Donna Dodson: Match of the Matriarchs and other Amazonomachies

Donna Dodson: Match of the Matriarchs and other Amazonomachies

February 15, 2024 - September 15, 2024

www.donnadodsonartist.com

Donna Dodson: Match of the Matriarchs and other Amazonomachies is the first solo exhibition by a female artist hosted by the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF). The show, which centers on women’s stories, women’s lives, and their place in the history of chess, includes Dodson’s monumental, life-sized chess set Match of the Matriarchs, which contains 32-large scale wooden sculptures representing all-female representations of cephalopods battling cetaceans.

The exhibition also showcases eight additional “Amazon” sculptures depicting historical, literary, and mythological female heroes, including figures from Mulan and Black Panther; a minotaur; Tomyris, a queen of Turkey; references to an aunt; Cybele; and Lakshmibai, a queen of India.

Debuting in the exhibition is The Madwoman of Chess or Autonomous was a Woman, commissioned by the World Chess Hall of Fame. She will be part of the museum’s permanent collection. This dynamic and powerful sculpture harkens back to the backlash received when there was a significant change to the rules of chess— the queen transformed from a piece with limited movement to one that combined the powers of the bishop and the rook. Some called this new version of the ancient game “madwoman’s chess.”

Donna Dodson, a Boston-area sculptor, has been carving images out of wood for nearly 20 years. Her sculptures explore feminine beauty and evoke humor, playfulness, grace, power, and emotional strength. Her unique vision responds to the relationships of animals to the human spirit that have existed since ancient times. Her figures are almost always female and range in size from the intimate to the monumental.

The exhibition centers on women’s stories and lives and women's history in chess.

Supplementing the displays of Dodson’s artwork are marine-related chess sets from the permanent collection of the WCHOF and loans from the distinguished group Chess Collectors International, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary as an organization in 2024. Also included are videos of underwater sea creatures and places to play chess while learning about variants of the game of chess related to marine life and Amazons.

Opening Reception of Donna Dodson: Match of the Matriarchs and Other Amazonomachies

Thursday, February 15 5pm

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Biography

Donna Dodson is an American sculptor who has exhibited her artwork around the world. Dodson has completed successful residencies in Verbier, Switzerland, Cusco Peru, Keelung Taiwan, and Ringkoebing Denmark. Donna is a Resident Scholar at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center. Dodson’s recent show, “The Amazons Among Us” at the Boston Sculptors Gallery, was critically acclaimed. Donna is a 2022 Fulbright US Scholar at Q21/MuseumsQuartier in Vienna, Austria, working as an artist in residence with her host institution, Tricky Women/Tricky Realities, the world’s only animation festival for women.

Dodson has won grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the New Hampshire Guild of Woodworkers, and the George Sugarman Foundation. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Provincetown Art Museum, the Art Complex Museum and the Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts, The Noyes Art Museum in New Jersey, and the Davistown Museum in Maine. Donna's work has been reviewed in the Boston Globe, Sculpture Magazine, The Daily Beast, and Artnet. She is a member of the Boston Sculptors Gallery, The International Sculpture Center, and the Wellesley College Friends of Art at the Davis Museum.

Dodson is a graduate of Wellesley College. She enjoys public speaking and has been a guest speaker at conferences throughout North America. Donna is a freelance writer whose articles in newspapers, magazines, and blogs demonstrate the arts sector's economic impact and global reach. Her recent paper, “What do we call courageous women,” was presented at the Society for Classical Studies annual meeting in 2022.

About Donna Dodson

Donna Dodson has been carving images out of wood for nearly 20 years. Her sculptures explore feminine beauty and evoke humor and playfulness but also grace, power, and emotional strength. Her unique vision responds to the relation of animals to the human spirit that has existed since ancient times. Her figures are almost always female and range in size from the intimate to the monumental.

Dodson’s pre-med studies and her passion for Egyptian art led her to study wood and stone sculpture. African sculptures and Native American totems also influence her work.

She uses logs of osage orange wood from her grandfather’s farm in Illinois, and ash, cherry, locust, and maple from New England.

Dodson has worked in a series using an elephant-headed goddess to explore female figureheads in positions of power. Recently, Dodson created large-scale outdoor pieces, engaging in a public dialogue about her work. The site became a more prevalent theme. Today, Dodson has returned to creating statement pieces such as a cardinal goddess for the women of the Catholic Church who aspire to be ordained and Madam President- a monument to the first female president of the USA.

Artist Statement

‘My artwork celebrates the mystical relationship between human beings and the animal kingdom. Because there were no icons of women in the church that I grew up in, my vision is to create them. Through hybrid female-animal forms that I sculpt in wood, I flesh out sensuality, sexuality and soul with a well-proportioned figurative vocabulary. The natural grain of the wood interacts with the form and shape of my sculptures in a descriptive way, suggesting nostrils, and nipples or garments and fabric textures. I often stylize each piece to enhance the girl, woman, princess, queen or goddess within. The mouths, or in some cases beaks, are closed symbolizing the mysteries they embody. These figures are sculpted in sizes ranging from the intimate to the monumental. I use color in both subtle and bold ways to activate each piece. My inspiration comes from ancient iconography and mythological imagery.’

Artistic Process

When I start a piece of work I need to evoke such a strong feeling about each piece that I can dare to listen to the piece, to make mistakes - to just create. It is the emotional investment in the act of creation that crystallizes the work for me.

Sometimes the idea or concept comes first, and I imagine what the piece will be when completed. More often I work from intuition. Once completed I see the intentions behind the piece, or the desire from which it is born. Artists who inspire me include Jessica Stockholder and Katharina Fritsch. Stockholder uses color as a transformational visual device, changing the way we see form. Fritsch creates sculptures of sacred figures that become pop-icons through her use of color. In the same way I work with various kinds and grains of wood accented by color.

My artwork is about self expression, autobiography, and self redemption. Each sculpture is independent and heroic, but each is connected to the body of my total work. Each is made greater and honored by its association with those that have preceded it, but keeps its own sacred identity. Each reflects my realization that I am a self-made woman.

Press

2/23/24: HEC Media - Donna Dodson at the World Chess Hall of Fame

2/7/24: World Chess Hall of Fame to Premiere New Exhibition: Donna Dodson: Match of the Matriarchs and other Amazonomachies

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Tuesday, September 3 12pm

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