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"Iron Maidens" exhibit makes first U.S. appearance at St. Kate’s

Debra LaGrasse, who is featured in the "Iron Maidens" exhibition, works on her craft.
Debra LaGrasse, who is featured in the "Iron Maidens" exhibition, works on her craft.
St. Catherine University

Anyone who’s ever been to an iron pour has glimpsed the physical, collaborative, sometimes spiritual nature of that process. In fact, the process is part of what drew St. Kate’s assistant professor of sculpture Tamsie Ringler — and her “Iron Maidens” exhibition collaborators — to the medium.

“Iron Maidens,” featuring 16 American, Welsh and English women artists who work with iron, runs September 12-October 30 at the Catherine G. Murphy Gallery.

Ringler was instrumental in bringing the international touring exhibition to the United States and to St. Catherine University, the first U.S. venue for the show. The exhibition opened in Wales in 2009 and traveled around the U.K. before reaching these shores.

More from the exhibit

The artists share their inspiration in this video


By necessity, cast iron remained ensconced in heavy industry until the 1960s, when technical advances allowed for smaller-scale studio work — and a few artists started experimenting. Ringler, who’s been working in cast iron for 20 years, hopes that “Iron Maidens,” will shift the stereotype of cast iron as a functional or decorative “craft” to a fine art of its own.

Blending feminine and masculine

Transportation costs prevented the artists from including large-scale works in “Iron Maidens." Otherwise, the aesthetic of each piece varies widely.

The exhibition includes Sarah Clover’s delicate pair of worn work gloves, looking soft as leather but with every crease and wrinkle fixed in metal; Kate Hobby’s yarn and knitting needles, a traditionally “feminine” occupation rendered in the once all-male domain of cast-iron; and Alison Lochhead’s rough-hewn figural abstractions that appear almost pulled from the earth.

“What’s great about this show is that we have different women from two continents whose work may seem very different but who all share a love of iron as a material,” Ringler says.

Gallery Director Kathleen Daniels ’73 calls “Iron Maidens” a groundbreaking exhibition for St. Kate’s. The gallery hosted a “women in metal” show in the late 1990s, but that exhibit dealt more with traditional fine-arts metals such as bronze.

“Iron Maidens,” Daniels adds, continues the theme of gallery exhibitions that feature women willing to take risks, for the sake of the art.

“These artists aren’t seeking the limelight,” she says. “They just go ahead and do it.”

Related events

For detailed information about the following events, see The  Catherine G. Murphy Gallery.

Iron Maidens: Live!” panel discussion
September 15, 7 p.m.
Visual Arts Building, Lecture Hall
Moderator ⁄ Panelist: Tamsie Ringler
Panelists: Dilys Jackson, Deborah LaGrasse, Coral Lambert and Justine Johnson

“How I Became an Iron Maiden”
Women's Studies & Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity Bag Lunch Discussion Series with Tamsie Ringler
September 16, 12-1:30 p.m.
230 Coeur de Catherine

“Women Artists of Europe 900 to 1900 or Men Don’t Wear Skirts”
Lecture and Gallery Tour with Dilys Jackson
September 20, 7 p.m.
Visual Art Building Lecture Hall and Catherine G. Murphy Gallery

Community Collaboration Hot Metal Pour at Franconia Sculpture Park
September 24, Noon–5 p.m.
Artists include: Tamsie Ringler, Dilys Jackson and Veronica Glidden

Aug. 30, 2011 by Judy Arginteanu

See also: Arts, Faculty