Lynn Mann-Hallmark Brings 'The Feminine Force' to Harmony Gallery

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In the events surrounding the 2016 presidential election, the artist Lynn Mann-Hallmark experienced an unexpected political awakening. “I never thought of myself as a political person before,” she says. And the hits kept coming. First the Muslim ban. Then the protests at Standing Rock. Again and again, Mann-Hallmark found herself at odds with the world around her and with no immediate path to effective change. “I took to painting out my frustrations,” she says, putting down the camera and once again picking up the paintbrush to create a new series of vibrant and striking portraits proclaiming the power of femininity. Dubbed The Feminine Force, the exhibition is currently on display at Sarasota Orchestra’s Harmony Gallery.

The series began with Liberty. Sensual and strong, welcoming and nurturing, she glares defiantly from the canvas in a bold restatement of what Mann-Hallmark still thinks the nation’s statuary mascot should represent. With the six that followed, they would comprise the artist’s “Seven Daughters of Eve,” each speaking to a particular struggle. Freedom, a portrait of Frida Kahlo named Not My Wall, Yellowtail at Standing Rock, Tana’s Blue Nile, Wings of Change and Fatima’s Fire, featuring a Muslim woman in a hijab holding Lady Liberty’s torch—they all stare unblinking from their frames, eyes following the viewer without reprieve. And in each, Mann-Hallmark seeks to capture the power of femininity, simultaneously soft and hard, nurturing and fierce, flexible and resilient.

Seven more paintings join the exhibition, such as a portrait of a woman dancing among the flames as a pair of birds soar overhead named Ring of Fire, and one portrait of a man. Entitled Three Doors to Ybor City, the man straddles a chair and smiles casually at the audience while a couple dances behind to the music of a lone trumpeter and chickens gather at his feet. “He’s their friend,” says Mann-Hallmark of the man’s place among these defiant women. “And men can be feminine too, you know.” He’s strong and handsome, she says, but soft and nurturing too.

Today, Mann-Hallmark knows the painting helped her make sense of a tumultuous time. “Every stroke I put down was like therapy,” she says. “It was helping me calm down, feeling like I had a voice, like someone could hear me.” She couldn’t always be at the protests (though she was at many), but she could always capture these moments in time on her canvas. And she thinks that can maybe make a difference. “I hope people are energized,” she says, “and they’ll wake up to what’s going on around them.”

In the meantime, the painting helps Mann-Hallmark make sense of the world around her. Her latest, Harmony, named after the gallery that elected to show her work, features a Native American woman at peace with her surroundings. “She’s staring you down too,” says the artist, “but there’s something more calm about her.”

Currently on display at the Harmony Gallery, an artist reception will be held October 2 from 5pm to 6:30pm.

Pictured: 'Harmony' by Lynn Mann-Halmark.

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