This pencil and watercolor work is composed of five identically sized drawings spaced equally apart (and matted). The shape of each drawing is that of a thin vertical rectangle. Each drawing contains the figure of a hawk-like bird in the the top third of the image, a female figure in the middle third, and a smaller figure in the bottom third. Additionally the figure of a bearded, balding man appears in the very bottom of the center drawing and the two drawings to the right. This male figure is partially visible in the center drawing, and progressively more visible as one moves to the right so that he is completely visible in the furthest rectangle on the right. The figure of the hawk is slightly varied in pose but appears in each drawing to be about to land on the female figure below it, its talons outstretched. The female figure is partially nude in each drawing, breasts either partially or completely uncovered, and lower body enveloped by some sort of cloth-like covering. The face of this female figure is somewhat stylized in the drawing at the far left and morphs slightly in form and look as one moves to the right, with a clearly female face in the drawing on the furthest right. The small figure at the bottom of each drawing is child-like in form, dressed, and of a similar pose. In the far left drawing this figure appears to wear a headdress and has stylized, mask-like, androgynous face. However, the headdress and face of the figure morph as one's eye moves to the right, so that the in the final drawing on the right the figure has no headdress and a less stylized, female face. Hints of red, blue, and red watercolor washes are used, especially in the bird and in the cloth surrounding the lower torso of the large female figure.
Gemma Rossini Cullen (1937-2004) was born in Saint Paul, MN. She received a B.A. from the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University) in 1960 and an B.F.A. from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1969. She became a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet in 1955 and exited in 1967. She married Walter Cullen in 1969. The couple had two children, Enrique and Tonya, and remained married until her death in 2004. Gemma's work includes large-format paintings and drawings. It routinely depicts women, nature, architectural elements, and abstract forms, at times with an emphasis on repetitive morphing or mutating imagery, and an incorporation of negative space. Like many women were emerging from the Catholic religious community in the 1960s, Gemma was questioning the ways in which the church had marginalized the role of women within its community in the past and, as an ex-sister, exploring new versions of what it meant to be a woman in the present and going forward. In Gemma's case, this meant exploring creating art for women. Gemma was influenced in her exploration by the writings of Carl Jung and his exploration of global cultural histories and archetypal realities. The archetype [and transformation thereof] Gemma was most interested in was that of the Goddess, and she explored this subject in many of her works. As she continued to evolve as an artist, her interest in metamorphosis grew, and she would eventually create a number of successful drawings depicting this concept. In 1992 Rossini Cullen founded her own company, Business Graphics Network. She worked there until 2004 in graphic design, sales, and production. She was a founding member of the Women's Art Registry of Minnesota (WARM) Gallery from 1976 to 1987. Rossini Cullen's domestic exhibitions included venues at the College of St. Catherine, North Hennepin Community College, and Minneapolis Community College, the WARM Gallery in Minneapolis, and the McCrae Gallery at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, New Mexico. Her work is part of collections throughout the United States including Gila Regional Medical Center, Silver City, University of Minnesota Law School, Saint Joseph's Hospital, Saint Paul, Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce, Minnesota Museum of American Art, Federal Reserve Bank, Minneapolis, Dorcy Marquart Law Firm, Minneapolis, and Cardiac Pacemaker, Inc., Saint Paul. Gemma also produced a major suite of drawings for two books, Coulee Deep, poems by Lois Sindelar, Extended Exposure Press, 203, and Twin Cities Perceived, text by Jean Adams Ervin a study of words and drawings, published by University Minnesota Press, 1976. 1,2(Erickson, Elizabeth. (2009). Gemma: Tales of Change. Saint Paul, MN: St. Catherine University.)
Gift of Rossini Cullen Family Estate
pen and ink with watercolor
18 x 22 inches
Rossini Cullen, Gemma, “Totem,” Digital Collections From St Kate's, accessed December 8, 2023, https://omeka.reclaim.stkate.edu/items/show/3574.
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