HeArts – Exhibition by 31 Women

Last Saturday, Sala Blu Gallery launched HeArts – Exhibition by 31 Women, curated by Rossana Calbi in collaboration with Linda de Zen. This show collects 31 portraits captured by Laura Penna, and it will run in Rome until the 30thof September.


It was 1943, when Peggy Guggenheim’s female exhibition,The exhibition by 31 women, took place in New York between several critics. In these unforgettable times, the role of women was changing because of the war and the constant need of help was slowly transforming the structure of society. The general mentality, however, was still deeply entangled with traditional ideas and the exhibition was so criticised that even “The Time” refused to talk about.


Behind all the controversial polemic, the show is still inspiring contemporary initiative with new meanings and interpretations. In collaboration with Rossana Calbi and Linda de Zen, the artist Laura Penna photographed 31 women from the art, theatre, music and sport Italian scene, to homage to Peggy Guggenheim’s exhibition.


With her photos, the artist wanted to immortalise the tenacious attitude and the unique personality of the artists and athletes protagonists of her project. The intent of the photographer is to highlight the authentic expression of these women, that are keeping transforming themselves and their passion for the society, constantly looking for an alternative way of being women today. The exhibition shows us new possibilities for our role in the society, without forcing any label but leaving it to our individual research.

The open and ongoing nature of the project created connections between the photographer and the artists, who decided to contribute to this research not only with their portraits but also with their creations. These new connections offered the opportunity for lateral events. During the opening weekend, Laura Penna captured with her camera other artists to add to her collection; or the live painting of Gerlanda di Francia to present “Aurora nel Buio” of Barbara Baraldi, on the 22ndof September.


The debate on the role of woman today is still vivid and far from its end. This exhibition illustrates us alternative examples of being women, giving us the opportunity to open a conversation and reflect on our self from a different angle.


I had the chance to ask the artist Laura Penna about her project:


–          The most criticized Peggy Guggenheim’s exhibition inspired you and Rossana Calbi for the content of this show. Today the genre debate is still vivid and complex, there is any particular reason why you decided to dedicate this exhibition to the women universe? 

I had already photographed several women and I have always found it good to share ideas, projects and unconventional shooting with them.

When I was reading the biography of Peggy Guggenheim, I find this fascinating story of the EXHIBITION BY 31 WOMEN project. At that time, that exhibition was almost a scandal, the art world considered male artists only.

This kind of consideration has certainly changed since then, but unfortunately, some discrimination occurs still today.  heArts was born merging these considerations. It’s a project that aims to enhance female’s arts.


–          You photographed 31 different women from the art, theatre, music and sports world. What captured your interest in their stories?

The project started from the music world, the closest one to my background.

Then I tried to push my research on the artistic field where I had never worked. It was really exciting to know personally writers and painters whom I knew only through their work.

Also, there was the meeting with Alice Caligiuri, Kickboxing champion. A wonderful soul, full of contrasts. Shy, at first, and then explosive.

On the set in his gym, we had a lot of fun.

With each artist was born a special feeling and with some of them, a real friendship.


–          You have been always working with backstage, music and portraits. How this project connects with your previews work?  

I have joined two great passions: music and image. For 10 years I collaborated with music webzine and magazine

For this reason, in my first project “ALT – Artists like Them”,  the portraits were made exclusively with musicians.

For ALT I was inspired by the photos of famous artists and painters of 900. I did a great search in the art and photography world. A research that has continued over time until the heArts idea.

These projects are definitely related to each other.


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