer house the family has owned since 1987.

She is a member of the Chatham Chorale, a member of the vestry at Christ Church Harwich Port, an advisor and Program Chair for the Jacob Sears Library, and National Book Marketing Chair and Vice-Chairman, Scholarship, for the Garden Club of America.