Harriet FeBland - A Brief History
Pioneer constructionist sculptor and painter Harriet FeBland lives and works in New York City and has exhibited in major invitational shows and 55 solo exhibitions worldwide. A New York City native, she was educated at Pratt Institute and New York University then relocated to England and France where she gained an international reputation early in her career, exhibiting at the Musée D'Art Moderne, Paris, and Alwin Galleries and the Drian Gallery, London. She married and had two sons while in London then returned to the United States after 11 years abroad.
Early in her career, in 1960 Ms. FeBland was one of a seminal group of artists who pioneered the use of acrylic as a sculptural medium and is documented as one of the earliest adopters of the material. In 1961, her solo exhibition Plastic In Art at the Galerie Internationale in New York City featured transparent, multi-surfaced and self-illuminated works in "acrylic polymer" on Plexiglas (the names of both the medium and the substrate were just coined at the time) as well as some of the first acrylic paintings.
The Encyclopedia of Polymer Science credits her as one of just several artists who introduced plastics and electricity as an art form, and she was hailed as an "innovator" and "visionary" in published articles of the day ("New Art Forms in Plexiglas" Rohm and Hass Reporter Magazine, March 1966 and Plastics World Magazine, January 1966),
As Plexiglas was new and relatively unknown at the time, her work drew the interest of Thelma Newman, who was researching how artists were exploiting the new material. Ms. FeBland was featured in two of Newman's early books: Plastics As An Art Form (Chilton Books, 1964) and Plastics As Sculpture (Chilton Books, 1974).
As early as 1959 she was also making wall-hung and standing sculpture prominently incorporating nails as a design element which she called sculptural pointillism . These works were produced well before The Museum of Modern Art premiered Gunther Uecker's nail paintings in 1963. She was also one of the first artists to incorporate functioning electric light bulbs as a design element in her work as far back as the early '60s before anyone else was doing it.
As her career developed, Ms. FeBland moved on to other materials. She had always been a painter and found herself incorporating relief elements into paintings to the extent that they became wall-hung sculpture which she called wall-relief constructions. She also produced freestanding construction sculpture in painted wood and Formica over wood in a distinctive geometric style.
Ms. FeBland has produced some monumental outdoor sculptures. A 17 foot tall aluminum sculpture, Electra 2, sat for many years in front of the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains, NY. It was commissioned for permanent loan by the wife of the Westchester Country Executive after she saw an earlier sculpture of Ms. FeBland's in the Hudson River Museum. Another monumental sculpture, Great Wings, executed in fiberglass over marine ply is in the collection of Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY, and originally appeared in a New York City show that included Hans Van de Bovenkamp.
Ms. FeBland has also produced sculptural boxes, many incorporating electric lights and mirrors, and has exhibited these small works with other specialists in form, notably Joseph Cornell.
An endlessly curious artist, Ms. FeBland studied graphics with Stanley Hayter at Atelier 17 in Paris in the '70s and '80s and has through the years been recognized for her mastery of the monotype, having won many awards and distinctions. She has also produced large fiber-art wall hangings on some of the themes expressed in her paintings.
Despite her long and accomplished career, Ms. FeBland vividly remembers the outright discrimination she experienced early on as a woman artist trying to gain recognition and opportunity in a male-dominated art world. Always actively involved in promoting women's equality in the arts both for herself and her colleagues, she appeared in many high-profile discussion groups and art shows in the 1970s on the issue. Notable exhibitions of the era she participated in were: Women in Art, Brainerd Art Gallery, SUNY Potsdam, 1972 in which she showed with such luminaries as Marisol and Beverly Pepper, and Women Choose Women, New York Cultural Center,1973 in which prominent women artists chose artists to show with whom they respected and admired.
She has taught art at New York University, and from 1963 to 1993 operated the Harriet FeBland Art Workshop, which offered master classes in painting for advanced students and presented workshops at Bennington College; London University, UK; Iona College; College of New Rochelle; Santa Fe Art Institute and elsewhere in the U.S. She is past President of New York Artist Equity Association and Past President of the American Society of Contemporary Artists where she is now President-Emeritus; she has also served as Secretary for the American Art Committee, United Nations 1978-81.
The Agnes K. Haverly Foundation, a major collector of FeBland's work, produced the film Harriet FeBland in 1983; in 2009 it produced and distributed to museums a DVD version along with a full color brochure of her work.